Contrast & Vision – Part 1

Some essentials related to contrast and human vision. Important to understand how this affects your images and, in turn, a viewer’s perception of your images.

Understanding the nature of light

Is essential to understanding contrast

Understanding the role of contrast in human vision

Is essential to understanding how (& what) we see

And so we begin….

Click to enlarge for detail

6-4-2013 1-22-23 PM

 Top Row: Color Capture ….. B&W Capture

Bottom: Capture with Enhanced Contrast

Without increased contrast, the texture is nearly invisible

The camera captured it, but it took added contrast to bring it out

If you want to show texture, tonal contrast is needed


What do our eyes see?

Our eyes see light & its components which include

Color and

Tone (brightness)

They are receptors for visual stimuli


What happens to the signal received by our eyes?

It is sent to the brain for processing

The combination of eyes + brain = the vision system

Flaws in either part will affect what we “see”

Eye: A common “eye flaw” leads to color blindness

Brain: Dyslexia is a problem originating in the brain

Skipping one or two small details 😉

The brain relies almost totally on contrast

To complete our vision (seeing)

If there is no contrast for our eyes to discern

The brain will not “detect” anything and

We will see nothing

The better the contrast, the better we see


Is everyone’s vision system the same?

Not everyone sees (interprets)

Identical colors or tones to be the same as the next person sees

(and your dog sees everything in black & white)

The point is that there is no “one single color & tone”

When it comes to what human vision (eye + brain)  “sees”

Even when presented with identical stimuli

It’s important to realize that not everyone will see your image

as you saw or captured it

Don’t assume that they do

(And that doesn’t even consider the role of emotion)

It’s a common joke about referees being blind

How about color-blind photo judges?


Even you, as an individual, will misjudge colors and tones

Depending on their physical surround

Further, you will respond differently to the same image

from time to time, depending things like

Your mood, your culture, ….

———————————

Do the two reds “look” the same? The greens?

(Apologies to those who are color blind)

They are the 100% identical, but appear to be different because of the

Contrast difference (B&W) of the surrounding space

6-3-2013 11-14-46 AM

———————————

Is the tone (brightness) of all three ovals the same?

Again, as in the above color example –

They are identical in tone, but appear to be different because of the

Contrast difference (B&W) of the surrounding space

6-3-2013 11-22-24 AM

Are you beginning to think – Contrast really makes a difference!

It does and may be the most important difference between a good & great image


The examples suggest that there are (at least) two forms of contrast –

Color contrast

Tonal contrast

(as well as absolute & relative contrast)

Which makes a good stopping point and segue to tomorrow’s post


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Out-of-Frame Technique #2

Today’s OOF example may look similar to the previous two, but the technique used to create it is completely different. The earlier example depended on post-processing, but today’s was done entirely in-camera.

Orchids – Up & Out of the Frame

D300_090605_121453__DSC6141_nx pwp warp pse5 canvas extend


Remember this one; I’ll come back to it

Used a totally different technique from the Dogwood Lane examples

I’ll describe out-of-frame techniques next week


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Out-of-Frame Technique #2

Today’s OOF example may look similar to the previous two, but the technique used to create it is completely different. The earlier example depended on post-processing, but today’s was done entirely in-camera.

Orchids – Up & Out of the Frame

D300_090605_121453__DSC6141_nx pwp warp pse5 canvas extend


Remember this one; I’ll come back to it

Used a totally different technique from the Dogwood Lane examples

I’ll describe out-of-frame techniques next week


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Variation on the OOF Theme

OOFOut-of-Frame, has almost endless uses. Before exploring further, here’s a variation on yesterday’s subject, Dogwood Lane.

Dogwood Lane

State Arboretum of Virginia

D300_090430_090954__DSC0009_nx oof nx


As a reminder, here is yesterday’s

file1


Today’s variation features the dogwood blossoms

Yesterday was more about the lane – in fact, the end of the OOF branch leads the eye directly to the lane proper where the lane itself takes the viewer through the scene

A message – work a scene – don’t take a shot and move on


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Getting Out-of-the-Frame

Trompe-l’œil (French for “deceive the eye“) is  style of painting in which things are painted in a way that makes them look like real objects. My photo version, I call it Out-of-Frame, uses a seemingly real frame (or matte) from which the photo’s subject is “escaping”. An example follows; a how-to and more illustrations will follow over the next week.

Dogwood Lane

State Arboretum of Virginia

Click image to enlarge

file1


That “escaping” branch is not a separate image pasted on to the background portion. It is part of the total image as captured with a wide-angle lens and careful focus to ensure every part of the image from the nearest petals and twigs through to the far end of Dogwood Lane are in sharp focus.

The illusion includes the appearance of beveling & texture for the matte. Also, note the faux-shadow of the branch on the bottom part of the matte. In a competition, the judge got out of his chair and examined this closely – with his fingers as well as his eyes. Entered in a club’s “altered-image” (aka Photoshop) category.


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Making the Frame Fit the Subject

If you can find a frame that repeats the story told by the subject, it’s probably a good frame. Tomorrow – getting out of the frame via “trompe l’oeil”.

National Cathedral, Washington DC

Several weeks after I made this shot

A nearly identical image appeared in a major newspaper

 

Nothing of the subject is lost by covering parts of it with this frame

We know exactly what’s under the frame; the same as we see through its window

This frame adds more to the scene than we would have without it


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Framing With No Obvious Frame

Often an effective frame is created just from light and toning. Vignettes are an example. Today’s post lists several benefits that framing provides to your image’s composition. The illustration that follows achieves most of these benefits without the use of anything that is a frame in the conventional sense – but it’s a frame nevertheless when it comes to image composition.

Compositional benefits of frames:

  • Draws the eye to the subject
  • Keeps it there longer by creating a divider between the subject and its surrounding context
  • Adds depth to the image
  • Provides context

Civil War Reenactment

Not a posed shot

Capturing a post-breakfast moment from down low inside the cook’s tent

There’s no question as to the subject

The frame (tonal contrast and focus) is there though invisible in the normal sense

The frame both highlights the subject and, also, provides context and depth

An example where placing the subject in the center works

The contents of the perimeter (frame) complete the story of this moment

One of the less than 1-in-a-1000 of my images containing people


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