Assignment Four: Real or Fake

Boats and Boating

The fourth part of this course was taught on two levels. Firstly there was an increasingly invasive set of Photoshop “manipulations”. Then at a deeper level we were invited to consider the ethical implications of what we were doing. The purpose of the assignment was to demonstrate my stance on these ethics by taking and manipulating an image for an imaginary book or magazine cover.

A lot of my thinking on the subject is in the posts “The Camera Never Lies” and the “Photography of Truth” and summarised in the research to this assignment. Therein I concluded that my stance could be best demonstrated using documentary photography or photojournalism. A hypothetical magazine cover could represent documentary photography so this is what I used.

I will first of all show the picture I used, then the adjustments I made, and follow this with a discussion on the ethics of it.

My starting image for a publication on boating is on the next page.

Apart from the obvious defects, the tilt of the image and the sensor dust midway between the swan and the boats, a number of “improvements” can be made to make the image better suited to its intended purpose. The muddy colour of the water is not especially inviting, the swan could be repositioned to close up the dead space between it and the boats, the building at the top left is a local riverside pub. Its partial inclusion does not enhance the composition but detracts from the rural scene and there is not enough dead space at the top of the picture for the magazine’s title.

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1 – Correct Tilt

When I took the shot, I wanted to place the swan in the corner of the frame to create a diagonal between the swan and the boats, hence the image was tilted. Seeing it later I don’t think it worked as the image looks messy and contrived. This was a straightforward correction using the straighten tool. I used the verticals of the hut on the jetty as a reference. The result was cropped to the dimensions of A4 at 300 dpi.

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2 – Remove blemish

This was another straightforward correction using the clone stamp tool. A patch of water alongside the blemish was chosen as a sample point.

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3 – Change colour of water

I made a careful selection to avoid unwanted details (eg the swan), then tried two techniques for this. “Adjust Hue and Saturation” did not give me enough control so I used “Replace colour”. I had to make sure that the selection of colour to be replaced included all the muddy brown. Some attempts were not successful, leaving out some ripples or the shadow of the main boat. It was also difficult to get the colour looking right and natural.

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4 – Move swan

The swan was selected fairly easily but so that it would blend in with its new surroundings when moved, I expanded the selection and feathered the edge. Then it was a simple copy, paste and move. I did not delete the original swan yet, preferring to leave it until I had moved the whole image down. Also, the new swan was kept on a separate layer to await and facilitate final positioning.

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5 – Delete pub

The pub was selected and deleted. My first attempt was to add some foliage in the gap and blend it with a gradient layer mask. This proved difficult as the blending was taking place in two distinct directions so in the end I feathered the edge of the pub selection and placed the replacement foliage behind it.

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6 – and replace with foliage

The foliage came from another picture taken from the same viewpoint and using the same exposure. This also had a feathered edge to enable blending with the final image.

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7 – Masthead text added

This was added now so that I knew how much room would be needed when I made more room for it. This was easily done with the text tool.

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8 – Create more room at top for masthead

The added foliage and background layer were merged, then converted to an ordinary layer so it could be moved. Note the swan is on another layer, this will be moved later. As it happened, I moved the image sufficiently for the original swan to disappear off the bottom, relieving me of the need to delete it.

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9 – Gap at the top filled with foliage

The foliage again came from a donor image, the same as the one used earlier. It was added as another layer and merged using a gradient mask.

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10 – Moved swan to final position

This was moved to a position to make a neat triangle with the boats and to attempt to merge the ripples.

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11 – Add supplementary text

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12 – Final tweaks

Looking at the overall final image, the boats seem a bit over exposed. The scene behind them is nicely exposed and a suitable backdrop to them so I did a local level adjustment. Unfortunately the tops of the boats were unrecoverably over-exposed (even working on the RAW file). The swan looked a bit big in its new position, I hadn’t allowed for perspective when I moved it further from the viewpoint, so I made it smaller. All through the process I was unsure what the small white dot to the right of the swan’s head was but looking at the final image, I decided it did not look right so removed it with the clone stamp tool.

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Ethical Considerations

Taking each step in turn:

1 – Correct Tilt

I don’t think there is anything wrong with this, it’s correcting a fault from when the picture was originally framed. Had I done this more accurately when taking the shot, the question would not have arisen. It is not changing reality in any way but excluding a bit more of it.

2 – Remove blemish

Similarly, this is simply correcting a defect, rather than altering reality. It could be argued that I am taking something from another part of the picture to make the correction, but I don’t think this would be particularly strong argument.

3 – Change colour of water

Water’s blue isn’t it? Everyone knows that! Actually water is colourless, it’s typically thought of as blue because it reflects the colour of the sky. In this case, it was a muddy brown colour because of the suspended solids in it. That is the reality, and if it appears uninviting, that is the way that it is. In this case, changing the colour is distorting reality. It might make it a more attractive picture, it might encourage people to buy the magazine when they see it on the shelf of their local newsagent but the fact remains that it is deception and done for purely commercial interests.

4 – Move swan

This is on the borderline for me. One the one hand, in moving it I tampered with reality. On the other hand, it was moving anyway, I might have waited until it was in a more suitable position before clicking the shutter. But then, the swan was not under my command, he might have turned around and gone in totally the wrong direction. I’m reminded of the paper bag in Preparing for Prayers by Harry Fisch. He could have waited until a gust of wind blew it away but he didn’t, he used Photoshop and was excluded from the competition. Moving the swan would have resulted in my removal from a competition but this is not a competition entry. In the context of a magazine cover, I think this is acceptable – just!

5 – Delete pub

6 – and replace with foliage

I wonder how the landlord would react if a bulldozer came along and wantonly destroyed a corner of his building, so that my picture would be more suitable! That is what I have done; not physically destroyed (the pub is still there) but removed an element of its virtual or pictorial existence. Perhaps more so than changing the colour of water, this is tampering with reality.

7 – Masthead text added

I don’t think there is any challenge with adding text over an image.

8 – Create more room at top for masthead

This is simply another way of cropping an image. It’s not changing anything at this stage, just reframing and removing some of the scene…

9 – Gap at the top filled with foliage

…however it’s made different when I add the foliage. Perhaps not in the same league as demolishing half a pub, it’s still changing what was in front of the camera. In this case, it is ameliorated somewhat by acting as a backdrop to the text.

10 – Moved swan to final position

See 4

11 – Add supplementary text

See 7

12 – Final tweaks

The Reuters handbook says “No excessive lightening, darkening or blurring of the image. (thus misleading the viewer by disguising certain elements of an image)” A level adjustment as performed here would probably be acceptable in these terms. Regarding the size adjustment of the swan, the sin was already committed when it was copied in step 4. The removal of the unidentified white dot might correspond to Harry Fisch’s paper bag, depending what it is. Even so, I think compared with the other indulgences this is fairly trivial.

Summary

I have mentioned elsewhere that to determine the acceptability of this kind of intervention one has to judge it against the context in which it is viewed. The context here is a magazine cover, the purpose of which is to make the edition stand out on a newsagent’s shelf, to advertise its contents, to encourage people to buy it. In this context, it is not a picture of a specific location, but instead symbolic of what this particular edition represents. I have commented elsewhere how liberal fashion photography can be; this is of specific, well-known and recognisable people. The Boats and Boating example is symbolic so the ethics become more dulled. The other side of the coin is the viewers reading of the image. This is a “River Thames” special edition, is the Thames really that colour? That boat looks appealing and the location is so idyllic; someone wants to hire it, does a bit of research and tracks it down; only to be ultimately disappointed. Does the commercial interest and the need to sell the magazine justify the deception? In my opinion, the answer is no. Changing the colour of the water and removing the pub each is a step too far.

Analysis of Picture

The boats, pointing as they do out of the frame say they are ready to head off into unpictured waters. Within themselves they form a triangle, with another triangle heading down to the swan. The swan in the foreground is in a dominant position but his head is pointing towards the boats so it naturally leads the eye to them. There is a rhythm in the row of punt poles, also leading the eye to the boats. The presence of the two people on the landing stage makes the image more personal, it would be a bit soulless without them. The colour scheme of largely blue and green is restful and harmonious, engendering a feeling of serenity which is fitting with the notion of lazy days on the river. The choice of colour for the text was deliberate so as not to clash with this. Against this the two orange life belts, although small, stand out without spoiling the feel.

Reflection on Assignment

When I set out on this assignment, I had a number of ideas to follow (these are discussed in my research post). In addition to the research suggested by my tutor, I found the work of Sarah Small and Wang Quinsong relevant. But these were all surrealistic and I did not feel I could demonstrate where I stood on the ethical continuum with a surrealistic image. I was at a loss what to do and my indecisiveness was to an extent compounded by only having one image to submit. Where the assignment asks for a collection of images, there is the feeling that any weak ones in the set can be carried by the strong ones. In this case, however, I had to commit to one image; all my eggs had to be in one basket! Even when I had the Boats and Boating example in mind, I was riddled with doubt, whether it would be suitable and show sufficient research.

I eventually went ahead with it for two reasons. Firstly, there would be a number of manipulations of varying degree. I thought this would make it a suitable vehicle for demonstrating where I stood on the ethics of each manipulation which collectively would summarise my stance on the issue. Secondly there was the learning value.

I had to determine what techniques would be suitable and learn those that I had not used before. These were:

Gradient mask layer – Elements does not support layer masks but there is a well-known and widely publicised work-around, using the layer mask attached to an adjustment layer. I needed to do this to merge the added foliage for the background to the masthead. It was surprisingly straightforward when I discovered that the merging had to be against the background layer.

Refine edges of selection – I have always shied away from the refine edge dialogue, not really having an understanding of what it does and how to use it. I found here it was useful when selecting the swan, the pub and its replacement foliage, to expand the selection and feather the edge made the join with the final image more invisible. The amount of expansion and degree of feathering was a matter of trial and error.

Creating layers from background and vice versa – There are things you can’t do with a background layer so it needs to be converted to an “ordinary” layer, equally there are times when a layer has to be converted to a background. It’s a simple menu item, but I didn’t know it could be done.

Replace colour – I’ve dabbled with this before but never had a good reason to learn it properly.

I am fully aware that some of the techniques I have used were executed a bit clumsily, I am also aware that there may be other, better ways of achieving the results I got here. I’m still learning and I am working through two books by Philip Andrews: Adobe Photoshop Elements 7: A Visual Introduction to Digital Photography and Advanced Photoshop Elements 7 for Digital Photographers. Together these provide a comprehensive handbook to the software and its capabilities.

The sequence presented here is the result of a number of practise attempts to see what worked, what did not, what depth of manipulation I could get away with, what order to do them in. even the final result took three versions to get right. As a result, the whole assignment has been an immense learning experience.

Looking at Pictures – Kenneth Clark

It was through thinking about how to analyse pictures that I came across this book by Kenneth Clarke. This is not Kenneth Harry Clarke, the conservative MP, but Kenneth McKenzie Clark, the art critic who came to public prominence with the BBC series “Civilisation” in 1969. By this time, this book had been nine years since first publication.

In the introduction, Clark describes his way of looking at pictures, whilst acknowledging that it might not be the only way “No doubt there are many ways of looking at pictures, none of which can be called the right way.”

He follows this with some pithy, but profound advice:

“I believe that one can learn to interrogate a picture in such a way as to intensify and prolong the pleasure it gives one.”

“Looking at picture requires active participation, and, in the early stages, a certain amount of discipline”

“First I see the picture as a whole, and long before I can recognise the subject, I am conscious of a general impression, which depends on the relationship of tone and area, shape and colour…”

“…followed by a period of inspection in which I look from one part to another…and naturally I become aware of what the painter has intended to represent…”

“…quite soon my critical faculties begin to operate, and I find myself looking for some dominating motive, or root idea, from which the picture derives its overall effect.”

“In the middle of this exercise my senses will probably begin to tire, and if I am to go on looking responsively I must fortify myself with some nips of information.”

There follows a collection of essays that first appeared in the Sunday times describing, in Clark’s own style, 16 major works of art. The paintings covered include Titian – The Entombment, Raphael – The Miraculous Draught of Fishes and Turner – The Snowstorm.

Each description follows Clark’s pattern of analysis described in the introduction: leading from and initial impression into more detailed perception, punctuated by forays into the background of the artist and the picture. Clark’s knowledge is immense and he uses this to place the picture into a context, so he explains how the picture means so much more than what it is portraying.

Kenneth Clark has an easy going, easily-read style that makes this book a delight. There is nothing pompous or stuffy about his descriptions; instead they are very warm and genuine. This is a reminder that any critical analysis of a work of art should be honest and as much a reflection of the critic as it is of the artist.

So what do I get from reading the book:
1. an overall impression, leading into closer scrutiny is a good start,
2. to understand the picture at a deeper level it is necessary to know something of the artist and the context in which it is produced,
3. I might not know the context of someone else’s picture but a bit of research will help,
4. Be prepared to commit time and effort to the process, go away and come back refreshed if necessary,
5. stay honest and be prepared to say what the picture is saying to me.

Project Finishing: Sharpening

This exercise is in the section on finishing and looks at the how sharpening requirements differ, whether the intended output is screen or print.

My starting image was this picture of a proud Bedouin:

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I used the sharpening tool in Photoshop, set to remove Gaussian blur. I chose this over the unsharp mask as it is a simpler and slightly more intuitive tool. I prepared 4 further version, with the radius set to 2 pixels, at 50%, 100%, 200% and 300% amount. I was particularly interested in the area around the face, including the red and white scarf (which would have some good detail), the chromatic aberration above his head scarf and the open sky. A4 prints at 100% were made of this area and compared with the on-screen image at actual pixels.

Crops of this area at the various degrees of sharpening are here:

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No sharpening

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50%

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100%

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200%

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300%

Looking at these on-screen, the original looks quite soft. 50% is better but at 100% that the image acquires some crispness, especially noticeable around his glasses and the red detailing on the scarf. This is at the expense of the flesh tones, which are starting to look blotchy. At 200%, the red scarf is looking nice and crisp but the flesh tones are poorer and the image noise in the sky is getting magnified.

In contrast the print at 50% still looks unacceptability soft, 100% is much better and the blotchy flesh tones are not so noticeable. The scarf detailing does not get its crispness until 200%. At 100% the red tinge to the turban is clearly delineated. This is not nearly so noticeable on the screen.

Clearly, this shows that an image destined for print needs more sharpening than one for screen, so we need to know the final intended purpose before sharpening is applied.

Cambridge in Colour [i] has this to say on the subject:

“After capture and creative sharpening, an image should look nice and sharp on-screen. However, this usually isn’t enough to produce a sharp print. The image may have also been softened due to digital photo enlargement. Output sharpening therefore often requires a big leap of faith, since it’s nearly impossible to judge whether an image is appropriately sharpened for a given print just by viewing it on your computer screen. In fact, effective output sharpening often makes an on-screen image look harsh or brittle.”

Further advice on judging print sharpening can be found on dpbestflow [ii]

“How to judge sharpening for output (it’s tricky).

When judging sharpening for print, the image should be viewed at 50% or even 25% (if is a very large image), and not at 100%. Viewing at 50% gives a much better approximation of the actual effect of the sharpening whereas the 100% view will be largely misleading. Appropriate sharpness is definitely a subjective decision. Our advice is to try many techniques until you find one that gives good results and is repeatable. Keep a record of what you like best so you do not have to recreate this part of the wheel each time. Remember that different output devices as well as different substrates may each require very different approaches and levels of output sharpening.”


[i] http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/image-sharpening.htm

[ii] http://dpbestflow.org/image-editing/sharpening#output

Looking at Pictures

The reading list for the courses I have done so far contains books like “On Photography”, “Photography: A Critical Introduiction”, “The Photograph as Contemporary Art”. Reading these makes me think that this is the kind of artistic criticism I should try to emulate when I am looking at pictures and trying to read them. However, they uncover deeper meaning and hidden contexts which I simply do not see (often even when pointed out to me!) and when I try to write like that, it sounds like pompous nonsense!

This post was prompted by two influences. My tutor in his feedback suggested (more like commanded) that I start to develop more of an aesthetic critique of my work. Then on the OCA forum there was a thread started on “Analysing Work”. It seems there is some transcendental force at work, pushing me in a certain direction!

To counter my misgivings expressed above, there was some good advice posted:

· To learn how to analyse your own work you need to begin by analysing the work of well known and well regarded artists,

· You need to learn how to sort out the good points from the bad (composition, use of form, colour and so on).

· Analysing is not really any more than putting into words the reasons why in image speaks to you (or not I suppose!), what it says and how.

· There’s no real mystery to it, you just start off ‘saying what you see’, as in Catch Phrase, hahaha, and take it from there!

That’s advice I can relate to, “say what you see.”

There is an OCA study guide on “Looking at Other Artists and Photography” which contains lots of words and exhortations to visit exhibitions, buy or borrow art books and look at pcitures on the internet but not a lot of advice on what to look for in those pictures.

Another student posted a link to something he found useful (http://japanorama.co.uk/2011/02/25/building-visual-literacy/). This contained a 7 step guide to building visual literacy.

This started me on my quest. My view was that if I could develop a workflow for my photographic processing as taught right at the beginning of DPP, I could do the same for analysing pictures.

Searching on “Analysing Pictures” in Google produced a multitude of hits, including:

http://www.mediaknowall.com/as_alevel/alevel.php?pageID=image#

Written for Media Studies students at GCSE and advanced level it has an image analysis page which talks about deconstruction (denotation and connotation), mise en scene, organisation, composition, framing, lighting and colour with links to more in-depth articles.

http://nuovo.com/southern-images/analyses.html

provides a useful vocabulary to described photos, grouped under Basic Vocabulary, Visual Elements and Composition

http://pages.uoregon.edu/jlesage/Juliafolder/PHOTOANALYSIS.HTML

Contains seven categories which can be used to describe photos

http://classroom.synonym.com/write-picture-analysis-essay-2441.html

Contains a ten step guide to producing a picture analysis

Analysing pictures – Arcor.de

a four step analysis guide.

Putting all this together and trying to make sense of it we have:

Step 1

How does the picture makes you feel?

(Do this before you make any intellectual analysis of the picture. Immediate, unprepared and unguarded observation will often tell you more about the content communicated than rigorous analysis.)

Step 2

Describe the picture in terms of concepts from TAOP

(Points, lines, shapes, rule of thirds/golden section, colour, lighting, rhythm and pattern, how these lead the eye, balance)

Step 3

How does step 2 reinforce and/or contradict step 1

Step 4

Then with that in mind and at a deeper and more analytic level, (this is lifted directly from http://japanorama.co.uk/2011/02/25/building-visual-literacy/):

Building Visual Literacy

Level 1A: Building observation skills

What do you see in this picture?

Can you describe it more?

What else do you see?

What is going on in this picture?

What information in the picture makes you say that?

Level 1B: Building vocabulary

Can you guess where the photographer was standing when he or she took the picture?

Above the subject, looking down? Or below the subject, looking up? This is called point of view.

What is included in the picture frame? What is not included? This is called framing.

Describe the composition. What shapes do you see? What other patterns do you notice?

Level 2A: Building technical knowledge

What techniques did the photographer use?

What is the point of view?

How is the picture framed?

Describe the quality of the lighting. What direction is it coming from? Does it create a pattern of light and shadow?

Level 2B: Building an understanding of the choices photographers make

What choices did the photographer make?

Why did the photographer choose to use that technique?

Why did the photographer choose to compose the picture this way?

What is the photographer’s point of view? What effect does it have?

Why did the photographer choose to frame the picture this way?

What does the composition emphasize?

What does the lighting draw your attention to?

Level 3A: Understanding the context and intended use of the picture

What was the photographer’s purpose or the intended use for this image (e.g., magazine assignment, photo essay, fine art exhibition)?

Can you tell what genre of photography this is?

What do you know about the time period in which this photograph was made?

What does the photograph communicate about this time period?

Can you make comparisons to other photographers or artists working in this time period?

Level 3B: Relating context to subject and meaning

What choices did the photographer make? Can you guess why?

What is the photographer drawing your attention to? How is this accomplished?

What is the photographer’s point of view? What effect does it have?

What do you notice about the subject? Or the people in the picture?

Do you have any questions about the subject? Or the style of the picture?

What is the photograph saying? Does anyone have a different interpretation?

Level 4A: Finding meaning

What choices did the photographer make?

Does this element contribute to the photograph’s meaning, or is it distracting?

What was the photographer’s purpose in creating this image? What was the intended use of the image? How well does it work in this context?

What is the photograph saying?

Level 4B: Relating meaning to creative choices and larger issues

What is the impact of this image?

What are some issues it raises?

How might you approach this topic matter?

Level 5: Discussing what the image communicates

Which technical or formal elements work well in this photograph?

What do these elements draw your attention to?

What is the photograph saying?

What is the impact of this photograph?

How does the picture make you feel?

What does it make you think of?

Does it inspire you to work creatively in any way?

Part 4 Reflection

This part carried on where part 3 left off. I have found working through the gamut of Photoshop corrections, enhancements and other techniques extremely interesting and I have learnt a lot. That is not to say that all the material was new to me, most of it I have picked up along the way (or stumbled across it would be a better way of putting it) but the coherent and logical order of presentation has put a lot of that experience into a better context.

The unit constantly challenged us to question the ethics of what we were doing. I have commented on much of that in the exercises and I have prepared a separate post where I consider the issues more deeply so I won’t go into it here. Rather I will concentrate on what I personally have got from it.

Photoshop is a big program and my version (Elements 7) is quite rudimentary in comparison with the latest CS version. It was still powerful enough to be quite intimidating and was man enough for all the exercises. Part way through the unit I started using Lightroom 5 and although I am getting to grips with it fairly quickly, I was not confident enough to tackle the exercises and in any event, the later ones required the use of layers which are not available in the new software. For the assignment I used layers so the final image was produced in Photoshop. Lightroom was used for the rework to assignment 3.

Some useful Photoshop sites I’ve found…

http://www.photoshopelementsuser.com/category/getting-started-editor/

http://www.photoshopessentials.com/basics/

http://ibrandstudio.com/tutorials/how-to-create-3d-ball-in-photoshop

…and I’ve invested in Phillip Andrews’ two books on Photoshop Elements 7.

Looking at the ethical concerns around this kind of work added an extra element, lifting it beyond the simple “do this and that happens” to a higher intellectual plane.

I have also started to look at analysing pictures. I’m in the process of working out my own personal approach to this (which will be the subject of a separate post) and I’m reading Kenneth Clarke’s book “Looking at Picture”. So far this is proving very insightful, explaining his personal way of analysing a picture, how he gets sidetracked and comes back to it.

Assignment 3 Reworked

Although I received generally favourable comments on my submission for assignment 3, there were a number of things that needed addressing. The overriding issue was that I arrived at the final result without recording what steps I took along the way, therefore it would not be repeatable. In the meantime I have also started to use Lightroom. The original images were worked up in Photoshop and to redo them would give me additional practise with the new software. Lightroom also gave me three further advantages in that it would automatically record my work steps, give me greater control over the conversion with more colour channels and enable me to save versions (or snapshots) along the way.

Another comment John made was that I did not experiment with key. In fact I did, but discarded the results as I did not like them as much as the more conventional treatment. As such I did not record what I achieved and this exercise will also address this.

John also commented that “Footpath” and “Untitled” were conveying the same message as others in the set so this rework will concentrate on the remaining four.

The Hay Wain

Original image:

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First I increased contrast by 0.24:

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In the Black and White conversion, auto settings gave this result:

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I then made coarse adjustments with each slider to get a feel for the effect each had, returning the sliders to auto after each adjustment:

Red – Slight effect on the edges of the trailer (a rusty colour in the original).

Orange – Slightly stronger effect on the bed of the trailer, the pile of sand behind it and the flowers on the right.

Yellow – Quite a strong effect on the foreground grass and leaves, the ground between the rows of vines. Less effect on background trees.

Green – Ditto for the foreground, less effect on ground between rows of vines, stronger effect on background trees.

Aqua – Effect limited to drivers window of the car.

Blue – Darkened the sky but made an odd interference effect with the leaves around the sky when used to excess.

Purple – Very slight effect on car.

Magenta – no noticeable effect.

Firstly I wanted better definition of the stuff on the trailer so I reduced red and orange to darken the trailer.

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To make the rows of vines stand out a bit, I darkened yellow, compensated for the darkening foliage by lightening green:

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Image was now slightly darker with some shadow clipping so I lightened blacks so they were not clipping and lightened whites to just short of clipping, then gave it an overall contrast boost:

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There remained a small amount of specular highlights on the car.

Finally I applied sharpening:

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I then created a snapshot of this version.

Then I tried a high key version

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and saved this as a snapshot

Bed and Breakfast

Original image:

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First I corrected the obvious wonkiness:

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The blacks were adjusted to just avoid clipping, the whites so that the walls of the building were at 95% on all three channels:

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Auto black and white conversion gave this result:

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And experimenting with the sliders had these effects:

Red – Profound effect on the framework of the right hand roller.

Orange – Ditto, plus profound effect on both rollers themselves

Yellow – Big effect on foreground grass, less so on background foliage.

Green – Similar to yellow but slightly more so.

Aqua – Noticeable on end and frame of right hand roller.

Blue – Similar to aqua but more so, darkened sky.

Purple – Slight effect on end of left hand roller and roof.

Magenta – No noticeable effect.

Firstly I wanted to create some contrast between the rollers and their frames so I darkened red, aqua and blue and lightened orange:

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Then to increase overall light level, I lightened green:

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Next came sharpening:

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Finally I tweaked contrast, lowered black point, and lightened shadows slightly:

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Checking the white walls of the building they came out at about 97%

This was saved as a snapshot

The high key one was created by increasing exposure and reducing the white point to ensure there was some exposure headroom over the white wall:

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Vines and Wire

Original image:

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First, I increased contrast:

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The auto Black and White conversion gave this:

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Checking the effect of each colour slider:

Red – Little discernable effect.

Orange – Noticeable effect on path, ground between vines, pulley bracket, frame and bed of trailer.

Yellow – Noticeable effect on path, ground between vines and area under trailer.

Green – Effect on foreground grass, distant trees and ground between vines.

Aqua – Slight effect on front panel of trailer.

Blue – Effect on sky and front panel of trailer.

Purple – No noticeable effect.

Magenta – No noticeable effect.

The auto conversion is quite good in this case but I wanted to darken the sky and increase the contrast between the vines, the ground and the trailer. First the sky with the blue slider:

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Then I lightened green, darkened aqua, yellow and orange:

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Finally, there was a small amount of black clipping so I adjusted the black point to remove it:

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This was saved as the first snapshot.

The high key version was created by increasing exposure and highlights:

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Surrey Hills

Original image:

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First I lifted the contrast

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Conversion to Black and White on auto gave this:

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The effect of each colour channel was:

Red – No noticeable effect

Orange – Path, around the vines

Yellow – Just about everything

Green – Foreground foliage and background trees

Aqua – Background trees

Blue – Sky, shadow detail of background trees

Purple – No noticeable effect

Magenta – No noticeable effect

Green and aqua between them were useful to increase contrast of background trees:

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And blue darkened the sky:

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This was saved as snapshot 1

The high key version was made simply by increasing the exposure until I just retained cloud detail in the sky:

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I struggled with sharpening in Lightroom. Having got used to the Photoshop method of applying an unsharp mask, I could not see how the settings in Lightroom made any difference. I have noticed however that you can apply sharpening at the printing stage so I will see how that goes.

I am also experimenting with different ICC profiles when printing. Although these are Black and White images, the profile seems to make a difference as coloured inks are still being used. Amongst the profiles available to me, the most promising in terms of offered image quality were “Canon iP4600 series GL2/SG2” and “Canon iP4600 series PR1”. The former was the appropriate one for the paper I was using but printed with the green cast. I printed “Hay Wain” using both the settings and I experimented with perceptual and relative rendering intent. Examining the prints under diffuse dayight showed that “GL2” had the green cast whereas “PR1” was more neutral. There was not much difference in intent; relative gave slightly richer contrast. This determined the settings for the final prints.

Finally, I was thinking more in terms of “Monochrome” rather than “Black and White”. Monochrome means one colour. The range of tones does not have be shades of grey, what if they were shades of another colour?

I experimented with split toning in Lightroom using “Bed and Breakfast” and using yellow for the highlights and blue for the shadows, came up with this:

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On Photography

There seem to be two types of photography book; one explains the nuts and bolts of picture taking, the mechanics of the craft; the second goes more into photography as an art. My technical background gives me a definite leaning towards the former; their style of “this is what you do, why you do it and how it is done” is much more accessible to me. I have tried several of the “photography as art” type books with varying degrees of accomplishment. Susan Sontag’s collection of essays published as “On Photography” is a member of the second group and the one I have had most success with.

Susan Sontag is not a photographer. If she were writing a how-to book, this might be relevant but not in a book like this. Neither is she a photography critic. She is a writer with an interest in photography that has led her to research the subject extensively and the depth of her knowledge and the level of her understanding is apparent on every page. Then her writing ability takes over to produce a book that is both erudite and readable.

Not being a photography critic is occasionally apparent when she does not differentiate between opinion and fact, or even personal opinion and considered peer group opinion. Being personal opinion, I found myself having a different opinion but had to remind myself that her personal opinion is based on more extensive research and has been read more times than mine and is considered more worthy. And having a different opinion opened my mind and forced me to challenge my way of thinking.

Other parts are predicated on esoteric background knowledge and not having that background made it difficult to understand the point. An example lies within the second essay, “America, Seen though Photographs, Darkly”. References to Walt Whitman had me scurrying to Google to see the relevance.

Then there are little snippets that give hope to struggling students. On page 132 we read “…there are pictures taken by anonymous amateurs which are just as interesting, as complex formally, as representative of photography’s characteristic powers as a Stieglitz or an Evans.”

I found it interesting, against a context of finding one’s own personal voice, that she did not consider individual photographers to be particularly individualistic. She compares them with composers and uses Stravinsky as an example where a particular style runs through all his works that enables compositions separated by many years to be instantly identifiable. She asserts that this is not the case with photographers.

The final “essay” is an anthology of quotations; some humourous, some profound, some puzzling but all carefully chosen to have something worth saying:

• I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed. – Garry Winogrand
• I photograph what I do not wish to paint and I paint what I cannot photograph – Man Ray
• If I could tell the story in words, I would not need to lug a camera – Lewis Hine