Hugh could “see” racing longhorns being chased by cowboys much like a painter envisions his finished piece of art before he ever picks up a paintbrush. Hugh knew he could create this piece of old West art using real photos and blending techniques in Adobe Photoshop.
Hugh shot this dramatic scene in pieces, employing a bit of movie magic to capture amazing action. He needed real cowboys who could round up the longhorns, but the scenery behind the corral was a bit boring. Before shooting, Hugh and crew built 16-foot tall screens around the corral and painted them blue. Then he brought the cowboy and cattle into the corral for the action sequence with the blue screen background.
“Blue screen”, the 16-foot tall panels, is something used every day in movies. It allows the photographer to cut out the actor from an ordinary view and drop him into a spaceship or other imaginary scene. The software selects the blue elements from the photo and cuts them out. Then the artist can merge a new background with the old photo. The result is a realistic looking photograph that blends so well no one can tell what happened behind the scenes.
In Hugh’s case, he used Adobe Photoshop to blend the cowboy and cattle with a mountain background from the South Rim of Big Bend National Park. It sounds simple. The software cuts out the background and violà! A perfect photo emerges when blended with a new background photo. In reality it can be very tricky. Both photos must have the same direction and type of light hitting them.
For example, if the cattle had warm, early morning light on them, but the mountain had flat mid-day light, it would be easy to detect the Photoshop merge. So the photographer must pay a great deal of attention to both images.
Hugh brought in a “critic” to scrutinize his work, his business partner and brother Gordon. The critic sent Hugh back to the drawing board several times before the final image was approved. With a great deal of effort and persistence, though, Hugh used the tools of the trade to craft a memorable piece of old West art.