Transforming photos into something more and into artsy interpretations isn’t something I do much of. But, sometimes you just have to play, ask yourself what if and see what happens.

Documenting a trip

I took this photo in Cannes, France during a photography retreat back in 2016. The tree growing out of the wall caught my eye initially. There were so many of these stairways, alcoves and places all along the streets of Cannes. When I’m traveling, I do my share of taking photos that are just to record where I was and what it was like. These images are those that I show to family and friends who want to see where I was. Would I post-process most of them, likely not. 

For some reason though, this one spoke to me. I felt like it could be something more. The colors of Cannes, the grit and character of the buildings, balconies, laundry and all the daily life things that we saw as we walked through town. This image needed a bit of help to tell the story of what I felt, saw and experienced that day wandering around Cannes.

How I processed it

I started in Lightroom, straightened it, and removed anything distracting, dust spots or bits of trash, cigarette butts and the like. In all honesty, there wasn’t much to do there. Looking back at it now, I would likely go back and remove the power line above the tree. 

So, I played. I moved sliders, I said what happens if and tried some things. In the end, I used Topaz Labs Texture Effects 2 which is now part of Topaz Labs Studio 2. My method for creating artsy images is to just click on things. No rhyme or reason to what I do, just click and see what effects it has on the photo and if I like it or not. After clicking on 20-30 presets, I found this one named Seeing Red. As soon as I applied it to this shot, I knew it was closer to what I felt I wanted.

After the initial application of the preset, I tweaked it a bit until it was what I wanted. Now, I felt it better depicted the old world feel of the streets. The grittiness of the stucco walls and the years of wear and tear on the stairs and streets.

Something more to this one

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was looking for images to update a blog post about this particular trip and came across this image again which I happened to need. Looking through more of the day’s shots I found this as well. Then I realized it was the same tree but from another angle. 

So, I decided to give it the same “Seeing Red” treatment. I thought they made an interesting pair of photos and would work well together framed and hung. Same process — first in Lightroom to remove dust spots or anything that I felt shouldn’t be visible. Then into Topaz Texture Effects and applied the Seeing Red preset. Again, I tweaked a few things to get it to where I wanted it and more similar to the original image that I had edited this way several years ago.

What did I learn from this? Don’t be afraid to try things out. There might be something more to the original image than we initially see. With nondestructive editing the possibilities are endless and we still have our original files to go back to if we don’t like what we’re creating. I also learned that sometimes I enjoy playing with reality.

As someone who typically keeps post-processing to a minimum, it’s fun to just play sometimes and see what happens.