View Full Version : Petroglyphs

Kevin Crisp
22-Feb-2017, 11:31
I have an assignment to photograph some this weekend, the prints are for a conference room. B&W.

They are pecked out of the patina on typical basalt outcroppings. The difference between the light figures and the dark rock patina isn't (when measured) quite so much as you'd think looking at them. The basalt patina is very dark brown, in some cases I think it has a little muddy red in it, but it is subtle. The pecked out parts are just a lighter brown.

So filter suggestions to bring out the light figures and make them stand out? Blue filter? Green filter? If you just boost contrast when printing the other parts of the rock get too granular in appearance for me.


Michael Rosenberg
22-Feb-2017, 12:12
The difference is 2/3 of a stop, so no not much difference. No filter is going to give you that much of a difference. Are you using film or digital? If film you could PM me for some tech pan. Other strategies are a long exposure to get increased contrast, increasing development, and higher contrast paper. I have used all of these.

You could also try contacting Don Kirby with this question.


Leszek Vogt
22-Feb-2017, 12:46
Not sure where you are going to take those images, but V. of Fire is quite accessible for this (not perfect)....near Canyonlands is another option. You could easily improvise the lighting....a bright flashlight or video light (on batt) on the stick....and you can record it w/digital to see how many seconds is enough. That will also give you a clue where the light should pointed for the best effect.


22-Feb-2017, 13:03
Definitely work out an exposure that allows long development for higher contrast.

Michael Clark
22-Feb-2017, 15:08
Just thinking about lith printing and solarization , Bob Carney has made some beautiful prints using these and other techniques.

Eric Woodbury
22-Feb-2017, 16:15
Have you studied John Wimberley's work on this? He designed a film developer, WD2H+, just for high contrast with FP4+ for use imaging petroglyphs. It gives up to N+4 development with good control.

Tech Pan is another route, but that film has been gone for a couple decades, so unless you have a freezer full.... I'm using Ilford Ortho Plus now for my high contrast needs. It's very interesting film (although there seems to be a national shortage of it now), but I don't yet have its high contrast characteristics dialed in yet. Best of luck, EW

Mark Sampson
22-Feb-2017, 16:15
Are the petroglyphs incised into the rock? If so, raking light would help.

lab black
22-Feb-2017, 16:39
P.M. sent

22-Feb-2017, 16:51
I've had pretty good results shooting in color, scanning the transparencies, and fine-tuning the scans in photoshop with conversion to B&W. Some photoshop skills would be helpful.

neil poulsen
22-Feb-2017, 17:40
2nd John Wimberley. Very nice.

You may not have the time to experiment. But 'twere me, I might try popping the whites by selenium toning a negative with about a 1 to 5 (Se to H2O) solution.

I read that John Sexton Se tones his negatives. So, I gave it a try with a negative taken in a very low contrast, concrete room that had white "streaks" in the deteriorating walls. I couldn't get the whites to stand out like I wanted.

It worked beautifully.

23-Feb-2017, 08:42
Honestly, I'd use a digital camera where you can see your results right there, and adjust. If they don't request film, don't make it hard on yourself.


Kevin Crisp
23-Feb-2017, 11:33
Thanks for all your suggestions, I appreciate it.

Peter Gomena
23-Feb-2017, 14:26
There was someone documenting petroglyphs a few years ago. He was shooting at night with cross-polarized light. One light at a raking angle, polarized, a second polarizer on the lens. More documentary than art, but he was able to make them clearly visible.

23-Feb-2017, 18:44
Here's an example shot in color, converted to B&W in photoshop


Peter Gomena
24-Feb-2017, 13:13
Wow! That's incredible.

24-Feb-2017, 17:19
I wish I could take credit for it, but the artist is long gone. Another reason to run the images through Photoshop is that it makes it pretty easy to "erase" the bullet holes. Many of the easily accessible petroglyphs are all shot up.

28-Feb-2017, 10:28
You could also use Photoshop to compile many petroglyps into one shot. And put them on a different rock. Just kidding. I wouldn't make major changes to a shot like that, but that's me.

Kevin Crisp
28-Feb-2017, 10:33
Sorry to report I was unable to find the ones I was looking for last weekend. Maybe this weekend. A bit surprised to see how much larger the restricted 29 Palms military area is per abundant signage. The Delorme map has something very different.

Drew Bedo
5-Mar-2017, 08:31
Would strong side lighting be any help? What about post processing?