Rarindra style workflow...
There are many things going on in Rarindra's images. It's a lot of labor intensive, detail work. That's probably why you don't see him put out a new work every week : )
There are some noticeable characteristics to his work. He separates the image into foreground/subject/background elements. Almost like a theatrical stage or a diorama. In this particular image, I would guess he has extracted the kids/tree foreground and placed it onto the background image. How do I know? The sun is very bright. It's so bright it's almost blowing out the backs of the boys. Yet the background is receiving a completely different quality of light. If the background light were the same, there would be blown out branches, leaves, and trunks of trees all over the bg.
He also uses contrast, sharpness, and color to further separate fg from bg. In the same image, for example, the bg is slightly blurred and lower contrast. This puts the bg on a completely different plane. It looks almost like a theatrical backdrop.
For the backgrounds, he basically uses colored gradients in normal mode and multiply modes and lowers the opacity. These modes are important because they don't affect the contrast, they simply tone down the brightness while keeping the contrast low.
I used some of these techniques on this image to illustrate:
The original image:
After adding a little more drama:
First, start with an image that has strong backlighting or sidelighting. The work will be easier and the result more natural.
Second, masking is very important to separate the foreground from the background. On this image, you really only need to fuss with creating one mask for the little girl:
I think gradients are key to getting the look of Rarindra's images. The gradations in his work are very smooth, they don't have the look of brush work. So I've used only gradients, not brushes on this image, including the masks.
When you use gradients on a mask, be sure to set your colors to the default of black foreground/white background (hit the "D" key to set them). Also, be sure your gradient is set to "foreground to transparent". To set the gradient, click on the gradient in the options bar and choose these settings:
I used linear gradients to work on larger areas:
And radial gradients to work on smaller areas and switched between the 2:
OK, on to the image. First, we'll start adding some "haze" to separate the foreground from the background. Here's the original image as a comparsion:
A little more for depth. This was added in multiply mode at a lower opacity:
Increasing the contrast a little using levels:
Now to construct some rays. I have written a tut on making rays earlier. I tried something new this time because I wanted thicker rays but still have them be somewhat random. Here's how I did these rays:
First, I made a selection of an area of the tree (at full resolution). Then I copied and pasted it as a new image. I converted it to b+w, then ran levels to get some whites and dark grays. Then I ran motion blur on it.
Here's the previous tut that will explain the settings a bit more clearly:
I then pasted the rays image onto a new layer, and transformed them to shape using the transform tool. After you've shaped them and moved them into position, set the blend mode to "Overlay" (or whatever mode you prefer). Now run gaussian blur to taste and adjust the opacity:
I get a more natural result by adding a second rays layer, and moving it slightly out of the previous rays position. Then try different blend modes and blur amounts. Sometimes a soft light ray layer works well with another ray layer in overlay mode. Experiment to get the best results for your image:
The final image: