Making "Myth"

A fairly simple image to make, all things considered. The success of it really was the random luck that I had a shot of a tree that worked on the countours of my model's body pretty well, but that's not too hard to come across, especially if you are shooting the model at a straightforward angle like I did.
Here is the original shot, tweaked a bit using Liquify in PS5 to expand the shoulders, make the body more symmetrical, and slimming the midsection a bit:
Here is the shot of the tree I used:
Using a transfer mode of Hard Light, I got this:
Now all I needed to do was create a layer mask that knocked out the excess around the body. To do this, all I had to do was use the magic wand tool and click in the gray areas of the seamless background a few times - one of the benfits of using seamless! By clicking "Add Layer Mask," you get this:
To bring up the details a bit, I made a copy of the original shot, layed it on top of my tree man, coverted it to black and white, and changed the transfer mode to Screen, with very low opacity:
I then changed the transfer mode of this layer to "Multiply:"
The next issue to solve was the lighting on the backdrop. I shot this with non-diffused light, which is harsh, but luckily for me, the sunny day on which I shot the tree had similar light, so that made blending these elements easier, but the hot spot on the paper needed to be tamped down. To do this, I just selected a very soft brush at low opacity, sampled the darker gray of the paper, and roughly filled over the bright sports on the paper:
Next, I just wanted to add a touch of branches emanating from his hair and elswhere - just a few, just for reference...
Next came the field. Obviously the colors have been changed on this layer - here is the shot with a color replacement turning Green to Red:
I deleted the sky and hills, leaving it looking like this with a layer mask to paint out the excess, and layed over the model shot with a Transfer Mode of Hard Light:
Next came the sky shot. I had a wonderful shot of clouds from yesterday, and to make those clouds more dramatic, I converted the shot to black and white, and brought the Cyan and Blue channels all the way down, to make them extrmeemly dark and contrasty. The layer mask was used, and the sky layed over with a Transfer Mode of Overlay:
Color corrections were next - too many to detail out, but I used 4 solids on top at this point, all with extrmemely low opacities (less than 15) and using a combination of Transfer Modes of Color and Pin Light. Magenta, Orange, Cyan and Green were used, resulting in this washed out slightly pink/orange look:
Fire shots left over from some high speed strobe shots shot against black were added to the hand to add some symbolism and implication of a story. Bright shots like fire or lights shot against a black background are easy to add into a shot - just change the Transfer Mode to "Screen."
Some texture layers were added to add some grit, some aging, and a suggestion of a marquee to highlight the subject:
Finally, Levels and Curves. Levels first, as an adjustment layer, bringing up the highlights quite a bit:
And finally, the magic of Curves adjustment layer on top of all, set at the defualt setting of Strong Contrast:
Lastly, once this has been saved and flattened as a TiF, I used Liquify on the flattened image to add divets and raised roots on the figure, using the logical terrain of the tree features to guide me:
I hope that helped somewhat. I looks a lot more polished and involved than it actually was, and a lot it was good fortune of a great tree and a willing model shot!
Thanks for viewing and reading. Any questions, please send me a message!
Michael Bilotta
May 19th, 2013