John’s Recon

January 24, 2010

It’s Either Black or White

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 1:12 pm

I started a graphics art class this last week, 2-D Design. Yes, this lifetime engineer is taking art. The point is to take more interesting pictures by understanding how people perceive and process images. Our first project is a screen printing of a two tone image. By two tones I mean full black and full white or full background color and full single ink color. We are going to take pictures this next Thursday to work on (or you can do your own artwork if you have some). Oh Boy this is where I can shine … Uh Oh, I will be in 4 feet of snow in Flagstaff Arizona for this. I’m missing the only photographic part of the class. So with no instructor to guide my eye … I will be on my own for source material. No problem from what I am hearing from the in-laws … they have white up to their ears … might be a problem to find some black though. I guess the Grand Canyon is out for a side trip … probably full of snow anyway.

Just black and white with nothing in between is significantly less information to convey in a picture … kind of like having to answer just yes or no in the courtroom. I decided to take all day Saturday and train my eye for seeing a shot with so little information. I used the “Threshold” capability in Photoshop on the pictures I took since I retired last February … a year’s worth, almost. I put them in a separate set here. As you can see, you can get shades if you use black and white dots … I don’t think we get to use much of these. So what did I learn from this? What did I train my eye to see? What am I going to look for?

With so little information you are relying on the brain to make the image … strong lines and recognizable structures work. Leading lines work but scenery as a whole doesn’t since most of it is shading and doesn’t synchronize with the same threshold (just confusing). I had pictures where you are standing on a cliff or looking down a path deep into a forest and these didn’t work at all. In fact, you can not perceive depth unless you have something in the picture with very strong leading lines to make it so. Sky for the most part just doesn’t cut it both because it is different light shades and clouds really screw up. Huge contrasts across the subject will work but only if it isn’t blotchy and only if it is helping to outline something. Nothing else in the photo will coincidentally be at the same light value as your subject so will get lobotomized and detract from the image … thus simple images without a lot of other stuff to worry about messing up is probably best. Glint, blacks and detail in shade which are usually problems are not a problem since they disappear into either black or white.

Generally … something simple with lots of light variation or contrasts especially along edges that define shapes. Try some of this thresholding on your pictures, you will like it. If you like one of my pictures you can go to it directly to it at my flickr site to see the original. Here is the link to just this folder/set, Art Thresholded 2 Tone. You can click one of the thumbnails and enter into the picture …you will also see that it belongs to the original set it came from so you can drill down to see that picture too. OR just remember the number and search for it directly.

I’m ready to do some shooting … now for a warm coat.

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