Tag Archives: layering

Still playing with different layer effects, and a big coincidence or two

I’ve been playing around with templates lately, and discovered a treasure chest which I had already downloaded some time back, and had forgotten. It was a file of Photoshop actions that built a grid of squares, rectangles or triangles. Since I’m looking at grids just now, finding this was manna from heaven. Here are three of today’s experiments – the first has the grid offset in the style of Hannah Whitaker, the second uses two different edits of the same image in a straightforward grid pattern, while the third has a 3D effect on the back layers only.

Multiple layers2

Fig. 1 Offset layers (2018)

Multiple layers 3

Fig. 2 Grid layers (2018)

Multiple layers - 3d

Fig. 3 3D inverted layers (2018)

I love the geometric shapes, each one of which is individual, thus allowing me either to apply my chosen altered image or effect to one triangle or to any specific grouping of them. In the images above, I only used two versions of the same image, both of which can be seen in my previous post on this subject. In the image below though, each triangle had its own unique image associated with it, and I am pleased to be becoming nearly  adept enough in Photoshop to create the patchwork shapes which I’ve been hankering to play with for a couple of years now, but didn’t have the skills to make the grids.

Cambodia collage 2

Fig. 4 Cambodian sunsets (2018)

On a couple of different subjects, I am still playing with handmade books in different shapes, such as this below, which has foldable cut-outs and gives the effect of two physical layers – background and foreground, using a template I found on byopiapress’s Blog and which originally came from a workshop given by Hedi Kyle, a Canadian book artist. I also found a link to a comprehensive tutorial on making different book covers by Kyle, which I am putting here for future reference:


Here’s a first attempt. I was to be able to size it up and down, particularly down, so as to be able to make books about half this size. This one is based on an 8 x10″ image.


Fig. 5 3D Australian outback (2018)


I have also been researching handmade papers and how I might possibly use them for printing photographs, in preparation for my papermaking course next week at Bath College. While looking for information on how to coat handmade papers for printing, I came across the work of Lindsey Beal, who is an artist who works specifically with the media of alternative photography and handmade papers. Her website, which is full of potential ideas is here: https://www.lindseybeal.com/ I can see that the papermaking course, along with the analogue processing and cyanotype ones I am doing next month is going to lead to a whole new area of experimentation.

And just a final note. I was looking through some of my father-in-law’s stuff, which is currently being stored in our garage and came across this tin box. It was apparently the sort that was given out to soldiers during the First World War, and it would originally have contained cigarettes, for smoking and for bartering.


Fig. 6 Box of delights (2018)

Inside, was a little treasure trove of cigarette cards and a very old stereoscope. My partner tells me that he used to play with it when he went to visit his grandmother. He said that one could collect the cigarette cards and when you had enough, you could send away for the stereoscope. Bearing in mind that I had been speaking with tutor Jayne Taylor recently about 3D images and she showed me some that she had made using a stereoscope at this month’s Thames Valley Forum, this was a wonderful find, and a hint that I should carry on exploring the possibilities of 3D work.


Fig. 7 Cigarette card stereoscope treasure trove (2018)

Note to self: At some point, you are going to have to stop looking at ‘How’ and start thinking about ‘Why.’ All this practical research is fascinating, but won’t get your coursework and assignments done.


Fig. 1 Woodward, H. (2018) Offset layers. [Photograph, digital collage] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 2 Woodward, H. (2018) Grid layers. [Photograph, digital collage] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 3 Woodward, H. (2018) 3D inverted layers. [Photograph, digital collage] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 4 Woodward, H. (2018) Cambodian sunsets. [Photograph, digital collage] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 5 Woodward, H. (2018)  3D Australian outback. [Photograph, paper sculpture] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 6 Woodward, H. (2018) Box of delights. [Photograph In possession of: the author.

Fig. 7 Woodward, H. (2018) Cigarette card stereoscope treasure trove. [Photograph] In possession of: the author.


Exercise 1.1 – Hannah Whitaker and Layering

It is suggested that we look at the work of Esther Teichmann, Corinne Vionnet, Idris Kahn and Helen Sear and then produce 6-8 images using similar layering techniques. I have looked at Teichmann, Vionnet and Sear before, so had intended that Idris Kahn should be the subject of this post. I’d heard of him, but not seen any of his works, which turned out to be fascinating. But then, coincidence intervened and I am never one to ignore coincidence. I happened to pick up this article by Hannah Whitaker in this month’s Objectiv magazine, which muses on a line of thought I am exploring on the ontology of digital photography, and then came across her name again later that same day, when I was leafing through Charlotte Cotton’s (2015) Photography is Magic. Her work is very appealing to me, especially the patchwork style images, such as those shown below. So my 500 word post on a photographer’s work will be on her.

Hannah Whitaker is an American photographer, who came into the public view while she did her MFA at the International Center for Photography, New York in 2006. She is also a curator and a prolific writer about photography. Her images fall somewhere between photography and graphic design, and despite their appearance they are apparently all made using analogue processes. Using a 5×4″ camera, she inserts paper screens into the camera and then does multiple exposures to achieve the very layered look that much of her work incorporates. It is a massively complex way of achieving her signature look, but the physicality of the paper inserts often intrudes onto the image in a way that would not be possible if they were made entirely digitally. The images strongly resonate with both traditional and modern quiltmaking techniques to produce slightly off-kilter geometric patterns which I find very aesthetically pleasing. She herself says that many of them are influenced by the Bauhaus movement (and particularly the work of Anni Albers) and the Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers Group, both of which use a mix of traditional and modern patterns and colours.

Whitaker says that she enjoys playing with the materiality of the image and how it can be altered, and her processes involve a great deal of pre-thought and preparation.

I started thinking about ways that I could relinquish control and play with that loss of control as a subject in the work,” Whitaker tells TIME, “I keep going back to ‘what can I do in this space?’ and working within that field of possibility.” (Time, 2016)

Somehow her work is redolent of the experimental Thomas Ruff images, while at the same time referencing traditional women’s arts in the execution and final appearance of her work. She also uses a technique of punching holes in her images and projecting light through them in a similar way to Helen Sear,  and both of these methods are ones I would like to try myself. Of course, I don’t have an analogue 5×4″ camera, so I will be doing it just as laboriously in Photoshop. At present, however, my ideas greatly exceed my ability and the whole process is ludicrously slow.



Exercise 1.1

We are then asked to make a series of 6-8 images using layering techniques.For this exercise, I am using the following image, which I made last year, as a base.

P1630426-3Firstly, I overlaid it with between one and three layers of circles produced in Photoshop, and they were moved about to produce different patterns. I like the randomness of the effect which is achieved. After that, I tried inserting layer masks in between different layers to produce other effects. I think the main take-away from this exercise is that one can do pretty much anything in Photoshop if you are prepared to spend enough time setting up the necessary processes.

Some of these work better than others, and there is definitely a point where one can go over the top. I am most happy with the first three, which seem to have both a clear intention and a pleasing result.




Cotton, Charlotte (2015) Photography is Magic. New York: Aperture.









First experiments with layers, pt 2

I was keen to extend some of the ideas I had yesterday and firstly tried an image with a 3D layer covered by an ordinary one. Yes, it does work! And actually, the image has a certain charm of its own even without the 3D glasses.  It’s better if the glasses are worn back to front, and I am also seeing that if one moves viewpoint, the image appears to move too, which is an added bonus.


After that I looked at the concept of having more than one 3D layer, and that works too. I think I’m going to be doing some serious research on this as there is potential here. The only negative is that after a while of looking at these images, one begins to feel a bit sick!



First experiments with layers for Project 1

Today has been very productive. Not only have I made a test version for a new style of book – the carousel or star book, but I have done some interesting work in Photoshop using 3D layers. Here’s a quickie of the book. In due course, I plan to make a much more delicate version using photographs and washi papers, but it certainly has some potential.

Below are a series if images I made using layering and 3D effects. The original three images used, were these:

and below are a number of different iterations, each more complex than the last.


Anyone reading this will need old-fashioned 3D glasses to see the last two properly, not the newer version for cinemas. The effect though is fascinating – the figure either seems to stand out or hang back from the background, depending on which way round you wear the glasses, and I am now keen to find out whether one can layer on top of the 3D effect to give the appearance of a layer in front of the image.

SW OCA meeting with Helen Sear

Helen Sear 1

© Helen Sear

On Saturday, a good number of us met just outside Bristol for the day. We spent the morning talking with OCA tutor Helen Sear about her practice and the afternoon discussing people’s work. Unlike the Thames Valley Group, this one has people following a diverse range of pathways to their degree, including Creative Arts, Painting, and Textiles, amongst others. It was fascinating to see the work people were producing  and I always find some areas of cross-fertilisation for my own potential work.

For someone who is just starting DI&C, the morning with Helen Sear was a wonderful jump-off point. She originally trained as a painter at university, but began to look at photography as part of a mixed media approach soon after she left and her work is incredibly diverse. She also uses a variety of techniques which will be useful for me to know about for my own work, such as Photoshop layering, back lighting, cutting and burning. I came away with loads of ideas to test out at home.

Helen took us through some of her earlier work, explaining that at the time, she was interested in the theory of landscape, how humans are inseparable from it,  and what makes us find some landscapes beautiful and others not so much. In essence, she argued that we are drawn to landscapes that might be good to live in. I’m not sure that I wholly go along with that, thinking about some of the more mountainous elements of landscape photography, but it is an interesting idea.

She became interested in the materiality of the image, and how it can be disrupted, by lights, montage, multimedia and specific points of view, mainly through manipulating analogue images initially, but later with digital ones. Her pieces often combine some of these elements to produce work that you need to move around to see properly, with reflections and projections changing as your point of view changes and you catch glimpses of what is below the surface work.

Helen Sear Becoming-forest-7

© Helen Sear

We also looked at some of her trademark work using taxidermy in the home and the landscape which plays with the idea of what is real and what is constructed, and her dioramas, which made me think of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s work.

We then went on to discuss how going digital changed what she does. She said that she feels there is much more precision now, and that she likes the way one can play with colour and oversaturation in images. Her interest in what lies below the surface came to the forefront and she used heavily marked layers in Photoshop to make work like the image below, which sits somewhere between photography and drawing. I found this work both beautiful and mesmerising, and would like to try out something similar myself. I was also intrigued by her use of drilled holes in images and backlighting.

Helen Sear 2

© Helen Sear

Her method of working is interesting too. She doesn’t really have a plan when she starts a new project, but lets it slowly expand and assume a direction over time. She frequently goes back to revisit old work and to re-edit it. When it is complete, she tried a range of different sizes before settling on what she feels is the right size, as she feels that how you ‘meet’ work is very important. Finally, she showed us a short film she had shown at the Venice Biennale of birds in a real-life diorama, which was fascinating, as it focused the viewers attention on the tiny short-lived dramas that take place all around us, but which we never really stop to see.

I found her work inspirational and exciting, and look forward to experimenting with the ideas myself. It reminded me of Thomas Ruff’s exhibition, which I saw in London last year, and she did refer to him herself too. It had the same sense of working with different specific elements of the image and exaggerating them to find out what can be achieved. I also need to read some of her extensive writing too, which is linked on her website.