Show time once more, in an exhibit focused on art based around water. I’ve brought back one of my favorite Missouri Capitol works (Shadow Of A Doubt) and produced a new work based on a bayside cityscape with futuristic architecture (City Aside A Warm Sea) that I chose to keep small (5x7) and give a big, expensive pewter frame. But I wanted to take some time discussing the transformation of a much older capture I’ve chosen to simply title ‘The Landing’.
I love exhibiting in galleries, and I love exhibiting in metal. Metal is simply the gold standard of two-dimensional mediums – nothing has greater luminosity. But metal is also expensive to produce, and it’s not always practical to produce everything I want to exhibit in metal. (Reminder: I will produce any work on photo paper if that’s the way the buyer wants it, I just won’t guarantee exclusivity as I do with metal works).
‘The Landing’ dates to my days in Peace Corps on the island of Saint Vincent. Leeward coast, way up close to the volcano, I came across these boats and captured one of my favorite images with my Minolta XG-M on Kodachrome slide film. It’s straight, traditional photography, and I dearly wanted to produce it for this exhibition. But when I pulled it up on my computer to prepare an inkjet print I discovered a problem.
Slide film is tiny – about an inch wide. When I scanned it and brought it into the digital world years ago I was able to maintain good color and clarity, but at the expense of tremendous graininess, and there on my computer I could easily see the lines of pixels prevalent even at high resolution. I knew it was simply not appropriate for exhibition.
Not unless I could fix it.
I started by bringing the capture into Camera RAW to turn down the clarity. Then I applied a texturing filter I knew would smooth out the pixels. Here’s a trick: Filtering has a profound affect at lower resolution and is more subtile at high resolution. By resizing the capture to a high resolution and turning down the filter to a low scale I was able to obscure the pixel lines without adding overt brush strokes. Then back to RAW for more clarity work, and finally an edging filter to increase the definition of the objects. Lastly, I determined that the scanning process had also added blue to what is supposed to be a volcanic black sand beach, so some final color correction on the sand was necessary.
The image below compares the initial capture (right) to the final work (left). Arguably, I’ve lost a great deal of detail in the beach – few of the many stones present in the original are still discernable in the final. But the graininess and rough pixelating of the original are also gone. The work on the left is much softer, more dreamlike, and appropriate for exhibiting. The original capture was made a decade-plus before digital photography at the consumer level existed - even the small reproduction below reveals the lines and pixelization in it. The work on the left owes its existence to the advent of computers and photographic enhancement software, and is now on exhibit for your dining and dancing pleasure. Time marches on.
A slight sidebar on economics. The flier above lists the price of ‘The Landing’ at $55. Of that, the gallery will take a 25% cut – that takes me to about $41. My costs were $20 for the frame, plus figure $6-$8 bucks for the ink and a couple sheets of photographic paper. Once it sells, I’ll make about $14 bucks. It took me hours to transform the image to make it appropriate for exhibition, and another hour-plus as I struggled with a paper jam, then matted and framed the work. That doesn’t include time spent years ago in capturing and scanning the original, or the costs for developing the original Kodachrome.
Love for one’s art is the only reason to do any of this. The term ‘starving artist’ exists for a reason.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.