Whenever I start composite, I look for two compatible images. How to determine if two images are compatible is really trial and error. In this case, I started with the image of the smoking area. I knew it was promising because there was a lot of whitespace. The marsh scene was a recent image and just jumped out as a twin image. Sometimes, I try 12+ different combination of images before finding a suitable partner, and sometimes I veer off with two different suprisingly compatible potential ’twin’ images in a totally different direction. For this image, these were the only two images that I tried.
The next step is to place one image above the other image. I usually change the Opacity of the upper layer to ~60%. That way, I can more easily see the interactions. Then, I start cycling through the upper layer’s blending mode. For my base layer, I used the marsh scene and the upper layer was the smoking area. After cycling through the blending modes for the upper layer, I saw a few possibilities but no winner. However, I decided to invert the upper smoking area image. Voila, I differenced the images and had a very interesting starting point. For the right-hand image below, the upper layer opacity is 58% and blending mode is Difference.
At this point, I liked the Tapestry effect in the background wall, but I was unsure about the void of the palm leaves and its pot. I decided to add back the original smoking area image but masked for the void area. To create the mask, I copied the original smoking area to the clipboard for use in the mask. Then, I copied the original smoking area layer and moved it to the top of the layer stack. I added a layer mask to the top layer and pasted in the copy of the smoking area image from the clipboard into the mask. To copy into the mask, make sure that the layer mask thumbnail is selected in the Layers view before pasting. For a layer mask, black conceals and white reveals. The mask needs to be inverted.
Next, I needed to see the mask so I held down the Alt key and clicked on the layer mask thumbnail. This makes the image mask visible in the image area. Then, I did a levels adjustment to greatly darken the shadows of the mask and brighten the highlights. To go back to viewing the image, I clicked on the image thumbnail in the upper layer. I left clicked the upper layer (of the original smoking area) at 100% Opacity and blending mode of Normal. After a little fine-tuning of the mask, I had the following image. For the right-hand image below, I added back some contrast.
At this point, I thought the image looked pretty close. I used two Nik filters to pop colors using the contrast color range filter add some green using the Nik Cross Process filter. For the next step (right image below), I added the Nik Bi-Color Violet/Pink filter to warm the image and add blue to the top of the image.
This is image is very close to done. I decided that the shadow details in the palm fronds are too blocked up. So, I applied a Shadow and Highlight adjustment to open some details in the palm fronds. For the final right-hand image below, I applied a small Levels adjustment to brighten the overall image. The image is done.