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Fine arts photography by Mark Lindsay, digital imaging, Photoshop, Lightroom, InDesign and photography tutoring, and fine arts prints for artists and graphic arts professionals.
If I had no calendar I’d gauge my seasons by the rising sun. It seems to be better way to do things anyway. Humans are always screwing around with calendars and time and making a mess of them. Twice per year we think we’re very clever to move our clocks back or forth in the interest of “saving” daylight. It’s a ridiculous notion that does nothing but make everyone cranky on the two Sunday mornings after this feeble attempt of sorcery. Calendars and clocks cause a lot of anxiety in this world. We’d all be better off just paying attention to the sun.
Morning walks on the boardwalks of the Jersey Shore—something I experienced often in my youth—were always weird. The amusements and food concessions were meant to be experienced at night, or at the very least at dusk. Mornings on the boardwalk were akin to waking up on the on the living room couch on the morning after a party. Stale odors and bits of refuse mixed with the ambience of the misty, salt air. The rising sun revealed stragglers who seemed just a little lost. The fun was over. Morning’s clarity brought new light to the hangover of too much fun and spent adrenaline. Yes, morning walks on the New Jersey’s boardwalks were strange—but I loved them anyway.
The fog of the Veneto had smothered the entire Venetian Lagoon with a cottony wall of cold vapor. There was nothing to see on this vaporetto ride out to the Lido—nothing outside the windows that is. Inside the cramped boat’s cabin, I stared at the back of a fellow passenger. He, in turn, was staring at the back of the person in front of him. And on it went from back to front of the boat. Like several hundred anchovies in a tin can—the salted kind from Sicily—we were jammed into the steel confines of this listing vessel. It seemed like a one-way trip to Purgatory.
Wild animals come into our lives for only brief moments. One must be deft at beholding them. A photographer must also be quiet and at the ready. Fiddling around with cameras and settings can mean lost opportunity. The whirring of autofocus and the thunderous thud of an SLR shutter can scare off humans in the wild, let alone other warm-blooded creatures
When I was a very young boy all the gas stations in our town had colorful, little propellors strung between posts. Designed to attract customers, the propellors would spin in the breeze and make an odd, fluttering sound that I still remember well. I’d look out the window of the back seat of our station wagon and watch the propellors in marvel. I’d roll down the window so that I could hear their sound. I’d get down low as to get a good view of the propellors in the sky. I wondered if they might take off at any moment, carrying the gas stations with them.
Sunday’s farmers market during the summer is always packed. It’s that way in the summer. No one can resist the fresh corn or the plump, red tomatoes. And the peach guy has about twenty samples on which some people gorge for about twenty minutes. They look like overgrown chipmunks, cheeks full of peach slices and the juice dripping off their chins. The long days attract mothers and their strollers and fathers and their sons. Mixed among the seasonal hoards are the regulars who I see week in and week out, even in the lean months of January when broccoli seems to be the only star of the market.
“I need to photograph more,” I said to myself on a crisp, spring day. I was in one of those artist’s slumps where I felt the desire to make something but not quite having the energy to lift myself from my chair. Instead I rocked myself into further justification for doing nothing. I looked out my window knowing that I was wasting a perfectly good day.
My dad was a people watcher. He could sit in a public place all day long and watch the world as it passed by him. I grew up in New Jersey—the outer suburbs of New York. An area ruled by autos, it was rare for us to take public transportation anywhere. But, when we did take the bus, the train, or the ferry, my dad would invent stories about the people on them. I suspect that we all play this game whether consciously or not. We label people and assume certain aspects about their lives. The mental stories become more elaborate when we’re forced into the idle observation associated with public transit.
The San Francisco waterfront was still gray from the early-morning summer fog. For the second time in two weeks I’d visited this very spot with my camera. The waterfront seemed different on this day. As I looked deep into the bay, the reflections danced with a darkness that I found compelling. Mostly amorphous, they changed as we came up adjacent to the San Francisco Bay Bridge. These long, linear reflections made me stop in my tracks. The bridge has become familiar after ten thousand visits to this waterfront, seaming nothing like it did the first time I laid eyes on it some thirty years ago. Back then the sight of the bridge made me gasp, now it brought a faint smile and a deep breath of gratitude.
I suppose that there’s a prevailing attitude among Photoshop users that there are a few go-to blend modes that are useful. The rest are thought of as curiosities, maybe a way to relieve tedium when image-editing fatigue sets in. Case in point: directly below Normal on the blend-mode list resides a mode called Dissolve. If one is driving down the road of blend-mode options, this is one exit that most people pass by. It seems like a route to nowhere.
Normal. What does that ever mean in life anyway? I digress. Choosing to avoid a philosophical debate, let’s stick to Photoshop blend modes. In fact, we’ll be devoting a vast, new series of posts to the discussion of blend modes. And we’ll do that in great depth for there’s really nothing more powerful in Photoshop nor so accessible. Blend modes give us both instant satisfaction and provide nuanced and sophisticated power. We’ll start at the beginning, we’ll start with the default blend mode. We’ll start with normal.
Convert to Profile…
These are two of the most powerful commands in Photoshop—and among the least understood. They sound interchangeable. They sound compatible. Yet, even though they’re related, they are worlds apart in function. My students and clients often get into trouble with these evil twins. Let’s see if we can pull them apart and demystify their purpose.
Let’s establish this right from the start. It’s not your imagination—color management isn’t easy. It isn’t easy because your eyes and your brain and the colorful world around you are all complex. Trying to replicate the way we see and perceive is loaded with conditions and options. The world of color is certainly wonderful but it can present a bewildering mess to the uninitiated. Just try reproducing that certain shade of perfect blue in a photograph or on a lithographic printing press. But, rest assured. As much as color can be challenging, it is also ever rewarding. And the tools we have today to tame it are better than they ever have been before.
When working in the Lab color mode we can quickly and easily enhance color separation and saturation in myriad ways. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the essential key is to increase the contrast of the a and/or b channels of the image. This can be done manually and individually (to each channel) with Curve or Levels adjustments or we might duplicate merge all layers onto a new, top layer and modify the blend mode of that layer. One of the most effective techniques of this type is the Multiply and Layer Mask Technique inspired by the great master of Lab, Dan Margulis. This not only enhances color but also deepens light areas of the image and will add some contour enhancement to the overall image as well.
Where we last left off on our Lab adventure we’d described a colorspace that could enhance and separate colors with both the a and b channels. These channels respond wildly to increased contrast, in ways that border on miraculous. Colors increase in saturation, separation, and definition. It is the most basic and fundamental move in the Lab-editing arsenal.
We've discussed channels in this blog before. Channels are the grayscale image components of which a digital image is comprised (for more information on channels, please go to the blog post, Channeling Channels). In our more common colorspaces, these channels actually look like familiar, black & white depictions of our original scene. However, in the Lab colorspace our channels look entirely different. It's as if we'd scurried down the rabbit hole into Alice's wonderland where things don't quite make sense anymore.
I ruin a lot of nice conversations by bringing up the subject of Lab Color Mode. It's not that people aren't interested in what Lab can do, it simply takes me too long to get to the benefits of this powerful image-editing tool. Like most color-theory discussions, there are few people who consider Lab to be cocktail conversation. One of my failings is that I'm an odd fellow who is actually entertained by color theory. So I need to be careful. Lab color theory is not something most people want to hear about. However, turning listless, lifeless, boring, or damaged photos into exciting images is a topic that many find worthwhile. So, let's start there and see where it takes us.
Image sharpening can be achieved in myriad ways. While variations are endless, the goal remains the same. We wish to sharpen and enhance desired edges yet avoid sharpening any noise or other artifacts. This can be tricky because most sharpening tools look at all edges, not just the ones we find pleasing or essential.
A large part of the beauty and potential of alpha channels is how sophisticated they can be. When working in photomontage we most often desire a mask that eliminates a significant portion of an image element (typically a background) so that it can be composited into a base image. This helps create the illusion of unity and believability of the final composition. Yet, there are times when a mask should have translucency in at least some parts of it in order to make the results look real.
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