PHOTOGRAPHY SERIES: TECHNIQUES

Learn about the Pep Ventosa Photography Technique

Take any camera and create fascinating multilayered 360 degree images

When I am walking in the nearby park at lunchtime, I am always searching for ways to create new images from ordinary objects. When there are no sweeping landscapes and grand architecture to point your camera at, you have to be more resourceful to create unusual images. When I looked at this tree here (the one in the middle),

An ordinary tree in the Hagley Park, Christchurch

I remembered a technique I learned a while ago. I took several images from that tree by walking around it, keeping the same distance to the tree while taking the images. You end up with maybe 20–30 images as the base, but it can also be 100. Each one tells a slightly different story of the tree, and you are about to merge all of them into one story, creating something new:

Final merged image, “Around the Tree” by Frithjof Moritzen

Pep Ventosa ‘In the round’ photography technique

The technique I am talking about was made popular by Pep Ventosa, a Catalan Photographer. His way of deconstructing and re-assembling images leads to an impressionist image style, emphasizing a common object by merging multiple images. He does it in several ways, one of them is ‘In the round’, and this is the method I tried to apply in my example.

Each specific subject needs a unique approach, so you have to come up with a plan to shoot your images. Once you have done it a couple of times, you will know what is important at the time of the image capture, and what is not. Your camera is not important. I shot the images above with my Olympus OM-D, but I actually used .jpg images for the merging as that was less resource intensive. You can shoot the images with your mobile phone, no problem with that!

But you need to have some knowledge of an image post processing program which can handle layers and blend modes between layers. It doesn’t have to be Adobe Photoshop, but it is certainly a good choice.

When you take the images, think about the common structure you want to enhance in your image. Good subjects are things which can be shot from different angles and do lose little of their shape while doing it. A tree is a good example, a lamppost, I used letter boxes or cars successfully.

When you take your images, have the common part in the same position of the frame every time, you later need to align this part with all images. If you don’t do that, you might have to crop a lot for your final image, or you can’t use all images for the merging. You’ll see later what I mean with that.

Once you have your source images, import them into your post-processing program. Now comes the creative fun part.

Merging the source images in post-processing

  • Load the images into a stack
Load into stack, you should have auto-align not ticked, as you have to do that yourself
  • Now play around with
    * layer blend mode
    * layer opacity
    * layer order
    of each layer individually. The bottom layer should have 100% opacity, the top one might only have 5%.
layer blend modes and opacity

The opacity also depends on the number of layers, and which layer you want to be more prominent.

It can take a while to align all layers, especially if you were so brave to start with 100 layers! Decide on a layer blend mode (darken, multiply, screen or soft light work well). You can also add layer masks to hide specific parts you don’t want to have in the image. As I didn’t save my original .psd file, I tried to recreate the original result, but I never got really close to it, instead I created a new version:

new version

I like the old one better. Well, too late, lesson learned. Do not forget to save the whole .psd file with all layers next time, if you want to review how you did it.

Experiment with this technique, try to introduce something new, use different unusual blending modes or unusual source images. And you can always change your original source images, or the final image afterwards, as if it was the only image you were working with.

Have fun trying a new technique and run around in circles! Hopefully you have a quick computer, a lot of patience, and a big hard disk.

Resources:

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