For the first part of this exercise I will be taking two landscape photos. One where the sky is perfectly exposed and the second where the landscape is perfectly exposed. Then using photo editing software I will be merging the two together.
As per the instructions in the exercise, having first selected my landscape, I set the camera up on a tripod and took two exposures. One where the landscape was perfectly exposed and one where the sky was perfectly exposed.
These are the two photographs.
As you can see the landscape in the first is virtually black but the sky and clouds perfectly exposed. In the second shot the opposite is apparent; the highlights have blown out in some of the clouds in the sky, and it looks generally washed out. Using GIMP I combined the two images using a layer mask.
There was a fair amount of editing involved in combining the two images. To accurately select the sky I used the colour select in gimp and kept clicking until all the sky was selected. Usually to photograph a high contrast scene such as this I would use a gradient fliter which can compensate up to a couple of f stops. At the moment I use GIMP which has no facility for automatically combining a number of images to create a hdr image, beyond using layers. However since my use of layer has been fairly limited, I welcome any any to practice!
The second part of this exercise is to take a sky from one picture and put it on another picture whilst keeping the image as realistic as possible.
These are the two images I will be combining. I will use the sky from the first photograph and put it into the second.
This is the final image.
This was an interesting exercise as this is a lot more post processing than I would normally do. However this is not for ‘ethical’ reasons but more the fact that I have to spend more hours in front of the computer editing when I could be outside taking more photographs. I am not wholly against this kind of editing; it depends, as I have said repeatedly through these series of exercises, what the purpose of the picture is. If it is supposed to be an accurate depiction of what is actually there then I would not swap the sky on the picture for an arguably more interesting one. If the purpose is for ‘art’ and you want to make the picture as beautiful as possible then swapping the sky would be more justifiable. In this specific case a more interesting sky transposed onto a landscape can make a scenic photograph look better. However what attracts me to take a landscape photo is how the whole scene looks. Until now I had not really considered taking the sky from one photograph and putting it on another. When done seamlessly it can create stunning images, however done badly people can easily see it is a fake image. Creating one image from two others that have no connection with each other does not seem entirely legitimate. There are many images on sale that are precisely this, but they are not pretending to be anything other than art as opposed to a reflection of something real. As I have said regarding the post processing of images, in my opinion it very much depends on how the image is used.
For this exercise I had to take a head and shoulders portrait of a face in shade. The aim of the exercise is to enhance the face in post processing and to question when does it stops being ‘enhancement’ and becomes unreal.
Firstly this is the original shot.
The face is in shadow and cannot be seen too clearly. I selected the face using the ‘free select tool and brightened it using the brightness/contrast sliders. Then I used curves to further enhance the face. It was a mistake not to select the hair as well so unfortunately the effect is not very good. However this is the first time I have done such editing so I now have a much better idea of what works.
I made some further enhancements, merely for experimentation sake, and removed a few blemishes for the face. I did this to get used to the the clone stamp tool and have better control over it. I think I did quite well, though more practice is required.
The second part of the exercise was to enhance the eyes make them appear brighter. Again I used the free select tool and using the brightness/contrast slider to brighten the eyes, then I used the saturation slider for further enhancement.
The last part of the exercise was to change the colour of the eyes. Using the hue slider I changed them to purple, as I quite like purple. It does not look remotely realistic however it does emphasise how easy it is to alter features using post processing software.
In part two I will discuss at what point I consider post processing to alter the image as well as thinking about other issues surrounding image processing.
For this exercise I had to find a photograph where the subject and the background were dark. I chose this picture for various reasons, the subject (my husband) was in shadow along with the wall behind him. However the sky and the ground he is standing on is quite bright. This meant when I was using the free select tool in GIMP I could easily see his outline! I have not done this sort of post processing before as I find the free select tool hard to control. I managed to use the free select tool and then increased the brightness and adjusted the curves slightly. Although the finished picture looks slightly unrealistic, where the shadow meet the shoes for example, for a first attempt I don’t think I have done too badly!
With regards to the issue of changing and editing photos, as I have said in previous posts for this picture all I have done is enhance what is already there, I have not removed anything or added anything. I would say in this particular case I have improved the picture as you can now see my husbands face. Photo editing software makes virtually anything possible. In the press there have been lots of stories concerning the editing of models faces and their bodies in order to sell products. In this case I am not altering the shape of his body I am merely brightening his image so it can be seen more clearly. In the case of editing models so that they appear even thinner their bodies appear quite unrealistic. As I have said before whilst it is important to consider how much editing I am prepared to justify it is also important to consider what the photo is to be used for. The model photographs I am referring to usually advertise beauty products and will be seen by women everywhere. If the photo of the model has been editing using software then you cannot be sure whether the product will work. On a more serious note it creates an unrealistic standard of beauty that women compare themselves too which can create much more serious problems. I feel it is time that this industry should see the harm that is it doing to the self esteem and health of women and cut down the photo-editing. The argument that the editing is art is not a convincing one for me as the photo is specifically aimed at selling.
Although I have altered the photograph of my husband I haven’t performed any editing of the kind I described above. If for any reason I did do that sort of editing of my photographs I would first consider what the photograph’s purpose was. In this case I am not trying to sell a beauty product, so I am happy with the editing I have done.
The next few exercises deals with the tricky question of photo editing. Most people will be aware of the controversy airbrushing models in adverts. Photo editing takes on many forms, so what is acceptable? Where is the line drawn? Are there certain cases where photo editing is acceptable and cases where it is not?
In this exercise I will be editing two photographs. One has some dust specks and another has polygon or lens flare. There are a number of tools in photo editing software to deal with these. The tool I use most often is the clone stamp tool.
Here is the photo with the dust speck and some shadows in the corner.
Here is the ‘corrected’ photograph.
It may seem that that this fairly innocent editing. After all the dust speck was not part of the scene that I was photographing so removing it reveals the ‘truth’ of the scene. I was not doing the more extreme end of photo editing by adding another mountain or forest that was not originally part of the scene. However I did change the photo. So it could be argued that I changed the truth of the photograph of which the dust speck was a part. The question of whether the removal of an artefact from the picture changes the content cannot be answered without also considering the purpose of the photograph. On a purely basic level removing the artefacts, dust specks does change the picture as the pixels in the picture at that particular spot have been altered. Whether this should be altered is another question where the purpose of the photograph should be taken into account. This photograph depicts a landscape shot of Derwent water in the Lake District. My reason for taking the photograph was that the scene was an attractive one so the purpose of the photograph was purely decorative. For this reason I do not regard the removal of dust specks, in this case, to alter the integrity of the picture since the purpose of the picture is a decorative one. However another purpose of the photograph is to depict an actual place so I personally would be uneasy about adding things to the picture that were not there to start with. However I am not against using photography equipment and some post processing to uncover the inner beauty of the picture since all the elements of the picture exist already and the equipment is just enhancing them. I will not go into the question of using photo editing software on people, namely airbrushing, I will save this for a future post. I am concentrating on my own photographs at the moment.
Editing lens flare, particularly ion the following picture, is a little more tricky, but the clone stamp tool usually works.
Here is the photo with the lens flare.
Here is the photo with the lens flare removed.
This picture required a bit more post processing. For the most part I used the clone stamp tool. As you can see from the ‘before’ picture there was quite a bit of lens flare that also affected some of the trees in the centre. To remove the lens flare glow from the trees first I used the ‘burn’ tool but this did not produce the desired effect so I used the ‘clone stamp’ tool to make the top of the tree the same colour as the rest of the surrounding trees. This does alter the picture more than the first as I was actually changing the colour of the trees affected by the lens flare. On the other hand had this picture been taken without the lens flare the trees would not have been affected by the glow and would be the same colour as the surrounding trees. The post processing on the altered picture is more how the scene actually was. It is closer to the way my eyes saw the scene as opposed to the way the camera interpreted it, so in that respect the altered picture is more true to the scene than the unaltered. When you are looking at a scene your eye automatically compensate so there is no lens flare. In that respect the lens flare on a picture could be viewed as an addition to the scene since it was not there. However some pictures with lens flare can be attractive. Again it depends on the purpose of the picture. If it is a purely scenic then it depends whether the lens flare adds to the overall attractiveness of the scene. If the purpose is to exactly depict the scene in front of the photographer then the lens flare is, in my opinion, debatable. On the one hand it is not part of the scene as you see it, on the other hand it is how the camera interpreted the scene.
Usually when I am taking photographs with the deliberate intention of converting them to black and white I look for certain things, texture, geometric shapes, patterns and shadows. Whilst contemplating a theme for this assignment I was reading an article in the British Journal of photography, (Pantall 2013) “Arles in Black” and the photographic projects of Alison Rossiter and Pieter Hugo. Rossiter uses expired photographic paper and processes it in such a way to create abstract black and white images whilst Hugo used a medical UV light to bring out the skin damage in people he photographed. The two projects in themselves were radically different and not something I would have considered doing. The projects were experimental, the two photographers trying to create new images using ideas that hadn’t been tried before. Therefore I tried to think of a theme for my assignment that would be different to something I would normally consider for monochrome photography. Whilst not as avant garde as either Rossiter or Hugo, I found the theme that I had chosen to be more challenging than I had anticipated: to use pictures that would normally be kept in colour. I wanted to see the images that could be produced if you desaturate an image where the colour was one of the image’s best attributes. I wondered if the pictures would have the same feel, or whether you would notice other things about the image that would not be obvious when in colour. Naturally I also wanted the resulting images to look good in black and white as well. The aim was to take a set of photographs where I liked in colour and then to remove that colour.
Within the broad theme I have set myself I feel as though I have carried out the remit. There are a number of standard things that for me will make a good black and white photograph, particularly strong contrasts and geometric patterns. I have found that by taking the colour away from an image and converting it to black and white I again start to look for those things that make a good monochrome image for me. Through this exercise I hope I have broadened my outlook and will experiment with other pictures that do not fit into these ‘standards’. Through looking at images created by other photographers I have also discovered a wider range of subjects that work well in black and white and hope this will influence my future photographs. Although nature remains a strong favourite with me, the tuk-tuk and graffiti images I produced have prompted me to look again at cities and buildings; I don’t think I could get as fond of them as Harry Callahan was however.
Phillips, Sandra S, 2000, The Photography of John Gutmann Culture Shock, London, Merrell Publishers Limited
Salvesen Britt, 2006, Harry Callahan: The Photography at Work, Yale, Yale University Press
Pantall, Colin, 2013, Arles in Black, British Journal of Photography, volume 60, issue no 7814, pages 29-41
It seems to me that certain things work well in black and white; geometric shapes, texture, scenes that are trying to evoke certain emotions: for example I went to an exhibition of war photographs in Paris last year where the photographer shot scenes of appalling carnage in black and white(1). By withdrawing the colour this seemed to emphasise the human subject of the photograph rather than the gore.
In the previous exercises I have been learning how to manipulate a colour image into black and white and various post processing tricks to bring out certain elements. What sticks in my mind most strongly is the exercise where I took a photograph of something blue and yellow and through the colour sliders seemed to make them change colour.
My tutor has recommend photographers to study. One in particular, Harry Callahan liked to experiment with various techniques to produce certain effects. He liked to try out new things and things that might not work. One of his quotes that seemed to resonate with me was he believed that in one year he might produce half a dozen photographs he was happy with(2)…considering he spent nearly every hour of every day taking photographs and how many hundreds of thousands of photographs he must have produced.
For this Assignment I intend to follow the ‘experimentation’ route. To try and take photographs of things that normally I would not consider in black and white. Inevitably I will probably edge towards elements I believe will work in black and white, but I will try and avoid it. I intend to take a series of ‘abstracts’ where I take a photograph of something from an angle so that the person looking at the picture may not at first recognise the object, also converting these pictures to black and white will add an additional perspective.
After having taken a few pictures and converted them to black and white despite trying to avoid the things I usually look for in a black and white photograph, I am keep coming back to the same things, in these cases geometric shapes.
For various reasons this out of focus picture will probably not make the final cut, even though I like it quite a lot. The picture is of some orchid leaves silhouetted against the window. What appealed to me was the way the lines of the leaves crossed the picture, which is again falls under the ‘geometric’ category. I also liked the different strengths of shadow in the black and white version going from a dark grey to a light grey across the picture.
This next picture is a macro shot of a piece of paua shell. I chose it because of the iridescent blue/purple colours across the shell. The colours are so beautiful I wouldn’t normally even consider putting a picture like this into black and white, which is why I now do so. I wanted to see what something that is normally pictured for it’s colours would look like when you took that away. The way I have taken this picture and with the post processing afterwards you would not realise this picture is of a paua shell. Again I fell into the geometry trap, having desaturated the picture I noticed the wavy lines going diagonally across the picture and tried to make a feature of them.
This next picture is of a paperweight and again comes strongly under the geometry category. The regular interval of bubbles providing a nice pattern to the photograph. However it does fulfil some of the experimentation requirements as after I had converted the picture to black and white I inverted the colours further to create this largely black photograph. I like the effect this has produced.
1. Photographer Paolo Pellergrin, Exhibition: Dies Irae, Exhibition location: Maison Europeenne de la Photographie, Paris. Exhibition date 4 April – 17 June 2012
This is a picture of Rannoch Moor, Scotland. For this exercise I had to select a photograph and used the colour sliders in the raw converter ufraw to achieve the following effect: emphasising depth (aerial perspective) by strengthening the visual effect of haze.
For the exercise picture, I used the denoise option on the raw converter to create more of a haze effect in the distance. I used the denoise slider and changed it to 122. Next I went to the greyscale mode and using the channel sliders, I kept experimenting until I was happy with the effect. Finally the sliders on the channel were set to: red 2, green -0.37 and blue channel to -0.22. I had to keep experimenting with the sliders to create the effect, however through the experimentation I know know more about how the colour channel sliders work and what effect they will have on a picture I alter.
The differences between the two pictures are not extreme, in the original conversion the grass at the bottom left hand of the picture is dark whereas I have lightened it in my conversion. Also the original has not been ‘denoised’ as much as the conversion. I think the original is slightly darker in general tone than the conversion, necessary since the exercise required that |I emphasise the haze and increase the depth of the picture.