Thursday, June 21, 2007

Full Range Of Tones? Not Always

Two days ago I posted the image of a windshield, covered in raindrops and rivulets and vaguely showing the outline of the car interior. The first version of the image was almost straight, a little bit of Akvis Enhancer is all (ie. applied then faded back). I made my first print, then the next day decided it was too dark and I should zip it up a little bit. My first thought was to check to see how close to white I had got the highights and so I applied my threshold 250 layer on top of the image and not a single pixel reached that level - there was going to be NO white anywhere on the print. I then added a curves layer below the threshold layer (see Outback Photo for my article on using threshold layers to check highlights and shadows) and moved the white limit to the left until a few pixels hit the 250 mark - it took a lot of adjustment suggesting that the lightest tone in this print is actually quite dark - zone VI, say. I could see from the histogram that comes with the curves adjustment layer that the shadows too were no where near black - so I tried moving the black point to the right to meet the curve. I made some adjustments to the curve - and hated the result - way too contrasty - you could see too much of the car insside - I'd lost all subtlety. I decided on a compromise - I'd adjust the highilght position but not the shadow, and use a curve to reduce contrast - and made another print.

After 24 hours I realize that that print lacks the subtlety of the original image and that in fact I didn't need or want either a solid black or a solid white for this image.

Unusual? Sure it is, but the point is that rules like always having a full range of tones is like every other photographic rule - sometimes it's meant to be broken, in this case smashed entirely.

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