Monday, 5 April 2010

Playing with photos

I haven't been blogging much lately, becaue I haven't been marvellously creative. Most of my time and energy has gone into The Maharajah's Garden, the travelling suitcase exhibition for ATASDA. The two suitcases of textile artworks, Saffron and Jasmine, will travel all over Australia from March 2010-March 2012, visiting schools, groups and galleries, for no more than the cost of onward registered postage. There's more information, and hopefully soon some images of works, on the ATASDA web page.
However, I thought I'd share some images I prepared for the Fibrecircle group recently. For a long time, our list of things to try has included manipulating photos on the computer to use in our textile art. That's something that's a bit difficult to work on in a group situation, so I made us a little sheet showing some of the effects you can get with the same image, using effects that are found in most graphics programs.
The base image is a view taken at Fountains Abbey, UK in 1995. The second image shows that original image Inverted. Inversion on a black and white image puts the darks where the lights were, and vice versa - like a photographic negative. On a coloured image, it also inverts the colours to their opposites on the colour wheel. Here the greenish shades of the original have become purple. The third image shows the original image Posterised. Posterising an image cuts down on the number of tones, making it more flat and poster-like. You can see in the image the various tones in the original have changed to green, grey, yellow, black and white. I really like Posterising images, because it really changes the mood so effectively! It's also a fun way to see what's really there. Sometimes our eyes get hung up on the detail of an image, and Posterising really cuts to the chase.
While we're playing with Posterising, it's often quite interesting to Invert, then Posterise. In these images, the photo was inverted, as in the second previous image, and then Posterised with different settings, emphasising different tones.
I mentioned black and white images. This is the same image converted to black and white, using different levels. The third image is the first one Inverted. You can see that playing with the settings of the conversion gives quite different moods and emphasises different elements of the photo. Inverting the black and white image changes where the light falls. I find converting to black and white is often a useful step, if I want to take shapes from an image. It seems to clarify things, and often is a good intermediate step in changing a photo to a line drawing.
Most graphics programs are designed to improve not-very-good photos! So you usually have some means of correcting exposure. Playig with exposure settings can also significantly change the photos you want to use in your art. You can often set a light source, and of course over- or under-expose to create a mood. The first image above had a light source set at the actual light source (the door at the end), while the other two were over- and under-exposed.
Most programs have a number of distortion options. These are just a few - the best bet is  to play with your software and see what you can do with it. These are Ripple, Distorting upwards (you can go in any direction), Blast or wind effects (and the same image Inverted), Wind effects Posterised, and Faceted. Ripple and Faceted look rather like water reflections - or as if your image is about to disappear!
The first three images here use the Emboss function, which is found in most programs. It changes the image to look like a low relief. By itself, it's pretty boring but if you Posterise it as well (two different settings shown here), it really emphasises the shadows of the embossed image. The images in the second row show Tiled (or Puzzle) images, with different values of disruption. I haven't found a way to use this function in my textile art yet (other than patchwork) but it's interesting!
These images show various kinds of blur. Gaussian blur, Motion blur, Motion blur Posterised, Zoom blur with the focus above the light source, Zoom blur  with the focus below the light course and Zoom blur with a narrower focus, off centre left. I like the way that the door at the end becomes ambiguous - perhaps a figure?
These images play with the Equalize function. Basically, it's a brightness adjustment, that changes all the bright areas of your image to the same level. The first image has been Equalized, the second Equalized and Inverted, the third Equalized and Posterised, to further flatten the image. Compare the third image here to the third one in the first set of images, which was simply Posterised. Different effect, isn't it? If you were going to emphasise the two images with stitch, you'd take them along different paths.
Last of all, changes in hue can really affect the mood of your image. The first has the hue manipulated, the second has changes in both the hue and the saturation and the third in hue and exposure. Each has its own mood.

This is just a quick gallop though some common possibilities. It really isn't a substitute to playing with your software to see what you can achieve. But keep in mind, you can spend hours playing with images like this, but how useful is it if you don't take that next step and actually print one out to work with?