Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson
Last November I was engaged in one of my periodic image searches when, out of the blue, up popped a really nice image of a pair of US Marines recon Phantoms from VMFP-3, cruising straight and level over a barren-looking landscape with a lot of wispy cloud in between. I can't remember what type of aircraft I was searching for, but it certainly was not these lovely Phantoms.
The Initial Image
As downloaded, the image is 1200x918 pixels, quite generous for this kind of in-flight photograph. I decided that I didn't need do any photoshopping to improve the sharpness, because my objective was simply to get a final image that would be satisfactory as a desk-top picture.
Treatment of the Image
The essential thing in a good desk-top is that the main subject should be complete, so the cropping of the rearmost 10% of foreground airframe had to be sorted. I wanted my final image to be sized at my usual standard of 4800x3000 pixels, so the first thing I did was to extend the original left-hand edge to allow space to do the reconstruction, with a bit more to give some scarsement behind the tailplane. The original was now about 1500 pixels wide, with the new 300 pixel strip completely blank white at this stage.
Then I resized the image to be 4800 wide. The proportions of the original were such that, even though I've widened it, the image was still too deep, about 3500 pixels. To get it to the size I wanted I needed to crop out some of that expanse of blue sky. I did the cropping progressively until I got the depth down to 3005 pixels, good enough for my purposes.
It was fortunate that the secondary airframe was in an almost identical posture to the primary, so I simply resized it by a percentage that I carefully measured, and then cloned it into the blank space on the left of the image. The register was almost perfect, and hardly any further reconstruction was needed.
Finally, I filled in the remaining blank space by cloning the background further forward into it.
So far I was doing this work simply for my own satisfaction, but I've been using the final image as my desk-top ever since. I started to think that a picture that has been pleasing me for ten months now, might give MM readers some pleasure as well. I think the original must come from a US Marines source, and therefore ought to be in public domain.
This is by no means the first time that I've made images from originals that were cropped to miss out parts of the airframe. A few years ago I came across a beautiful photograph of a CL-13 Sabre flying across the Cold Lake in Alberta; it was marred only because the rearmost foot or so of the tailplane was missing. I did an extension to create a full portrait, and it's now one of my favourite Sabre pictures. It isn't a picture that would be very suitable as a desktop, though, because it has a strong “Arctic Gloom” feeling, not the sort of thing you want to be permanently confronted by.