From Architecture to Fantasy

Between committments at Macworld at the Moscone Center I wandered over and indulged my dome photography habit by photographing the dome in the Westfield shopping mall in downtown San Francisco. I believe the dome itself is antique, but it’s placed in an entirely modern shopping mall.


Cameo, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

It’s easy with most domes to capture the entire inside of the structure. The architecture of this one, with the modern shopping mall only a few floors below the mall, made it impossible, even with my fisheye, to capture the full extent of the thing (I may share a fisheye view later). So I got down on the center of the floor under the dome, and used a 12mm wide-angle lens instead to create a jewel-like effect.

Both Macworld and the Westfield shopping mall seemed to me examples of extreme consumption, with tech gadgets the theme at Macworld and shopping-until-you-drop the raison d’être at Westfield. Both the computer show and the shopping mall seemed to be in a bubble of denial (Westfield more so than Macworld).

I tend towards feelings of alienation at times anyhow. But there’s nothing like pulling out the tripod and getting down on the floor in the midst of glitzy stores, carts hawking cosmetics, and glazed shoppers to make one feel like a stranger in a very strange land.

In some even stranger way, this dome from a palace of consumptive capitalism became grist for my creative mill. I’m never sure what drives these things, it is kind of a compulsive emotional doodling. But I know that when my inner Photoshop doodler calls I need to listen.

Starting with my photo of the Westfield Mall dome, I stayed up most of the night and worked the image in Photoshop.

My first step was to convert the image of the dome to LAB color. Then I experimented with inverting and equalizing the LAB color channels. Here’s one of the studies that resulted:

Dome Study 2

I piled the studies on top of one another as layers. I combined the layers, using primarily Difference and Exclusion blending modes. These blending modes often produce striking colors when you wouldn’t expect it.

I layer masked the results and hand painted in the colors, coming up with something that looks more like a cameo jewel, or pschedelic watch, than architecture.

Too much is not enough for me when I’m under the spell of Photoshop. It was also hard to stop when I was on a sleep deprivation and good food binge fueled by Macworld, taking care of the kids, and my birthday weekend, so why not invert the inversions? When does it ever end?

To take the image further I resized it several times, changed the shape of inner bands using Transform commands, and combined the resized and transformed versions together.

Watchmaker Dial A

For more intermediate steps and variations, check out Watchmaker’s Dial.

Related story: Oakland of My Mind also shows my progression from relatively straight photos to fantastic imagery.

From top to bottom: Cameo, Dome Study 2, Watchmaker Dial A.

This entry was posted in Bemusements, Photography, Photoshop Techniques.

One Trackback

  1. By Tin Can Alley | Photoblog 2.0 on February 16, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    […] subject to an abstraction, with many variations along the way. Some examples: Oakland of My Mind; From Architecture to Fantasy; Stove Top Abstractions; Masked Avenger; Changes; Cherry Medley; Weaving. An early version of my […]

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