Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Art of Architectural Photography: Pueblo Bonito Ruins

I was working on a file of an art print for a client today and I thought the transformation would be instructive. The top is the original scan and the bottom is the finished file. "The Memory of Form", Pueblo Bonito, New Mexico 1984 (shot on 4x5 Tri-X with a #15 orange filter, developed in HC 110, scanned on an Imacon 949).

The manipulations involved are to make the print represent my feelings about the scene beyond what the scene looked like. The manipulations add drama, depth and balance to the print.

For the final print the sky has been darkened and contrast added with a double softlight gradient which has been sculpted in the layer mask to fit around the escapement. The tone and value of the ruins in the foreground have been lowered with a curve adjustment layer (sculpted in the layer mask to fit the top edge of the ruins) to separate it from the canyon wall. The bottom right hand corner has been burned in with an art history brush (linear burn mode) from a snapshot. Some additional local enhancement of the tones in the clouds and sandstone were done in this same manner. The final file has 6 adjustment layers.

For years I produced a similar traditional silver print by careful burning and dodging on graded papers like Zone VI Brilliant (see below). But with digital printing I can get the midtone contrast I like while preserving better shadow detail. Thisprint will be available this fall at the Albuquerque Museum special 2009 Minatures Show.

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