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Thread: Adjacent Tones

  1. #1

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    Adjacent Tones

    In this thread on TMAX film, it was pointed out that one of my photos showed a nice control of tones, and I was asked twice to discuss my scanning method in detail.

    My scanning method is pretty much like everyone else's - and like the rest of us, I only show the photos that look nice, and toss out the duds.

    My teacher imparted two basic lessons to which I have always returned. They are really two sides of the same coin. One is: observe how tones change, depending on neighboring tones. The other is: find the most visually delightful part of the image, and don't bother to photograph the rest.

    Here is an example of the first principle.

    The original photo:


    A modified photo: In Photoshop, I selected the background shade, and lightened it to something else. Nothing else has changed. Please overlook my clumsy use of the "magic wand" tool.


    Now the flowers look much more dull. No burning or dodging. No adjustment curves. The whole photo is just... blah.

    I don't own any lights: I shoot next to the dining room window, and in this image, you can tell that the light is pretty mediocre... or is it ?
    Last edited by Ken Lee; 15-Apr-2018 at 08:58.

  2. #2
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Adjacent Tones

    Nice example. How we perceive tone is dependent partially on the surrounding tones for sure. A similar issue is paper white. Perceived dynamic range in a carbon ink print can be enhanced by creating a white border around the image area and filling it with a 2% gray. This brings the "surrounding" paper slighty below the tiny pure white highlight areas in the print and makes the whole dynamic range pop. This fill area needs to be large enough that your window mat will cover the edge and then if you use a natural white mat as opposed to a bright white, the whole image really pops.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 70:
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  3. #3
    tim atherton's Avatar
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    Re: Adjacent Tones

    here's a good demonstration of adjacent tones

    http://web.mit.edu/persci/people/ade..._illusion.html
    You'd be amazed how small the demand is for pictures of trees... - Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn

    www.photo-muse.blogspot.com blog

  4. #4
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    Re: Adjacent Tones

    Very nice point. Also very relevant for web display, where the effects of the surround can be even more extreme because a pure white is a backlit white that can be overwhelming.

  5. #5

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    Re: Adjacent Tones

    John Sexton does a nice demonstration of this phenomenon in his workshops. His basic point, which is the same as yours, is that you don't always have to dodge something to make it brighter or burn something to make it darker, it will appear brighter or darker if you darken or lighten the area surrounding it.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  6. #6

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    Re: Adjacent Tones

    Thanks for that link Tim.

  7. #7

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    Re: Adjacent Tones

    Like adjacent colors, adjacent tones are a bit like chords in music: each combination has its own quality.

    We have all seen photos that are technically perfect - they accommodate and render the Zones or the SBR perfectly - but there is just no music.

    So control of tones is important, but the key element is selecting the right subject: it has to be beautiful. Sounds easy, doesn't it.

  8. #8
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Re: Adjacent Tones

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Lee View Post
    Sounds easy, doesn't it.
    Sometimes it is easy. Most times it's just amazingly difficult.

    Bruce Watson

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