Change of perspective – is that really reality?

Mountain Emperor Butterfly

Remember those posters from the ‘90s where you stared until a 3D image appeared?  That jumbled mass of colored dots suddenly transformed into recognizable shapes with depth from front to back.  It was an interesting example of how information can be hidden in seeming chaos, and how a change of perspective can reveal a new version of reality.

Photographers generally strive to make images reflecting the reality they see in front of them.  Except for the work of extreme artists photographs are expected to resemble in a recognizable way what the camera was pointed at when the shutter was released.  But that isn’t always the only version of that reality.

The scene here is simply a butterfly sitting on a tree trunk, lit by the setting sun.  With my macro lens set to f/2.8 the depth of field is very shallow and the focal point is right on the butterfly’s eye.

Photoshop has a filter called Extrude what essentially looks at each pixel and “extrudes” a column of pixels toward the viewer based on the lightness or darkness of the pixels in the picture.  You can adjust how big the column is and how high it will extrude.   What you see here is the filter applied to my original image (Settings:  square blocks, size = 20, height = 50, levels-based).

What I like about this image is how the filter effect renders the information in the picture into two distinct elements – the butterfly’s head and everything else.  The bark, wings, body – most of these have become representations of the real thing and our eye doesn’t spend much time on them.  The head, though, is very obvious and the eye goes right to it.

It’s not the 3D image of those old posters but the effect on this picture is to accentuate the depth in the picture, making the butterfly literally come off the tree toward the viewer.  I tried this filter on other images and, like most things in Photoshop, it works best on certain types of images.  Don’t know if there are any hard rules about which filter works best on what image, though.  You just have to play with them and get experience on what works for you.

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