- Seeing: Better Seeing and Vision Enhancers
- Seeing: Wasting Time
- Seeing: Knowing Your Audience
- Assignment: Essay about an Image.
- Seeing: Visit the Masters
- Assignment: Compare and contrast real life image
- Black and White Conversions
- Is There A Better Way?
This week rather than a find it problem I want you to correct the image below. It is intentionally inverted and you should keep it this way. The exercise is to try to break your minds habit of making sense of the image and correcting things in context. By inverting the image it hopefully will introduce a level of discomfort and disconnection that allows you to correct the color and contrast in the image without context.
Seeing: Better Seeing
Last week I discussed the idea that our perception is altered by multiple things that I labeled “Vision Deadeners”. These Vision Deadeners rob us of some of our perception and prevent us from sometimes seeing in greater detail. This week we are going to learn about ways we can build our Seeing up and things we do to support the process will enhance our ability to switch into the Seeing mode faster and with greater ease.
Curiosity, knowledge, and time our our primary vision enhancement tools. In most cases they are inseparable being related in our brains in such a way as to feed off one another and build upon each other. If we are curious about something we will make the required time to learn about it and understand it. Conversely, if we know about something we seek it out and study it using as much time as we want to satisfy our curiosity. Lastly, if we have the time many new things will raise our curiosity and we will gain knowledge by observing things and visually absorbing them. The interrelation of these three enhancers is important because understanding them is key to better seeing.
The amount of time we devote to seeing things can be closely related to our level of curiosity, we can have an “idle curiosity” in which we visually browse over the item and possibly stop for a few moments to look more closely. These are eye catchers, items that we see as visually attractive and cause us to take a moment to explore them visually. Idle curiosity quickly develops into active curiosity when something unique is discovered that we find interesting; then we crave more knowledge and at this point and we look deeper. Our intuitive minds jump into the process and we begin to make connections to past experience and synthesize future uses. While this can sound like shopping, it is different in that we are not necessarily looking to acquire something rather we are attempting to learn more and decide if we want to spend the time learning about the object If the subject we are seeing is truly interesting to us we would move on to the highest level of of curiosity.
Consuming Curiosity happens when we crave to know more than casual knowledge about something; your desire to learn about Seeing is one such consuming curiosity ( I hope…) It is the consuming curiosity that drives us to gain knowledge, it opens our minds to the ideas and perceptions we are gathering and it helps us justify the time we have devoted to the process. Consuming Curiosity leads us to new experiences and adds new paths to knowledge because we are in a sense driven to find the answers to whatever is puzzling to us about the subject.
Our personal knowledge about the observation in front of us adds additional insight into what we are seeing because we relate constantly our observations of the objects to our base knowledge about them; then we apply what we know to what we are now seeing. I know it sounds circular but the more we know about some things in general the more specific details we perceive and absorb about an object when “Seeing” it. When it comes to image correction; our observations about the world around us help us to determine what it is we want to manipulate within the image and what to restore or enhance in the fine details of the image that are easily dismissed by most people in an image. This is the area that we need to begin to focus our Seeing on. It is this area that is our real blind spot when it comes to image correction.
When I look at an image on the screen I am looking for clues that there is information missing or poorly shown by the current settings. I know that a significant amount of information is most certainly not visible or present on my monitor; but that information may be possible to be shown in my final image, my experience and my perceptions of reality tell me that; but what fine details am I really missing from the image and how do I find them?
Seeing: Wasting Time
How often have you heard the message that daydreaming is such a waste of time. What is it about being productive that we associate with action? In general organized society attempts to connect value with action; and inaction therefore must equal a lower value or loss of value. I want to tell you a story about one of my secret passions. That passion is laying on my bed looking up at the textured ceiling in my bedroom and “Seeing”. I first started doing this when I had experienced a week of recovery from a surgery I had; and with little to do and boring TV to watch I decided to just take the time to think. I did not close my eyes because well if I did; I was afraid I would fall asleep. So there I was laying flat on my back and staring at the ceiling…what a waste of time. I thought about all the things I could be doing if only I was able; if only I could stand for more than 10 minutes.
I was worried I was becoming a burden to my wife and that the kids were beginning to think dad was just the lazy bum he looked to be at the time. I lay there staring at the ceiling and thinking and staring when suddenly it seemed like part of it moved…parts of the ceiling appeared for a second to move into a shape. I stopped thinking and tried to recover that ghost image. Where had the pattern come from? I knew there was a recognition there but I could not put my thoughts on it. I tried to open my eyes wider in the hope that I could re-see the image that jumped into and quickly out of my mind. At first I struggled with the fleeting image, my mind wanted to reconstruct it as I was fascinated by the recognition but the more I thought about the image the less I was seeing on the ceiling. I tried to recover the image for a few minutes but never quite succeeded in getting that flash of recognition back. I gave up and tried to go back to my thinking when suddenly I saw the outline of a cartoon character. I laughed to myself at being able to see the image of a cartoon in the ceiling, I soon found another image and when I shifted my eyes I saw another.
I thought at the time that it was a lot like cloud gazing where you see shapes in the clouds, still I could not recover the original image that started this flight of fancy. I began to wonder why, How was it possible that I could now see various images in the patterns of the ceiling but not the first flash of recognition that my brain had jumped to? What was it that I had seen and why could I not recover it now? I closed my eyes and thought about what I was doing the moment when it struck me that there was a pattern to be seen. I was thinking about my kids; at the time I was full of worry about how they were seeing me vulnerable and what they were thinking about when they saw me. When I opened my eyes to the ceiling again I saw it; My brain had completed it’s reset and I saw the image that made me pay attention; it was vague and not really all that accurate but it was there; my oldest son was staring back in me in bas-relief.
At that moment I was fascinated, how had my mind recovered that image when I had completely given up? I am not 100% certain but I think it was the fact that I was already thinking about my son and his reaction to me being stuck in bed that planted the suggestion in my mind that I could see him in the random bumps on the ceiling. I had found that as soon as I recognized the pattern in my conscious mind, I could not see it because I was immediately engaged in the recognition and the abrupt idea that he was visible overtook the free flowing thoughts that produced him. It was only in trying to relive that moment with a curious view point, with little visual input and not trying to see anything that I was able to re-open the mental pathway that created the image in the first place. It was only by allowing myself the time to process all of the different parts of my mental state that I was able to recover the image in my ceiling and today I can go home, lay down on the bed, and look up on the ceiling and find him there staring back at me. Once I had placed the image it appears that it never will go away for me.
Seeing: Knowing Your Audience
An important part of the seeing process is understanding the expectations of the viewer. Since you are learning about Seeing in this class it is natural that your perspective on the topic will possibly change. If we take a look at the process of writing; for instance this class. During the writing process I have had to sit in your place and think about what you as a reader and student expect from the written materials within the class. I have had to take your perspective into account and I have at times had to draw you a picture with words that tells the story I want to convey. This is not an easy task for a visually oriented person such as myself. In doing so I have had to think about how you are seeing the images and the text, focus your attention on specific topics and in some cases add more descriptive imagery to the context. My goals are to lead you through the process by using information and imagery to keep your attention and to focus your seeing. Going forward, as you will move your “seeing” into the image capture and correction arena; you too will need to lead your viewer into the image you are trying to create. You need to add details that most people would dismiss because they “know” what it is that they are looking at, to focus on the things in the image you might at first glance ignore. You should try to avoid common things about the image that you know everyone sees; we want to take our seeing into places many people will not go within the image.
For this assignment I want you to write a descriptive paragraph about the image below. Assume that I have never seen this image and possibly that I am vision impaired. I want you to describe the scene in a general overview and also in as much exacting detail as possible try to include memory colors that should trigger my brain to see the image in color. What you are seeing should become more evident as you find more details to describe to the viewer. Post the paragraph out to the forum and read what others have seen in the image.
The assignment should help you focus your seeing on what the viewer should get out of your images and since you are not always going to write about your image, you have to make sure the viewer can see everything in the image that you would have described. If your viewer cannot see things in the image you have corrected; you might want to go back and try to emphasize those things in the image you found important enough and make sure the viewer can see them.
We’ve all done it; gone to a museum and looked at the paintings. How many do you truly remember seeing? Have you ever asked yourself why they stood out as memorable? Do you remember the quote from Week 1 about the amount of time people actually look at museum paintings? One of the best ways to experience a painting is to go look at it first hand.
Make time to go see a “Masterpiece” but before you do; stop in the museum gift shop and buy a postcard of 3 or 4 images in the collection you are about to see and then make more than a few minutes available and go look at the details of the images. Look at these images as closely as the museum will allow. Can you see brush strokes? Knife patterns? How do the techniques used by the painter come together to make the illusion of an image when viewed at a normal viewing distance? Now look at the lighting within the image. What does the lighting tell you about the image? Can you tell what time of day it is? What about the pigments used by the painter gives that information to you? Remember that seeing the subjects lighting is not just something for “shooting photographers” it is a part of how we all see and perceive the scene before us, paying attention to the lighting is what separates the good from the grand. How do the real images compare to the postcards? Ask yourself what is missing and why, look for the fine details in the image that make it unique then identify where they are missing in the post card. The post card serves in this instance as your print. Finding flaws in the prints helps you to identify areas where you need to improve your images as well.
For this assignment I want you to go through the entire photographic process that you currently use, incorporate anything you feel you need in order to shoot, process, and print; 4 images from your everyday life. These scenes need to be normal representations of your environment. Please create 4 images and make a 4X6 print of each image. Make these quality images that you would be willing to show another person. Make the best prints you can. Once you have these images printed please repeat the process in Black and White printing so that you have 2 prints of each scene.
Now take the images back to the original scene; can you determine strengths and weaknesses for the images in both color and black and white? Make notes for yourself on color hue, saturation and tonality. Items like: did the hue and saturation of the yellows match? What happened to the reds in the shadows? etc.
Repeat the process with the Black and White images.
This time look for line, weight, and other compositional features. Then take note of the tonality of the colors. Ask yourself; are there any areas that have different colors but nearly matching tones in Black and White? How does this tonal weight affect the image and more importantly my perception? Did the prints accurately represent the reality of the scene?
Post and discuss your findings and some possible actions you could take to improve the images based on the “reality” you have compared them to.
Black and White Conversions:
Last week we worked on achieving good tonal range in the separate channels to enhance the overall contrast quality of our images. This week we are going to use techniques we learned to create some Black and white conversions. One of the problems we face with black and white conversion is that there are so many different ways that Photoshop allows you to convert an image; how do we choose the best one?
One very interesting thing you will learn about black and white conversion is that it is really all about good color and good color contrast. The better the starting point of your image the better the conversion will be. This is not a “color correctness” issue; rather it is about having solid colors in the image and good contrast in what will be the mid-tones of the image at the end.
A solid black and white conversion will always have a good shadow, a good highlight, and well differentiated mid-tones. To achieve this we need to know more about what each type of conversion is doing to our image and what we can do to change the results.
Let’s review some of the options for Black & White conversion and what some of the issues each type of conversion creates.
Convert to Greyscale:
While this tool from Adobe provides a solid conversion unfortunately it only turns off the color information in the image and you are limited to the tonal range in the image at that time; there is very little adjustment range. In general it provides a serviceable image but nothing exciting. As you can see from the workflow image above even Adobe is questioning if you really want to use the Gray-scale Conversion. This effectively averages the tonal values for the image and sets all points to Gray. Colors that are close in tonal values will blend together and there is loss of mid-tone contrast overall. This also reduces the image to a single Gray Channel in Photoshop.
Photoshop provides the ability to remove color information as a conversion by reducing the saturation in the Hue/Saturation command. This is the same as the desaturate command from the menu Image>Adjustments>desaturate. This in effect turns off all of the color information and creates a black and white image. The trouble is that removes all color contrast and it can create flat black and white images. Overall the tone is good but removing the color contrast results in a “Digital Conversion” look to the image.
Both lead to an image that looks like this…Again nothing spectacular and in need of some help.
Use the L channel from LAB:
If you convert the image to LAB and use the L channel information you will get a reasonable image but, overall the image will be slightly flat and the mid-tones will need significant help to make a good black and white image. The perceptual quality of the LAB space makes the relative brightness of the colors Yellow and Cyan nearly equal and items in the image with Cyan and Yellow hues will appear to be flat as they are all reduced to a very similar tone and because Yellow is a part of certain Greens they can lose their contrast as well.
As you can see from the examples above the LAB conversion loses visual contrast when the Yellow and Cyan are converted to only the numeric values in the image.
Using Individual Channels in Photoshop:
Using any 1 individual channel from Photoshop will yield a black and white image. You will be missing large areas of data and detail from certain portions of the overall image. For instance the Red Channel is usually higher in contrast, blue areas of the image will tend to go very dark and the look is very similar to a red photo filter with black and white film.
In the Green Channel we see what most closely replicates what our eye sees in terms of contrast but it is specifically lacking in contrast when it comes to areas that are blue.
The Blue Channel shows us Reds and Yellows that can look almost black. The image can have an unreal quality about it the Blue Channel is usually very heavy looking. Often times the shadows are locked up with little or no details.
Using the Channel Mixer: Image>Adjustments>Channel Mixer.
This Photoshop tool allows you to use sliders to adjust the brightness of each of the RGB channels using a single slider for each. You can adjust the RGB channel contribution to the overall image as a function of percent. One thing to remember is that you should have +100% as a final value after you adjust the individual sliders. You must also select the Monochrome check box to convert the image data to monochrome. Once you are satisfied with the overall tonal range of the image you can fine tune it with the “constant” slider which functions very much like the Gamma adjustment. You should also note that reducing a channels contribution to the image reduces the data available to the image and removes data from the file. You also cannot actually remove a channel in this manner simply you are reducing it’s contribution to the final calculated image.
The Photoshop Defaults for the Channel Mixer are 40% Red, 40% Green and 20% Blue. These certainly are not the optimum values and they should be changed for each image you would work on.
You can use the values shown below as starting points for a better look at the image overall.
Using a Black and White Adjustment Layer:
This adjustment layer allows you to adjust not only the RGB but also the CMY channels in the image and target specific colors for adjustment. this allows for some modest adjustment to the overall color contrast but it is limited to changing the brightness of a specific color; it does not allow you to separate two different tones of the same color. So far this is the strongest candidate for creating a strong black and white conversion.
After working on the sliders you can produce a much stronger image.
ACR RAW Converter Using the Hue Adjustments:
While very similar to the Black and White adjustment layer in ACR you have access to other various hues. The sliders in ACR include Orange, Purple and Aqua. These colors are between the RED Yellow, Cyan Green and Magenta Blue respectively and give you access to a bit finer control than you have in the Black and White adjustment layer.
After opening the image in ACR you will need to click on the Hue Saturation tab and then click the convert to gray-scale check box. Once you can separate the oranges from the reds some of the far cliffs are more adjustable. It is easier overall to maintain some tonal separation that is not possible with a L channel conversion or some of the simpler conversions shown.
Well there certainly are enough different ways to go about B&W conversion; Even with all these options people are looking for more. Why is that? The desire to create solid B&W images goes back to the beginning of photography really; but in the digital age fewer and fewer are willing to work for a good image let alone a good B&W image. All of the methods above have been created to try to simplify the process and make b&W “accessible” the issue is the that compromises being created by the various processes leave most people unsatisfied with the results and wanting more…
Is There A Better Way?
As a part of the CM201 class we have been looking at tonality and trying to see why things do not always look their best. We have been building good channels and images and this week we have looked at black and white conversions but overall I think you need to remember that the goal here is a good image in whatever format you choose to create it in. To that end we are going to use some of the conversion techniques we have seen as well as combining techniques to create the best looking black and white image possible. Our goal is that we may want to use the luminosity information from that image to make a better color image next week.
Practice some of the techniques from this week on some of your images. Try to extend your Black and White conversions and achieve as much tonal range as possible in the images. Some suggested image types for this assignment are:
- A Portrait
- National Park type image.
- High key portrait.
- Low key portrait.
- Heavy metal image <lots of metallic items…>