Thursday, January 24, 2019


I'm doing something different this month. I'm going to take you to the digital lab, where you can have some creative fun playing around with what I call hybrid photo art, created with a combination of a camera and obvious software applications. 

This is about what we can do when we add just a touch of color to any image. It all begins with a color image, then deciding which parts will have some color and which parts will have no color--basically a black & white image effect. It can be a lot of fun, but not every image, every scene, every subject is conducive to this type of application.

I use this technique sparingly. There are primarily two reasons why I would ever do this, and these are: 1) To create a surreal effect, 2) To convey or illicit a message or thought. As you look at the following examples, ask yourself what message or thought resonates with you. 

There are a few steps I take to create this effect. There's nothing magical or novel about it, but it does require a few key steps. 

1) I first decide if an image might be conducive to this application. This step is totally subjective, so use your own creativity and decision-making here. The most often scenarios for me are when I sense a story, see surrealism, being in the present yet photographing something from the past, or if there is only a hint of color in the scene.

2) Once I make that decision, I then decide which parts I will convert to B&W and which portions I will retain as is. This step too is subjective--you be the judge of your own creation.

3) Once I make that decision, I use the Quick Selection tool to select the area in which I will retain color. I first let the tool make the selection as I'm guiding it along. I then zoom into the image so I can take a closer look at how accurately the quick selection tool made the selection. I make necessary adjustments to make sure it selected the area(s) I want. In some cases, to really fine-tune this step, I might use the Color Replacement tool to add color back in to a few missed small areas, or to convert a few missed small areas to B&W. Zooming in is critical for making those small but important refinements.

4) When I'm satisfied with my selection, I click on Selection, then Inverse. I am now working on the part of the image I don't want in color, then click on:
Image--->Adjustments-->Black & White. You can also click on Desaturate, but I prefer Black & White. 

As I move from one step to another I am always making other adjustments as needed--contrast, color, vibrance, etc. It's all subjective.

When I'm satisfied with the results, I save my "dash of color" image as a copy, always keeping the original image intact.           

So, with that introduction, this first example depicts a message I had when I created it. It is an old diner in downtown Denver, Colorado, Denver Diner, on Colfax Avenue. It's an iconic 1950's diner. I wondered what that old diner might have looked like if I had photographed it in 1959, juxtaposed against what it looks like today. I titled it "Now & Then." 

I saw this beautiful Lion Monument in Lucerne, Switzerland. Although I like the original image, there wasn't too much variance in color in the wet scene that day, except for one man's red umbrella. 

I see a few levels of surrealism in this scene: a stone lion in a park on a wet day; a European scene visited by primarily Asian visitors; the perfectly aligned cobble stones leading the eye to the lion. The red umbrella against a black and grey background added an additional layer of surrealism.

I discovered this place where they sell chilis, the kind used by Mexican restaurants in their salsas. The owners let me go inside and get some shots. There were tons of ristras, or arrangements of chilis hanging up to dry throughout the warehouse. I had fun photographing them.

When I looked at my images, a sense of surrealism swept over me. I came up with two renditions, each with its own interpretation. What message or feeling resonates with you when you see them? 


In my book, Right Brain Photography, now in its fourth edition, I talk about the role impermanence plays in the realm of photography. With that in mind, I saw this old, colorless long-abandoned house along Highway 62, between Eureka Springs and Rogers, Arkansas. It was around around Christmas time and someone had hung a beautiful large red bow above the remains of the front door. I saw surrealism, big time! 

This is the scene as seen with the naked eye.. As I state in my book, I see with my imagination, not my eyes.  

These last two examples are similar. They are both art related. The subject is Plein Air artists painting around one of the most historic towns in the U.S--Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
The idea that ran through my mind was modern-day painters painting buildings that could only be photographed in black & white during their heyday. Only the paintings and palettes are in modern-day color.

So, experiment and use your selective judgment as to what you'd like to do. Go back through your archives and see if you have any images conducive to this application--- abandoned cars or tractors, classic car shows, old barns and houses, florals, etc.

Have fun with it! E-mail me if you'd like to see any of the above photos "as shot."