Posts from Sunil and from Jay have described their use of Photoshop manipulations. So I thought I’d show a bit of what happens — or could happen — to one of my images when I process it. To keep it simple, I’ll discuss a single photograph taken last weekend, a close view of a portion of frozen Lost Creek Falls in Yellowstone. Above is the “straight” version, i.e. how it looks when the simplest possible treatment with “no” adjustments is applied. The lighting from the partly blue sky gives it the bluish cast. My usual conversion to black and white, with contrast and brightness adjustment (“curves”) yields the result below. By “usual” I mean usual approach; the actual adjustments are different for each image.


I like the above for its abstract qualities, the interaction of dark and light tones. But, at the same time, it remains quite representational, clearly a picture of ice and snow. If I were to greatly increase the contrast, I would get a much more abstract composition of black and white, with only a little gray:


This immediately reminded me of Sunil’s recent drawing, especially if I rotate it:


On the other hand, lesser contrast gives an intermediate level of abstraction. Playing around with such versions may lead me to see an image in a new way.


But for now, I’ll go back to my usual and experiment with a bit of tinting, in this case reddish in the dark areas and bluish in the midtones. The version below is exaggerated in color saturation; I usually prefer a level of toning that you might not be aware of at all, but that would probably have an impact on your response to the image.


Traditional photographic “abstracts” are typically of quite small areas. The image above can be cropped in many ways; here’s one that emphasizes mostly the midtones and the shapes and texture of the ice.


Aside from the removal of the slight natural coloration or the slight tinting, the adjustments made are only in the choice of how dark or light to make different levels of brightness in the original scene. Nothing peculiar such as solarization (reversing part of the grayscale) was done. Of interest to me in this exercise is the possibility of controlling the level of abstraction in a simple way. This example may not have been the best, it’s simply one I was looking at very recently that seemed appropriate to experiment with. Do you have a preference for any particular version? Or ideas of other treatments that might appeal to you?