September 25, 2008

My First Album Cover – The Dawn Collective

This is the cover from my very first album cover, The Dawn Collective’s masterpiece “Save a Place for Us”.

Go and buy a copy from possibly Australia’s most comprehensive indie record store, Red Eye Records. As I’ve said before, it’s a rich, masterful and mature album, the type of music that unfortunately gets ignored for the tight-pants, synth based indie disco beat bullshit that gets constant airplay these days.

Simeon, who plays cello in the band, had a little bit of a write up about the process (taken from The Dawn Collective Blog).

In this age of mp3s, do people really care about a CD’s artwork and packaging? Well I certainly do, and having spent the last week finishing off the design for our album, I hope that others feel the same. We’ve been throwing ideas around for the last few months, trying to work out what we’d like, and what we can afford. Sadly the burgopak (I’m serious, it’s really called that) was out of our reach, but we decided to splurge a little and go for a six panel digipak.

Of course packaging is just one part, it’s also about what you put on it. We were quite drawn to the idea of an image that would wrap right around all the panels of the case, though what that image might be wasn’t quite clear to us. There was however a consensus that photography was the way to go, and after the success of our last band photos we thought our friend Lucky could be right for the job, and thankfully he was happy to help.

Thus began the process of finalising what we going to shoot. From a desserted old house, to a dinner party in a forest, to digitally manipulated armies of people running over hills like something out of Lord Of The Rings – we certainly weren’t lacking in ideas. But in the end simplicity won out, and we started hunting out for a landscape that would fit the mood.

Whilst out one day I happened to drive past a cleared forest, and caught a glimpse of a group of remaining trees. I thought it could perhaps work, but I needed a few more opinions. Next time I was around the area I was with Rob, and attempted to show him what I was thinking, though in the pitch black of night it perhaps lost some of its impact. Time was not on our side however, as our deadlines were fast approaching, and we decided just to give it a go.

So, early one Sunday morning I met Lucky and drove him out to the site. He liked what he saw, and after scouting around for the best location he started snapping away. Well not so much snapping, as carefully calculating the angle and alignment of each shot. It was all a bit of a gamble, as we really didn’t know what the finished product would end up like. I anxiously checked my email that night, waiting for Lucky to send through the first rough proofs. I needn’t have worried – the results were fantastic.

After a few days of tweaking, searching for fonts, proof-reading and still more tweaking, the final design emerged.

This is a low res version of the original 18000 pixel panorama which I took (click for higher res). It pretty much pushed my 6 month old computer to the limit of its abilities being a 1.2GB photoshop document!

I took 9 photos separated by 15 degrees using a 16-35 2.8L at around 35mm @ f9. I wanted a little drama in the sky so used a circular polariser set at about half strength so hence the variation in sky brightness.
The trick for taking panoramas successfully is to shoot manual. Find an exposure that works well for all directions in the panorama and set the camera to that. That way you can guarantee that you’re not going to get variation within the brightness of separate photos. Also, find a focal point for the shot, use the AF to focus on that and then turn the focus onto manual focus. This ensures that the focus of the stitched images doesn’t shift, making the image look more seamless.

Post processing had a couple of duplicate layers desaturated and put into overlay mode followed by quite a lot dodging and burning (using adjustment layers). There’s a little yellowing in the image from a tint layer and also a boost in local contrast using the high pass filter. Finally there is an old scratched texture overlayed.



  • Todd September 27, 2008

    Hey Lucky, congrats! Great image, and way cooler than my first cover shot. Nicely done.

  • Marisa September 26, 2008


  • tom September 25, 2008

    Hi Lucky,

    i love the dramatic effect of the panorama. very nice !!

    I have just played around with a new bit of free software
    and it’s not bad..

    but on my mac i’m still using a bit of old software from:
    it seemlessly stiches my panoramas even if the exposure is a bit off between
    them. the manual tips are very well noted for next time though.


  • skippyjon September 25, 2008

    Very interesting. You seem to have put a lot of time and energy on this. The results are great. Love the isolated trees in the middle of nowhere. Congrats Lucky!

  • Sophie September 25, 2008

    Wow, this is fantastic! I couldn’t think of an image that better suited the music of the band and the album title. Nice work.

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