How I do it

25 Apr

A very kind fellow blogger suggested I put the sequence of my digital image development onto this blog, so here goes. If it looks as though everything was efficiently planned believe me – it wasn’t!


X-ray Pneumatocoele

I wanted to use an X-ray with an air-filled cyst in the left lung – a pneumatocoele – a cavity resulting from lung damage caused by pneumonia.

So in the clinical setting the X-ray was asking to be linked to air, breathing. It needed to be placed where you can’t breathe – under water.






Gradient posterised

A recently photographed roadside white-line full of grain and fissured, seemed to be the perfect background. Given a reddish coloured gradient it was posterised to emphasise the cracked texture.

The X-ray was then segmented into three layers. The first placed on the background. The cyst had to be visible and the structure of the lungs needed to show through so it wasn’t altered much. It was positioned where I thought it would look good and still moved around the picture a hundred times. The second two are shown here (on red backgrounds just for contrast), the outer segment enlarged and warped.

5 Pneumo segment a1

X-ray segment 1

13 Pneumo segment c 1

X-ray segment 2 & 3

12 Pneumo segment b 1

X-ray segment 2


The rather homogenous background needed modulation, a photo of light streaks falling on a wall was segmented, made almost transparent and layered over the background to subtly alter it. An invert layer converted reds to blue.

6 light1

Light on wall

7 Light segmented 1

Light segmented

The subject in mind was a whale painted on an oak board, a shop sign photographed at Martha’s Vineyard. (The artists name Riley 2001  is visible at the bottom). It was roughly cut out and a mask placed to exclude the surrounds. Using a coarse spray-paint, texture was layered over the top to lift the image. I stretched it for better movement, and placed the whale over the X-ray.

8 Subject 1

Painting on board

9 Subject cut 1

Subject cut out

10 Subject mask 1

Subject with mask layer

The element of breathing and air had to be introduced somewhere; into a new clear layer a series of bubbles was painted, they were beveled and given inner glow to make them stand out.  (They’re shown here against a red background.)

11 Bubble layer 1

Bubble layer

The second X-ray segment was flattened to a simple pattern and darkened using curves. It was placed in front of the whale for the impression of depth to give the sense of swimming out of a box like structure. The outer distorted ring was further placed over that to form a frame within a frame and to draw the eye inwards. I considered painting it red but rejected that thought.

13 Composite without background 1

Composite without background

The final image is shown in its first form here.

Chest 59 v1C

Chest 59; Sea song

Being me I couldn’t stop playing with it.

It now has two variations; the second looks simpler but actually required much more work to achieve. I think is more effective. It’s exactly the same picture with further effects added to the layers and I changed my mind about the inner frame it is now red after all and I cut a bit out of it to give the impression that the bubbles are passing in front of the frame. Oh, and I also resuscitated the whale’s dorsal fin lost in the first cut.

Chest 59 v2 C

Chest 59 version 2; Sea song

The message inside this picture relies on recognisable symbols and associations between a child with cavitating pneumonia that might, without treatment, have caused a respiratory death, and the impossibility of people breathing under water. Fortunately pneumatocoeles have a good prognosis once the pneumonia is treated, and they usually resolve with time. The whale is a strong symbol of freedom and gentleness – a massive air-breathing mammal that lives in the water – the exact opposite of the tiny child with his lung disease. By swimming away from the X-ray it carries forward hope of life and recovery.

One Response to “How I do it”

  1. Playamart - Zeebra Designs April 27, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    i am very impressed! there are so many steps and there’s a marriage of intellect and design, and they work well together. this post appears to have taken a lot of work, and you explained the steps in a very clear way!

    you have also been busy on new posts! my road trip consumed several days, and i hope to start catching up tomorrow!
    thank you so much for sharing!


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