Edmond Yang has always been fascinated with epic landscapes and in this image he fulfilled his ultimate vision. “Observing the Sun rising behind the Great Wall of China in a pavilion on top of a mountain is my idea of the supreme scene,” he explains. “Wang Wei’s poems also inspired me.”
Yang created a sense of depth by bringing foreground and background elements together with a bright horizon. “I manually painted the sun in behind the mountains, using different layers and a soft brushes. This allowed me to take total control of brightness and output,” he explains. “Correct lighting was achieved using masked Curves layers, applied to different photos.”
Adjustment layers were also applied extensively, matching the tone and colours of individual elements. “I also washed out colours, grain and set the final mood using Alien Skin Software’s Exposure 4 plug-in,” Yang reveals.
Model Shoot – “The model was photographed at my studio. Using the Pen tool, brushwork and colour correction, I prepped her for the artwork. I also took fabric shots using a studio fan, to achieve dynamic shapes.”
Composing the landscape – “I had an idea of how I wanted the scene to look, so I applied a selection of images loosely to match this and to establish the correct composition. This was very much a process of trial and error.”
Blending and merging – “Layer masks were applied too, merging everything together. I then matched the colours easily with Curves layers. A custom tree brush was made to help blend the gaps and edges.”
Adding depth – “Several cloud image layers were blended to create a dramatic sky, which was important for establishing mood. Using a soft white brush, I then painted fog into the mountains, creating depth of field.”
The pavilion – “I found a very suitable Chinese pavilion image, masked it out and adjusted the perspective with Transform>Distort. The walls beneath then needed to be built, so I transformed a masonry texture into place.”
Compositing fabric – “I used the Warp tool to composite and distort additional fabric, from my earlier photoshoot, around the model. Using an ellipse-shaped soft brush, I then painted shadows onto her and her clothing.”
Detailing – “The sun was added next. I used two different Curves layers and painted on the attached layer masks, creating shadows and highlights. I used After Effects to create the leaves blowing past her.”
Scrutinise effects – “I usually zoom in and inspect the image, looking for mistakes or masking errors, before running the Exposure 4 plug-in. This helps to set the final mood and texture, bringing all of the effects together”
Speed up your workflow with After Effects
Use the particle system in After Effects to randomise elements. Import your design into the program, add the particle system option and animate the emitter. Also take control of the Z-space, add motion blur and then save the frame as a Photoshop layered file. Now it’s ready to use in your composition.