Intimate Images of Sandstone

The Gualala formation’s layered sandstone continues to fascinate me. This formation is exposed along the ocean bluffs in the northern half of The Sea Ranch. Low-angle winter light or morning and evening light in other seasons really highlights the texture of the sandstone; shadows in the seams and cracks add to the abstract nature of these images.

Increasingly, I have turned to Google’s (formerly Nik Software) Silver Efex Pro II software to convert an image from color to monochrome. I especially like the “control point” technology for selecting portions of an image for local adjustment to contrast and so on. Control points are far easier and faster to use than are Adobe Photoshop selections. In my experience, control points tend to leave a much more natural feathering of applied affects.

In the digital darkroom we can enhance local contrast in an image, either globally or in selectively. Different software packages use different names for tools that address local contrast. Google Silver Efex calls the adjustment “structure,” Adobe Lightroom uses the term “clarity,” while in Adobe Photoshop one applies an “unsharp mask”. Increasing local contrast helps to bring out the texture in an image and is especially useful for texture-rich subjects like sandstone. As with all image processing, it is easy to over-do-it and one has to learn to back-off or leave telltale artifacts in the final image.

The analog darkroom also has tools for managing local contrast but they involve an inter-negative and are quite difficult to apply. Few have mastered the technique though those who have such as Christopher Burkett produce stunning images. See my Links page.

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