Thursday, June 9, 2016

Pixelmator-ed Trees

Early June is the time for a tree-following report but … once again I’ve neglected my service berry. It’s become obvious that I picked the wrong tree. It’s too far away. It’s been a snowy spring. Now I have a lot of work. Maybe I’ll get back in late summer … maybe. But there is plenty of news from tree-followers around the world. Check it out at the virtual gathering kindly hosted by The Squirrel Basket.

Instead, I’m posting some experimental tree images, for I’ve been learning Pixelmator. I bought it last year, thinking it was time to get a true image editor. I had aspirations Preview couldn’t fulfill. Reviews were enthusiastic; at $29.99 it was cheap (still is). But then I didn’t use it … until last week.

I needed a figure for a paper about Black Hills Montane Grasslands—which I’ve been working on for years. Yes, this is my albatross!
Let me tell you my epic tale.
You see, I’m not a Compleat Scientist. I would rather put together blog posts—in fact do almost anything—than write a paper for a scientific journal. It’s a guaranteed way to take the joy out of a project.
It was enjoyable, once upon a time. Photo by D. Ode, 2011.
Native Black Hills Montane Grasslands (green and yellow dots) now occupy only 10% of original habitat.
One morning last week, I awoke knowing the manuscript was almost ready to submit, but I needed a figure. I sighed with dread, collected my jpegs, and opened Pixelmator. About an hour later the figure was done! I was excited—not about the paper, but about this easy and powerful image editor. I see a lot of fun creative opportunities ahead.

I’ve had it in mind for awhile to experiment with mixing color and black-and-white. The image at the top of the post was my first try. It was so easy … not just to do, but to learn how to do (it helps to have experience with Photoshop and understand layers). I made a duplicate layer, converted it to black-and-white, and used the “Magic Eraser Tool” to reveal some of the colors underneath. It took just a few minutes of trial-and-error to make something interesting, something I liked. That is magic!

This boxelder tree grows in Long Canyon off the Burr Trail, in Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument (Utah).
Original photo.
The Magic Eraser removed parts of the overlying black-and-white layer.

I met these ghostly travelers on the Old Spanish Trail near Fish Lake, Utah. The era (ca 1840) and the aspen trunks say black-and-white, but not the leaves …

It’s also easy to add color to black-and-white images—to create the look of old hand-colored photos, which I love. The subtle beauty is something to aspire to.
J. Garnier, hand-colored daguerreotype, circa 1850. Source.
A crude first try: My muse—the Ancient Mariner with his albatross.
Original illustration by Dore, from Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient MarinerSource. 
Within the shadow of the ship
I watched their rich attire:
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
They coiled and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire.

[UPDATE: As a reader pointed out—Pixelmator only runs on Macs.]


  1. Looks like you're having fun. I love that glowing tree in the canyon--magical!

  2. Thanks, Tina ... Yes, a brief but welcome interlude.

  3. Love the way your processing focuses attention just on the tree and cliff behind it! I must learn layers one of these days... ;-)

    1. Thanks, Amy. Yeah ... I've said that for awhile too, work finally forced me into it, now I'm glad

  4. That's a really cool effect. I was getting quite excited, until I went to the website and saw it's only available on Mac/IOS! Glad you're having fun with it. Good luck with your paper submission.

    1. Thanks Tim -- and thanks for pointing out the platform issue! (I added a note in the post)

    2. No problem :) Have a great weekend.

  5. Wonderful. It's an art form in your capable hands. Nicely done!

  6. Brilliant experiments!
    I hadn't heard of Pixelmator, but it seems a great piece of kit at that price. I have the full PhotoShop on my PC and probably paid something like £500 for it a long time ago! I think that's about $700.
    Glad you found a "proper" use for it in your scientific paper. But it's so much fun to get carried away with picture editing, isn't it?
    No worries about the juneberry!
    All the best :)

    1. :-) thanks, Pat. I also have Photoshop--an ancient version, 15 years old. It was expensive too! I was to the point where it didn't seem worth the hassle, so I tried the $30 program and was blown away by the difference, especially ease. Now I use it frequently--funny how the first steps are the hardest.