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Chris Orwig

Chris Orwig

Orwig, a photographer, author and educator, is also an avid surfer and outdoor adventurer so it’s no surprise that many of his favorite subjects are those who share his passion for, and connection to, the water and the outdoors. As part of his ongoing project titled "SALT," Orwig photographs older or seasoned surfers and watermen—people whose long-time bond with the ocean has helped form who they are. It’s the spirit of these surfers and watermen that Orwig so sensitively captures with his camera.

But, technically, these portraits of watermen are often more difficult to create. Orwig sees that, for many of his subjects, their rugged imperfections are, in part, physical evidence of their strengths and life experience—elements that are an inherent part of their strong character. Because of that, says Orwig, who combines capture and post- production work to create these character studies, "You have to be really careful to hide your tracks in order to make the post-production work look honest, authentic and full of life." In other words, Orwig explains simply, "You have to allow the flaw to make the frame."

For this tutorial, Orwig guides us through the creation of a portrait he made of world champion surfer, Kelly Slater. As all photographers know, some of the best images come about by chance—being in the right place, at the right time (and having a camera with you, as Orwig almost always does). That’s what happened when Orwig and Slater’s paths crossed at a surfboard factory in Santa Barbara, California. The photograph used in this tutorial, is one of several Orwig took of Slater in the factory’s parking lot.

When reviewing the images after the shoot, it was this photograph that captured Orwig’s attention. "There was something about the kinetic energy, focus and connection in this frame," Orwig recalls. "Yet," he goes on to say, "it just looked too ordinary and I wanted this portrait to be something that you could believe in. I wanted it to look weathered and old." (As it turns out, the finished photograph was published in a special edition of Surfer Magazine, which highlighted the top 50 most influential surfers of all time—Slater was #1. Even more impressive is that the magazine ran the image as a full page—one of the largest portraits they had ever run.)

In order to achieve the look he wanted, Orwig—whose teaching credentials are as impressive as his photography— used Adobe© Photoshop© CS6 and the Wacom Intuos5 touch pen tablet to merge his vision with the photograph he captured. He’s been using a Wacom tablet for more than ten years and initially moved to the Wacom tablet and pressure- sensitive pen because, "Using a mouse is like drawing with a bar of soap." The Wacom tools, on the other hand, allow him to make "subtle yet significant adjustments with precision."

Although multi-touch technology was first incorporated in the entry-level Bamboo tablets, the Intuos5 is the first pro model to use multi-touch, which Orwig loves. "As an iPhone and iPad owner, it’s a nice transition for me to have the [touch] options for scrolling, pinch zooming and general navigation."

What follows is a tutorial that leads you through some of the steps Orwig took to create the Slater image. He touches on specifics of using Adobe Photoshop and the Wacom IntuosPro that you can follow. However, Orwig offers, "What’s most important with any tutorial, is remembering that the concepts and techniques used with one particular image can be repurposed to accomplish many different visual ideas."

So, we invite you to try out Orwig’s techniques and then use them—in whole, or in part—to explore the possibilities when making them your own.

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