Friday, 23 December 2011

Exercise: Colours into Tones 1

This exercise is all about being able to identify a scene through colour and being able to translate it into tones in a black and white image. For this we are to find an image that has a strong contrast in colour, I chose the following image for its contrasts in red and green, colours that are opposite. The reds are very apparent in the red leave autumnal tree and the brown hues in the foreground plant. The greens are present in the grass and background trees,

Below is the standard conversion using the Photoshop Channel Mixer. This sets a balance between red, green, blue of +40,+40,+20 respectively. Here the red leafed tree is almost lost in the conversion, as is the foreground, leaving a rather bland conversion.

So the first thing is to bring out the reds by boosting the red channel to +106. To counteract this the green channel has been reduced to -83 and the blue channel boosted to +81. This has brought out the reds, and darkened the greens. The effect of the blue slider has helped to brighten up the image and retain a neutral sky tone. Overall this has made an image with good contrasting tones.

The opposite effect has been achieved by reducing the reds to -16, darkening the tress and foreground, the green slider was boosted to +188 which has lightened the grass and green foliage.This has however merged the red leaf tree and the background tree into an indistinguishable lump. Finally the blue slider was reduced to -3 to compensate for the boost in green and to retain that overall sky tone.

Again I think that this was worked well, but with the loss of the reds, it makes a less interesting image.

Exercise: Strength of Interpretation

This exercise explores how an image can change in colour and tones through varying strengths of contrast or saturation. We are asked to take two images that would be open firstly to a strong increase in contrast, and secondly an image that would be able to be boosted in either the high lights or the low lights. For each image we are then to produce a colour and black and white version.

The first image is that of an old brick built tower. I chose this image as I know that bricks look great under an increase in contrast, they seem to make the building stand out by defining each stone as an individual unit, rather than a bland brick wall.

The first colour image is by no means a fair representation but the brickworks colour has intensified so much that it really does look burnt in. Having the cloudy sky in the background has added to the contrasting effect.  Inevitably there will be shadow clipping in the bottom of the image, but for this type of image I think it works well.

When converted to black and white the contrasts seem more balanced and authentic, again the brickwork looks great making the building look more foreboding, older and eerier. I prefer this version. All adjustments were completed in Photoshop using a curves layer with a heavy 'S' Curve, and another Channel Mixer layer to convert to black and white, with some minor adjustments to the levels of RGB.

The second image was taken last summer of Southwold Peer. This image was taken late in the year, around October November on a sunny day. The original image was well balanced but by increasing the highlights (giving it a high key effect) it has given the image of a feeling in summer on a bright hazy day.

I am not sure which version I prefer, but I think I am leaning towards the colour image, the black and white looks as if it really needs a boost in contrast, whereas the colour version looks more acceptable. This was an interesting exercise and although I boost the contrast in many of my images, especially for B&W versions, I have never given, or thought to give any image the high key treatment.

I suspect that portrait images of a small child or a woman would also benefit from this as it really does soften the image as well.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Steve McCurry

Whilst looking at photographers to inspire me, I cam across the infamous name of Steve McCurry, a photojournalist that studies people in their natural environments, especially those in India, Afghanistan, the Far East and in some cases at home in the USA.

His use of colour is probably the most striking aspect of his work. He claims to take thousands of photographs, and he sure has plenty of work published, perhaps I too need to take more?

I bought two of his books, 'The Unguarded Moment' and a collection of portraits, entitled 'Portraits', with the iconic image named 'Afghan Girl' on the cover.

The unguarded moment is capturing everyday human life, and concentrates on images from India, Afghanistan and the Middle East. All of the images are inspiring, the colour and tones are perfect,'Dust storm, Rajasthan, India' captures an amazing image of women sheltering around a tree with brilliant reds and an orange hue in the storm. I wonder how much the colour of the sand and storm has been manipulated, perhaps nothing at all, but a video on you tube with Steve describing this shot is more grey and therefore I think this has been boosted for the book. There is also a very interesting collection of points of people creating rhythm in the image

This image and a narrative are from Steve's Blog at

Other images that took my eye were the Ship breaking in Karachi, with the immense sense of scale of beached ships  being dismantled by hand and the portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi taken in Rangoon, Burma 1996, and inspiration to many for freedom.

I could go on forever about the many images of children, looking like rabbits caught in the headlights of a car, but one of his more famous images ' Boy in mid-flight, Jodhpur, India' is the reason I bought this book. again a narrative from McCurry gave away that he waited all day in this lane taken hundreds of images just to capture this split second, a moment in time......

Thank you Steve for the inspiration.....

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Exercise: Black & White

This exercise explores the interpretation of a subject with a view to making a black and white image.

The scene I chose had several elements that I thought would work well in Black & White. Firstly, the sky was a good deep blue colour which could be darkened or lightened and the clouds burned in more for a more dramatic effect.

The gravel path and fence posts would look good with a high contrast applied and finally the trees already have a great level of shadow detail and highlights which could be brought out more in black and white.

To begin the processing I converted the image to b&w in the raw converter. I then adjusted the sliders to make the blues darker, I did the same for the yellows and greens a little to darken the grass. Finally to lighten the path a little I reduced the reds slightly.

Once open in photoshop, I used the burn tool at 3% exposure to burn in the shadows and mid-tones concentrating on the sky, trees and grass.

The bottom right hand corner needed a boost in contrast, so with a selective levels adjustment I boosted the contrast.

Finally I used the dodge tool, again at 3% exposure, to bring out the highlights in the trees, clouds and the sheep, also paying attention to the pathway.

I think that the resulting image is certainly aged and produces a pleasing version that is more interesting that the colour version.

Exercise: Interpretative processing

This exercise is all about making interpretations of an image for creative purposes. We are asked to take a single image and using the processing software available, make three interpretations.

The first image has very little adjustment from what was seen, slight adjustments were for exposure and contrast. The image was taken later in the later on on a clear summer's day.

The second image was an attempt to make the landscape more barren. For this I reduced the exposure by about half a stop, and using the raw converter I  moved the yellows slider from green to orange. This has resulted in the mid ground desaturating the greens and giving a more rusty look to the ground. The sky too was slightly adjusted to give a stronger colour as if the image was taken at a higher altitude.

The final image was an attempt to make the image look later in the day as if dusk has fallen. I reduced the exposure and adjusted the temperature to reflect a murkier tone.

I feel that overall the last image has worked least of all, it does look murky, but then it also looks poorly taken. I think that the middle image has work better as an interpretation of a more desolate environment.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Exercise: Managing Colour

This exercise is all about getting the right colour balance within an image. We are asked to find two of more images that have a definite colour cast and to use the RAW converter to correct this cast, or if using a JPEG image  to use 'grey dropper' tool within the levels or curves adjustments.

I chose the first raw image taken under fluorescent lighting with the camera set at auto white balance. The squash courts were actually a pastel yellow, as opposed to white walls, and this has helped to give an ugly yellow cast over the image, which is also under exposed slightly.

To correct this image I first changed the white balance setting to fluorescent, however it still need a minor tweak with the temperature and tint sliders to give an overall good colour balance. I used the white of the shoes and the player's T-Shirt as indicators. After adjusting the exposure and brightness so that the image has full dynamic range I then felt that the colour had been corrected.

Although taken in RAW I have used the following image to show similar results in a JPEG. This image was taken on a sunny day with AWB but from recollection, and the shadows present, it could have been taken standing in shadow. Either way it has led to an unpleasant magenta cast to the image.

To correct this I created a levels layer in photoshop and used the grey dropper tool to click on the grey concrete payment in the background. This instantly shifted the colour balance to a very acceptable version.

As a separate exercise I also corrected the same image in the raw converter simply by changing the white balance to 'Sunny' and boosting the contrast to produce the following version, which is far better than the jpeg conversion.

Exercise: Managing Tone

Managing tone in images is something I have been doing for a while, but I am now starting to realise some of the mistakes over the years. Firstly I relied on it too much, and now concentrate more on the camera settings, lighting conditions and framing. Secondly I probably made too many adjustments and too hard at that, this can be seen in many of my past images during the 'optimisation' stage.

In this exercise we are to take an image, and by using the available options during optimisation, make the very best image possible. These would include the main sliders in the RAW converter so that it would leave very little or no further adjustments necessary. This would of course preclude cloning, layers etc.

For this exercise I took an interesting but rather flat holiday picture, the original of which is shown below. It was a sunny day, with a lot of light reflecting off the water. The image was shot with AWB, ISO 100 at f/5.6, 1/125 sec exposure. The image has a slight bit of over exposure on the lower right hand side, but not too much. It does however have very little in terms of darker areas and contrast as shown in the following histogram.

The first change I made was to change the white balance to sunny. This gave slightly more contrast to the image and a greater colour depth. Overall colour cast looks acceptable, so I left the temperature and tint sliders as is.

Exposure of the image is fine except for the small amount of clipping which I removed using the recovery slider. To increase the shadows I increased the blacks slider to +12, just as shadow clipping was starting.

Brightness looks good, but the image still lacks contrast so I adjusted this slider so that it appeared to my eye more acceptable. Finally, I increased the saturation and vibrance sliders slightly to boost the image's colours in the water and the red's in the huts, this has also helped to increase the contrast a little. Finally the image was sharpened at an amount of 52 radius 1.0 px leaving the following image with a histogram spread distributed to the limits.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Exercise: RAW

In this exercise we are exploring the power of using the RAW format when taking images.

As a comparison we are to take images of three scenes, daylight, high contrast and artificial lighting. For each scene we are to shoot in both RAW and JPEG. The camera should be set up as optimal as possible so that the JPEG image is shown in its best light, this would include exposure and white balance.

Using a RAW converter we are then asked to process the image as best as possible and note the differences between the RAW conversion and the standard JPEG.

The first image was taken a week after Remberance Sunday at a local small memorial. The sun was starting to set and I chose a white balance of sunny with and exposure of 1/80 sec at f/5.0 ISO 100. This was a fairly good exposure but there was a small amount of highlight clipping on the cross. Adjusting the recovery slider h compensated for this in RAW.

The Temp and tint was also adjusted slightly so that the quite overpowering colour of the poppies was brought to a realistic shade, something that the JPEG has failed to do. Finally a small amount of additional contrast  was added. This has also warmed up the image reflecting the warmth in the sun at the time of shooting.

Looking at the small images there is not a great deal between them indicating that the camera settings were not to far out and the image was reasonably exposed.

The first image is the original JPEG followed by the RAW conversion.

The second set of images were the high contrasting images, take of a dark car's grill. This was an interesting conversion. The original image had a lot of under exposure leading to shadow clipping. When this was removed the image became 'grey and flat' but the grill could be seen clearly. further adjustments for the contrast and adding a high contrasting tone reset the image to something like the original but without any highlight or shadow warnings.

Finally the white balcance was adjusted to give a cooler looking image which I think adds more impact.This did leave the edge of the number plate with a blue tinge so I used a selective mask in Lightroom and reduced the saturation

The final set of images were taken indoors using a tungsten lamp. The camera's white balance was set for tungsten and the histogram checked for correct exposure.

The camera did well to compensate for the colour cast as seen in the first JPEG image. It was felt that the colour was a little too warm and this was adjusted using the temperate and tint sliders in the RAW version to reduce the colours to a more realistic level. A small curve was then added to boost the contrast a little.

Overall there is very little difference in the two images, perhaps just the minor adjustments and added constant has made the RAW conversion slightly better.