Kinetic Solar System (Photomanipulation)


It started when I saw a shiny picture of a Newton’s Cradle, and all thoughts of finishing the day with a hot drink and going to bed early got shunted aside by my photo-manipulation drive kicking in.

Initially, I’d just wanted to superimpose planetary appearances onto the balls. I’d imagined a solar system theme from the start, but I’d anticipated it being a simple little diversion that wouldn’t go further than decorating the balls.

It wasn’t my greatest prediction. Some images just beg to be manipulated, and this Newton’s Cradle was one:


But, I thought, if I’m going to make it into a planetary array, it should really have all the recognised planets of our solar system. So I need to add two more more balls…

That’s it. Now to turn them into planets…

Hmm. They’re colourful and shiny, which is nice. But it still looks…off. Maybe it’s the sizes. Those planet-spheres are the same size, after all. Changing their sizes would probably interfere with the functioning of the kinetics if this were a material object…but I’ve turned them into planets—I’ve already pushed creative licence beyond practicality.

I wonder how it would look with size adjustments suggestive of actual planetary variation…

Yes, that looks more appropriate.

But I can’t leave the concept there. It doesn’t look finished. It looks like a novelty knick-knack, but not the creative illustration of impending doom I’d meant it to suggest. (And those are always fun to make, from the safety and comfort of my non-doomed swivel chair.)

I need to put the planets in an apocalyptic outer space, I decided. And, of course, I have to take the Cradle frame out now. There are too many reasons why trying to incorporate that would go badly. (I tried not to think of the time I’d needlessly spent crafting the thing to be two spheres longer.)

And my sun needs to be more luminous. More impending. And less skewered.

Okay, yes, I can see where this is going, now.

Obviously, it needs a lot of refinement—not to mention, it doesn’t look like a Newton’s Cradle at all, anymore. Just little planet marbles huddled together in fear. Or maybe in cold, because the super-marble sun sure isn’t looking fearsome. It’s not doing anything. Just…glowing. Not moving.

I need something to suggest its motion and trajectory…

There. That works.

Hmm… My planets look too squished. In the context of the Newton’s Cradle frame, that spacing had looked fine, but in outer space…not so much. It doesn’t balance with the rest of the picture.

There we go.  Breathing space, and shading.

Now to restore the Newton’s Cradle concept.

The line of planets needs to show perspective. And they need to be suspended from something, or appear to be. And as they’re in outer space, they probably shouldn’t have those window reflections…

And my sun needs to be bigger. Bigger!

Okay, that will have to do. I can’t make the sun too much bigger, or I’ll push the fiery motion tail out of frame. It’s not like this thing is to scale, anyway.

I don’t like how prominent the ‘light chains’ are, either. The suspension of the planets isn’t meant to be the focus of the picture. They need to be there, but not so…conspicuously there. I’ll just dial it back…

Better. Now, I’ll just extend the planet area coverage to balance the image frame— wait! Why are there still window reflections on my sun?!

There. Better. Maybe even done?

…And then I realised I’d been staring at my iMac screen for four hours.

And that if the image composite had more errors, I was now incapable of noticing them.

And I hadn’t made my hot drink.

And it was much, much too late to go to bed early.

I didn’t mind. Image manipulation is a satisfying way to get tired.

(For those interested, here are the image ingredients I used, in the composite)


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