Archive for November 2008

Photography and recharging the creative batteries

November 3, 2008

First, my apologies for not posting for so long; about a three weeks ago I had cervical spinal surgery and I have been  moving a bit slowly. Also, apologies for the typos, my right hand is not back to normal yet and, unfortunately, I have not yet learned to type left handed, though that might be  a useful skill to work on.

The past few days I’ve had a chance to get back in the field and make pictures while teaching a photography workshop in the North Carolina Outer Banks. We had an enthusiastic group of participants from across the country and from Canada, and they managed to get up before dawn every day and work until way past dark. It’s amazing, and sometimes scary,  what people can create when they have been deprived of sleep for three or four days. I’m thinking of doing a study of how creativity is enhanced by depriving creative people of sleep for long periods of time. Let me know if you would like to volunteer, and I’ll refer you to a competent psychiatrist for an evaluation before you are committed to an asylum!

The workshop is part of a series I teach with two other talented photographers as part of the Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures. We teach workshops across the country, helping photographers hone their skills, especially their ability to see beyond the ordinary and create extraordinary images. Then, we teach the basics of color-managed workflow so our participants can control color reproduction from the camera through the computer to the printer and create prints that match the images they see on their computer monitors.  Everyone goes home with a big digital print made on site of an image they created and worked on during the workshop.

Sometimes there is no better reward than seeing a student have that “Aha!” moment when they have made a breakthrough and learned something new. Well, I have to amend that; NOTHING is better than good Champagne, fois gras and Cote D’or dark chocolate, and what often follows when two consenting adults indulge in these wonderful things.

The weather was perfect and we were able to take our people to some of our favorite spots to experience the glory of the sun rising from the Atlantic Ocean and painting the dunes, and to work with the exquisite afterglow that remains when the sun has set but its light is still reflected from the immense dome of the sky. Having a few picturesque lighthouses as subjects didn’t hurt, either.

We had a great time working with our participants and we hope they had just as good a time working with us. If not, please send complaints to the Dead Letter Office of the US Post Office.

Since I try to talk about photographic issues with each entry, I will return to the subject of creative black and white digital printing. In an earlier post, I covered an alternative way to create quality B&W conversions in Adobe Lightroom; today we talk about creating Duotones and Quadtones in Adobe Photoshop CS3. One of the best ways I know to create lush, rich B&W prints is by changing them into Duotones or Quadtones. A Duotone combines a second color with black to subtly enhance the image and, particularly, the feeling of depth of tone. A Quadtone combines four inks to do achieve a similar effect, but usually with added subtlety and impact. I use this technique often on my web site.

How can you do this in Photoshop? First, convert your image to Grayscale if it is color with the Image>Mode menu setting (I would create a copy first so you can always preserve the original). Then, again under the Image>Mode setting,  select Duotone. A Duotone Options dialogue box will open, showing the inks and contrast curves Photoshop has pre-set for duotones. While you can go in and change all of these parameters, Adobe has done a pretty good job of choosing ink colors and setting up curves, so you might want to use their choices to learn the process before experimenting.

There is also a drop down box in the Dialogue box that also lets you choose Tritones and Quadtones, and a “Load” radio button on the right side of the box that lets you select and load in other combinatons.

You may have to hunt for the folder where Adobe has hidden the Duotone and Quadtone curves; in my PC copy of CS3 the path is: Program files>Adobe Photoshop CS3>Presets>Duotones, where you should find separate folders for Duotones, Tritones and Quadtones.  Experiment with them to see if you like the results. Remember, if you change parameters and come up with something good you can save your changes as a Preset in the Dialogue box. Convert your image files back to RGB to preview them in Photoshop’s Softproof feature or the print them with an RGB printer. Most inkjet printers are set up to print RGB images.

Well, I feel the need for more heavy drugs and a short nap, so I will stop, but have fun with Quadtones and let me know what you think.