Jan Thornhill's I Found a Dead Bird
Photo-Illustrations - Step-by-Step
Since I Found a Dead Bird is a children's book about death - normally a pretty dreary topic - I wanted to make it as upbeat and exciting as possible, and one of the ways to do that was to use lots and lots of photographs. But when you're designing a book like this, you have to pay for the use of other people's photos and that can be very expensive. Also, there were some things I wanted to put in the book that no one has photographs of at all! So I had to get creative and make digital photo-illustrations. Digital photo-illustrations are basically fancy collages that I create on my computer.
For the page "Trapped in Time" (above), I wanted to use a fabulous picture I found on the Internet of the tusks of a mammoth called Jarkov sticking out of the snow in Siberia. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't find the photographer to ask if I could use it - and you always have to get permission to use other people's work. That's when I knew I had to make my own "photograph."
Finding Pictures to UseThough there were a lot of pictures for the book that I was able to take myself, in this case, I had some problems. First, there was no picturesque snow scene outside for me to take a photo of since it was not winter at the time. And second - though I wish I had some! - I don't actually own any mammoth tusks. So I went on-line and eventually found a couple of stock photographs that were reasonably priced: one of a blowy, snowy scene, and another of a mammoth skeleton in a museum display, complete with a lovely set of tusks.
Cleaning, Floating & Coloring
|There wasn't much I had to do to the snow scene, but the mammoth tusks needed a lot of work. First I had to cleanly separate the tusks from the background on the computer - a bit like neatly cutting out a picture with a paper-cutting blade. When that was done, I made the tusks into a floating layer so that I could paste them on top of the snow. But before I could do that, I had to color them. That took ages, using a digital airbrush tool.
AssemblingI copied and pasted the tusks on to the snow scene. Then I rotated them into a position I liked.
|Next I “buried” the
tusks. I did this by carefully erasing the parts I didn’t want to show.
|To make the tusks look more realistic, I had to invent shadows. I used the shadow of the rock on the left as a a guide for positioning and coloring the tusk shadows. I also added highlights to the tusks and made their color more blue to blend with the scene. When all that was done, I made white airbrush whips of blowing snow over the whole thing...
My "realistic" photo-illustration of
Siberian mammoth tusks was done!