I was standing on the front lawn, waiting for a friend to pick me up. Rather than wait in the house, I decided to take the few minutes I had to capture the fading leaves of the trees along my street. It was windy and partly cloudy, the sun dancing in and out of the clouds and the leaves dancing in the breeze. Stalking the trees for a few graceful branches against an open sky, I finally found the right scene.
This edit, Leaf Dance, feels nostalgic to me. Vintage memories of autumn, from a year that already seems long gone. Capturing the leaves in transition is already poignant, but vintage processing can make it even more so. I thought I would share this edit as a mobile tutorial, so you can see the challenges and phases an image goes through along the way. I usually can’t see where it will end up. I just have an idea of the next step I should take at each phase.
Lets’s start with the original image. I really liked these reaching branches, but was impossible to get them with a blank sky. The trees of the neighborhood were too close. So I endeavored to frame the branches against the clouds with some space between any other trees. Did I mention it was windy? I probably have 10 shots of the same scene because the branches were moving around. This was the best one.
The next step was to remove the distractions of the other neighborhood trees. If there is a gap between the distraction and subject of interest, it is much easier to accomplish. I used the Retouch feature of Handy Photo to remove the trees, crop in closer, and the remove a few of the branches in the background. Here’s the next phase:
Because of the lighting, the leaves and branches look like a silhouette but I want to pull out more detail. In Snapseed, I start with a global adjustment for brightness, but that didn’t do quite enough for the leaves, so I add a selective adjust to increase the brightness only on the leaves. By doing this, I pull out the details in the leaves, both color and texture, but don’t adjust the sky any further. I want the clouds as is. It looks very odd at this point, my eye can tell it’s wrong, but since I know it’s a transition step I don’t worry about it. Things sometimes have to look worse before they look better.
Next step is through Snapseed’s Grunge filter. I dialed the texture way back and scrolled through the options to see what colors felt right for the image. Purpleish-pink! I also played with the center spot and adjusted the location and radius to make sure the focal point of the image was clear, while the less important corners were darkened and fogged.
Time for some texture! I pulled the image into Pic Grunger to see what I could do. This app can overwhelm images with its default settings, but if you play with dialing it back a bit you can often find a great aged texture effect.
It is almost there. I’d like to pull the focus more tightly in on the branch, minimizing the pull if the brighter sky in the upper left. I pull the image into XnView FX and play with some of my favorite textures. These textures often give just the subtle effect I’m looking for, and this time was no exception. It darkened much of the sky but left the brightness where I wanted it – under the branch. This provides great contrast to pull your eye right to the intended area of focus.
Both the color and processing of the final image leaves me with a romantic, vintage feel. Exactly what I was looking for! Unlike most of my mobile tutorials, there was no blending in this edit. It’s just an image, a couple of apps and the willingness to imagine and experiment. That’s all you need to create mobile art!