Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Project 42 : man made landscape

In the UK it is difficult to find any "Landscape" that has not at some time been under the influence of man. Well known landscape such as the English Lake District, often seen as picturesque and unspoilt is in fact quite the opposite. Much of the obvious marking on the land is by fences and walls that provide containment for farm animals and delineate the ownership of parcels of land by farmers and the scree on a fell side is from mining. The mobility of man across the landscape has evolved with progress in engineering. The soft rural intervention of man is often seen as an acceptable part of the countryside whereas large engineering features such as bridges and deep cuttings are the source of debate and protest from those in society that see change as detrimental.

The image above shows how man is dividing up the landscape for farming. In this case the areas divided by stone walls enabling the control of grazing and stock management. In addition the wild overgrown area in the top right is separate and not a farming area.

Man made features (such as the bridge above) are often a legacy of previous activity. In this instance the railway is now disused but the legacy is a footpath. The loss of paint on the steelwork and resulting rust has toned the structure to blend in with the forest.

The influence of man on natural features such as rivers is to capture their features and enhance them for his own use. Here the Civil Engineer has created a quay wall in an estuary port where left to its own devices the landscape would be marshland and impossible to navigate.

The influence of man is sometimes hidden. The photograph above taken with low evening light and picks out the shape of an enclosure ditch or dis used watercourse.

Within the intimate landscape of man there is shape and texture. Concrete here is patched after cracking and illustrates the fragility of the man made, however it is constructed and demonstrates the transient nature of man on the landscape.

French Door

While browsing landscape folders for project images that have been misplaced I came across a lovely old doorway shot in France a while back. Not what I was looking for but it became an interesting 10 minutes of working with monochrome, Silver Efex Pro and the History Brush.

Version 1

Version 2

Version 2 has enhancements using the History Brush to dodge and burn overall as well as selective adjustments to hightlights, shadows and contrast.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Project 41 : grain

Grain in the context of film is the microscopic silver halide crystals that form the active element in black and white film (Not chromogenic black and white which is essentially a colour film, Ilford XP1 etc) and the coloured dyes in colour film.

Film users generally wanted the grain to be conspicuous for effect (grainy high contrast) as found in ISO 1600 stock or non existent (nearly)  as in ISO 50, Ilford PanF etc. Due to the onset of digital capture the diversity of film stock has diminished and the choices of 15 years ago are no longer available.

The notes call for the demonstration of overt graininess in the image, using the texture of the grain to enhance the image. The grain being particularly evident from small formats such as 35mm when enlarged beyond 20"x16" prints. The use of texture and the grain can be achieved using film and scanning or delivered by totally digital capture. Using digital alone there are two methods. Firstly to up the ISO at time of capture. This will increase the digital noise and simulate grain especially when converted to monochrome. The effect is less than satisfactory when used with colour as there is a tendency for the noise to shift the colour. The second method with more control is the application of grain within the post processing. CS5 has tools for this (Filter > Artistic > Film Grain) or one of the PS plug ins (Alien Skin Exposure or Nik Software Silver Efex Pro).

I no longer have a small format film camera to demonstrate grain and for for this exercise I am showing my preferred method of achieving this effect using Adobe CS5 and Silver Efex Pro.


An image taken at ISO 400 with a long lens (850mm) that has not worked too well in its current guise as a colour image. The late evening light is a difficult yellow and the prospects for the image are minimal.

Stage 1 - The Sky

Stage 1. Open in CS5 with SEP plug in and apply a Kodak P3200 TMax film for the sky and apply a blue filter to increase the contrast of the grain within the sky. I do not want the high contrast over the entire image. SEP is applied to a layer. Alt + Add Layer Mask Icon adds a black mask (the monochrome conversion will disappear) and using a soft brush with the white colour paint back in the area of the sky where the high contrast grain is required. Flatten Layers.

Stage 2 - 1st Conversion
Stage 2. As Stage 1 without the Blue Filter. The Mask is now only applied to the ground below the skyline. Paint in the foreground conversion. Flatten Layers.

Stage 3 - Lighten Mid Tones

Stage 3. Improve Tonal Range. Control + J to create a layer. Make a curves adjustment that lightens only the mid distance tones (small adjustment). Create a layer mask Alt + Add layer mask icon and with white brush set to 50% opacity lighten the mid greys. If over applied change to black brush and undo.

Stage 3A - Re cropped

Stage 3A. Remove the light strip at the bottom of the image with cropping.

Stage 4 - Add Contrast

Stage 4 - Add Contrast to the sky with an S Curve inside lasso area with 100px feather. Small amounts of Dodge and Burn to complete.