Tree Creates Portal to a Fantasy World

The finalist in all the experimenting.
The finalist in all the experimenting.

It’s time once again for ABFriday – After & Before Friday, sponsored by Stacy Fisher at Visual Venturing. This month’s photo was submitted by a fellow blogger, Cee Neuner.  To see her interpretation, click here. Click here to see all the other interpretations over at Visual Venturing.

Here’s the original photo:

Original photo by Cee Neuner
Original photo by Cee Neuner

As you see, the house is a bit ugly and a lot cluttered. I found it pretty uninspiring except for that tree.  I’m sure is why Cee took that picture – that tree is fantastic. It reminded me of the Wizard of Oz, where the movie starts in black and white, and when Dorothy hits her head and starts her adventure, it all goes to beautiful technicolor. I needed to know WHAT was behind that door. Curious minds wanted to know or better yet, invent a new world.

In my defense, this is all Stacy Fisher and Laura Macky’s fault. Laura added a moon into the February challenge (here), which made Stacy reposition March’s cherub into Seattle (here).  That made me decide to try compositing on this photograph! My skill set for masking, layers, and composites was minimal, so I found a great course on by Julieanne Kost called, “Introduction to Photo Compositing”. It helped me tremendously and I played it a number of times as I worked with this.
To that end, I experimented repeatedly and my bloopers are below.
My first try was to mask the background so that only the tree remained, then drop the tree into a different picture so that you looked through the the outline of the tree to see a doorway beyond it. Good idea, but nothing worked. My technique is poor; had I liked any of the pictures, I would have cleaned that up more.

I decided instead to leave the house in, but change the doorway. The clouds only wasn’t quite enough, so I made the whole doorway into a fantasy portal that was lined with flowers. The desaturated result was a close second to the winner. I liked the petunias around the doorway, but the shape of the flowers just wasn’t quite right for what I was trying to do. Had I liked these, I would have gone back to the masks on the tree and restored more of the foliage above the door so the line wasn’t quite so straight (which I changed in the final photo).

I finally hit on a good look, but it still took a while to get my technique down. I created masks for the doorway and windows, then using free transform, worked in an image from Colonial Williamsburg that showed a house with the long path leading up to it. I only had that one photo with the blue sky from that shoot, so I used it for the door and both windows, adjusting with free transform to change the appearance of the trees and clouds. This kept the coloring the same for the sky and trees, which were brilliantly colored that day.

I did some minor cloning on the front steps, adjusted brightness, and added a frame from onOne. It sounds easy, but it took me a good amount of time to get something that I liked. To create the mask, I used a brush with a straight edge on it. Later, my favorite boy toy showed me several other tools that would have made the masking go much faster, as well as how to copy over the mask layers from one picture to another.
But I got it done and completed a goal I’d had of learning how to use masks and layers better. I certainly got that accomplished (thanks Cee!).

Interested in how I post processed other photos?  Click here to see more.

ABFriday Photography Photoshop & Lightroom

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I am a backyard adventurer, philosopher and observer, recording my life in journals and photographs. Visit my blog at

32 Comments Leave a comment

  1. You are in your element when it comes to this. I like what you’ve done with the place! The blue sky makes it pop.

  2. Nancy, this is sooo much fun! I really loved seeing what you considered to be your “failed” attempts. Personally, I liked each of the treatments where you replaced the background, leaving just the tree, just as much as the final image. So much creativity, and a wonderfully fun lesson as well :D

  3. Very well done! I like the fantasy aspects of it. It’s something I’ve wanted to try, but don’t yet have the skills to do. Thank you for the link. I’ll check it out some rainy day and see what I can do with a little learnin’. Most of what I know how to do on Photoshop has been a result of trial and error.

  4. You have to have a mind’s eye image to start with to make this journey. (The pink flowers by the door was too bright. Your eye wants a lower value/hue to keep that spatial relationship) The final version is such a fantasy land! The tree looks like it’s giggling with delight and inviting you in ( like you left the tree’s little stragglers on top – like a disorderly child growing lop topsy)
    Always amazed at your skill

    • Thanks Phil! I think you’re right about those pink flowers being too bright, which is probably why I thought the desaturated one worked better. You’re right though about that tree – it does look like it’s inviting you. The problem is though – is that good or bad? Dorothy had a lot of people after her, which was bad, but she did have quite an adventure, which was good. And of course, in the end, she made it home but not without more trials.

  5. I am going to have to study this all more. I need to learn layers and masks way better than I know them now. You did a great job.

    • Thanks Mary. It wasn’t that hard, but I sure did flounder for a few hours. By the time I got it figured out, I could fly through the adjustments much faster but was nearly done with my ideas by then too.

    • You’re welcome Cee! Thanks for asking me what I thought. Honestly, I chose that picture because I thought it would be hard figuring what else to do besides what you’d already done. I was right too. Gosh, did I ever flounder with this. I was really satisfied though with the end product and it was well worth the exercise to learn new skills.

      I love and have taken quite a few other things besides just the photography. Even if I only do several hours a month, it’s worth the $25 / month cost. Of course, I get a much better value if I do more than that in a month!

      This post was a direct result of one of my sessions on Dr. Dewett actually reached out to me with a nice note. I don’t see your icon in the “likes” so you might not have looked at it.

      • I go in phases of keeping Lynda around. I just cancelled and will probably get it again in the fall when i have more inside time. I was trying to learn photoshop but I use it so rarely I forget everything I learn simply because I don’t use it enough.

    • Thanks Laura and thanks for the inspiration you provided several months ago. I do hope you laughed when you saw me blaming you for this! But seriously, you upped the game to a whole new level with your creative work.

  6. Nice idea adding views to another world, or place beyond. Although I am not a fan of all the composites the finalist works really well, with the blue sky and summer scene beyond. Great editing.

    • Thanks Ben! I agree with you that I’m not a big fan of composites either, although there are some photographers who do truly great work with it. But I couldn’t think of what else to do with Cee’s photo and I did want to learn how to mask and layer better. Like you, I was much more pleased with the end result than I thought I would be. It really enhanced the fantasy feel of that tree.

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