My cameras, lenses and ancillary equipment are all still in storage in Scotland, pending our move to the new home, sometime in March or April perhaps. Meanwhile, I continue my updates and explorations of editing software, particularly The Gimp, www.gimp.org/
, along with the very powerful add-on known as the G'MIC filter suite, gmic.eu/
. Taken together, the Gimp and G'MIC provide an enormous image editing resource and all of it free. In this feature, I am going to explore one filter found in G'MIC called Dream Smoothing. If you have the G'MIC add-on installed on the Gimp, Dream Smoothing is found in the Artistic sub category. It is said by the Gimp and G'MIC community to be a popular filter and has been included in the suite since about 2014. As with so many of G'MIC filters detailed information of how to use it is sparse, but in the following examples I have used the filter mainly with its default settings. The one parameter that I have varied is called "iterations" and I have used 3 (the default) or 6, the latter giving more smoothing.Smoothing filters have been around since the year dot in photo-editing software, originally intended to help remove noise and artefacts, but then establishing themselves as a means of adding artistic flavours to an image. Inevitably, smoothing filters cause a loss of sharpness, but artistically the idea is that neighbouring colours become blended to pleasing effect. Filters that purport to give oil or water painting effects rely on smoothing algorithms. Often, however, such filters give unconvincing images, although dedicated art work software can give very impressive results. Having now worked with Dream Smooth for several days on many images, I would say that it is the best filter within photo-editing software I have come across for adding a painterly look to an image and a filter that adds a surreal quality to the output. I'm not going to try to explain how the filter works, such being beyond my maths level, except to say that it uses an anisotropic approach - so there!
Here are some examples, the first three being presented alongside the original photograph.
With the Drumlanrig Castle shot you may have to look twice to see the effect as Dream Smooth has its most pronounced effect on image features that are of intermediate size, so that skies and clouds where there is little local change in contrast are hardly affected and neither are the gross or global structures such as the building itself. Sharp edges also remain more or less intact. But, those intermediate objects where there is some contrast or sharp colour change are smoothed. Zoom in to look at the stone work to see what has happened. In the Royal Natal image, the same scale effect is seen, the global features remain essentially intact while the more detailed feature have been smoothed. There is also a tonal change overall, the smoothed image looks much lighter. Of course, there is nothing to stop the user adjusting such with the Curves tool. In addition, to my eye, there is a considerable painterly feel and those trees on the right have a surreal look to them. The Kew Garden photograph is similarly transformed. Overall, much (most?) of the photographic appearance of the image is retained, but the smoothing that affects the intermediate scaled objects gives a subtle artistic feel.
The following images are presented without the originals.
Whether you "like" such images that have been filtered in this way is a matter of taste, but to my mind the Dream Smooth filter does give a pleasing painterly and surreal effect compared to some more basic smoothing filters in commonly used editing software. The Gimp and the G'MIC suite are a bit daunting at first for anyone not used to exploring filter effects, but the rewards can be great. As always I am happy to help anyone who needs advice on how to access and use these tools.
David aka Okavanga