Creative Faith

I had a sudden inspiration on Good Friday this past week. To commemorate the day my fellow Christians and I remember Jesus’ crucifixion I opted to make my Facebook profile image pure black. It was a simple way to recognize the soberness of the day.

This got me thinking about whether or not I could convey the movement from Good Friday through uneasy expectation of Holy Saturday and the Joy of Easter 1. This would afford me an opportunity to practice some compositing in Affinity Photo on my iPad, and be a deliberate use of my meager creative skills for a spiritual discipline.

From the start I knew I wanted to create a sequence which displayed a growing light. Searching Pixabay, I found an excellent image of a road leading to a distant horizon, where a tree seemed to be perched on the edge of the earth. This was perfect for my needs and I opened this photo into Affinity Photo.

The Holy Saturday image had a few challenges I need to over come.

First, I wanted the light of my sun to be creeping up over the horizon. To create this effect I created a layer which was filled with a gradient that moved from red and orange to deep blue, and set a light source which bounced off it. This bounced light gave an impression of a early morning sun.

Second, I wanted the foreground to be entirely silhouetted, giving the impression of the very first indication dawn was coming. At the same time, I wanted the clouds in the sky to be able to reflect my hidden light source, which meant I had to separate the sky and ground into separate, masked, layers. The foreground was flooded with black, and the blend mode was set to “normal.” The sky background was set to overlay. I positioned the light source to be below the horizon line, so only a hint of light was creeping up over the distant hill\. The final image is below.

The silhouette of a tree, with the hint of sunlight coming up over the horizon.
Holy Saturday

The Easter image posed a different set of challenges, because I wanted the foreground to be illuminated as though the Sun was coming up over the horizon. This presented two obstacles.

First, the original photo was taken during a sunny day, and so did not have the right color grading to show a sunrise scene. To get around this I figured out the highlight, mid-tone, and shadow color values for my sunrise layer – which I then used to create a Gradient Map over the foreground layer. I kept the blend mode for this adjustment at “normal,” but lowered the transparency to give it a more subtle look 2.

Second, as the sun came up the tree on the hill needed to cast a shadow. So I copied a mask of the tree, and inverted it. I placed a minor gaussian blur on this layer, and distorted it some to make it appear as a lengthened shadow 3.

Finally, I added the proclamation of Easter in the sky giving it a “glow” blend so the clouds would give the test an ethereal look. The final image is below.

He is risen! The rising son illuminated the land.
Easter Sunday

I enjoyed this process. Not only did I get to exercise some skills to make the composite images, each separate image give me an opportunity to ponder what it was I was trying to convey. It’s was a great spiritual discipline for Holy Week.


  1. And if I see the “Easter is Ishtar” post again I’m going to scream. Western Christians should just join our Orthodox family members and call it “Pascha.” 
  2. Other blend modes would have worked better, but my brain didn’t think of it at the time. 
  3. It needs more of both processes, to be honest, but the results aren’t terrible. 

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