Friday, February 11, 2011

Determining A Look.......

Technology is amazing.  Communication via cellphones and internet are so commonplace now that is hard to imagine going back to how it used to be 10 - 20 years ago.  I'm in regular contact with people all over the globe and I rarely think about the reality of it.  Separated by entire continents, oceans and time zones, and yet we are able to exchange all sorts of things as though we are standing next to one another.  I'm writing all of this because over the last 24 hours, I've been working on some images a friend of mine in Poland sent to me in Colorado (US), which he had taken in Italy a week or so earlier.  All of which would have been totally unheard of little more than a decade ago.  It's been immense fun working on images I would not readily have  the opportunity to  shoot for myself and which are still "virgin"....meaning, unlike an image sitting in some stock image site, I'm the only one who's had a go at .

Tom, my Polish friend, as been a huge supporter and encouragement regarding my own work.  He asked if I would mind doing some post processing on one or more of his images and, I agreed.  He gave me free reign to do whatever cropping or adjustments I wished.  So, I thought I would share some of it with you in hopes it would helpful for your own work.

In this shot, taken high above treeline, I love the scene....row after row of undulating mounds of nothing but snow with three tiny figures off in the distance.  Everything is a softness of tone on tone of white and soft blues.  There were two primary things I felt I needed to address...1. Keeping the feeling of vastness while pulling in the three people....and, 2. Addressing a resolution problem with the clouds which came up as a result from transfer of the file.  So, here is what I came up with.....
The crop is pretty self explanatory, so I won't go into that.  The sky however was a bit more challenging.  The solution I came up with was to mask in an image of sky I had taken a couple of years ago.  I was then able to retain the original feel of tone on tone and softness.  I also lightened up the scene and tried to give it a feeling of (slight) warmth.  In my opinion, this helps the scene to feel less hostile over all and lends to that vintage look I try to achieve in all of my images. Being a little less intimidating of an environment also, I think, helps it to be more relatable in a way.  With no context of the scene, the version to the right could just as well be some rolling field rather than an isolated mountain's all a matter of interpretation.

Next are a couple of shots he took while in Venice.

In this scene, there were a few things I wanted to address.  First, I couldn't do my normal square crop.   I didn't want to choose between the statue or the building and gondolas, so I went with a 16x9 crop which then also gave the image a "cinematic" feel.  Second, I loved the scene, but it was too dark from my taste, so I created multiple exposures in PS Bridge and turned the image into an HDR using Photomatix.  This helped to bring out the definition not only in the statue but also the sky, buildings, etc.  Third, there were some things in the image I felt did not need to remain...the trashcan, the blue gondola cover in the lion's mouth, and some little gold bottle someone had stuck in the right hand of the figure.

So as you can see, the scene feels less like "last week" and resembles more the time frame of the pieces in the image.  I tried to use textures which also resembled some of the water stained aging going on in the bronze of the statue.

Now for the last of the three......
Again, another beautiful scene from Venice.  There was nothing in this scene I wanted to get rid of.  It was also already conveniently cropped into a square.  The primary thing I wanted to achieve was to reflect the sun-washed coloring of the buildings.  When I texture an image, there are two things I am continually asking myself.... 
1.  Does it look natural?  Would this coloring, crease, or scratch happen naturally in the course of aging?
2.  Does the "shape" of the texture its self add to the "motion" of the image or take away from it?
For example...with this image, being a square, the outside shape of the image is neither vertical or's neutral.  With all the sides being equal, it tends to add a focusing quality to the scene, similar to cupping your hands around your eyes.  That is one of the reasons I like to use it.  But while the shape of the scene may be neutral, the "direction" of the scene is vertical.....meaning it is running mostly up and down.  So, I wanted to reflect that feeling of height with the indication of shapes and coloring within the textures.         Here it is......

As you can see, with the creases and stains running primarily vertically, it accentuates not only the height of the buildings, but also the lifting feel of the clouds.  There are a couple of  scratches added horizontally at the top because it felt as though your eye was getting pulled off the page, so these were added to counter-act that issue.   Also, using a sepia tinted b/w filter at 20%, gives the picture a more even aged tone....pulling out the cold of the water and sky and giving everything a feeling of bleached colored plaster.

Well, I hope this has helped.  Just so you know....I rarely know exactly what the end image is going to look like.  I may know the initial things I want to take away or make sure are there, but aside from that, I discover it as I go.  That is part of the fun of it for me....that feeling of discovery as one piece after another is figured out and the idea of the final image is determined.

Have fun.


  1. It's fascinating and very helpful to read your thought processes. It's gratifying to know you don't exactly know where you're going with an image until you begin work on it, as I'm never quite sure either. However, although each image dictates it's own process, you still produce identifiable work which I very much admire.

  2. So interesting to see your process and great shots from your friend. I esp. love the first one, because it looks like it is so remote - and like it could be from a century ago.

  3. I enjoyed reading this entry and your thought process as you worked through each unique image.