Postprocessing Those Historic Buildings: A Lesson Learned

BL DSC-1707 Top Hvy pop grunge

Recently I posted about my experiences in shooting and postprocessing images of some historic buildings in Rhode Island, choosing images of two different sites for examples. One building, the Bradford Soap Factory, is still in use for its original purpose; the other, the Royal Mills, has been converted from its previous industrial use to a block of residential apartments. What they have in common, however, is that both are in essentially urban settings and are still in use. This enabled me to be quite consistent in my postprocessing; in each case it was the same preset in Topaz Adjust 5 and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 that I could use with effect for color and monochrome versions respectively.

That changed when I went to process two other sets of images. One was from the same Rhode Island shoot — the “decrepit” (to use the Providence Journal‘s word) Hope Mill in Scituate — and the other from one of my frequent and recent trips to the Northern Catskills, home of many hotels and resorts that went bust — this time a resort called Villa Maria that occupies an extensive property in Haines Falls. These two sites also have two things in common: they’re not in urban settings and they’ve not been kept up. This means an awful lot of overgrowth with grass, greenery, and, in the case of the Haines Falls site, plenty of goldenrod.

BL DSC -1710 Top Hvy Pop SmoothSo, when I tried to process the Hope Mill images, I quickly realized that the same Topaz Adjust preset wasn’t going to work for the color: the greenery — and there was plenty of it — was undersaturated and the results were rather lifeless. I used different presets (again in Topaz Adjust) that worked for the Hope Mill images, and for the monochrome could continue with the same preset in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. The one at the top of this post was done with Heavy Pop Grunge; the greenery isn’t that overwhelming and the preset brings out the detail in the building nicely.  For the image at the left, however, it had to be Heavy Pop Smooth — thus, similar but without the level of detail that would have caused the greenery to overwhelm the building. In both cases, the Heavy Pop brightened up the grass and the sky.

Villa Maria was a different story. For one thing, this isn’t one building but a variety of buildings. Also, there was quite a bit more overgrowth. Here’s the problem: I often like to show a lot of detail — structure — in these photographs, on the buildings themselves. But use a high-structure preset where there’s lots of grass and weeds overgrowth and the pictures looks too messy, too busy.

What to do? Basically, I separated these images into two types — the ones in which the building prevailed and those in which the overgrowth prevailed — and processed accordingly, again using Topaz Adjust presets (as yet I haven’t processed these in monochrome). Here are some results. Oh, and before I forget: This post could end up being another in my “Do It Now” series: My friend Bill Patenaude sent me an article from the Providence Journal reporting on a Connecticut developer who wants to take over the Hope Mill and give it a similar sort of treatment to the Royal Mills. And I understand (this is anecdotal from someone local in Haines Falls, I have no written source) that someone has bought the Villa Maria site. So, photograph these places while you have the chance … you never know when they’ll change, or even disappear.

Close-up of bjuilding. minimal greenery, thus a more detailed treatment was possible.

Close-up of building. minimal greenery, thus a more detailed treatment was possible.

In a sense, this image breaks the rules I've just established. The grass, weeds, and trees really are the main subject, more than the building, so I let in some detail to highlight this.

In a sense, this image breaks the rules I’ve just established. The grass, weeds, and trees really are the main subject, more than the building, so I let in some detail to highlight this.

Villa Maria. Too much detail in all that shruibbery would have overwhelmed the building. I went with a somewhat softer look in which the color prevails. This somehow shows a harmony between the building and the green.

Villa Maria. Too much detail in all that shrubbery would have overwhelmed the building. I went with a somewhat softer look in which the color prevails. This somehow shows a harmony between the building and the green.

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“The Old Barn” Scores at Windham Art Fest

On Saturday I was fortunate to be able to participate in the annual Art Fest in beautiful, bucolic Windham, NY — a friendly, wonderful community of artists (painters, photographers, woodworkers, pottery makers) displaying their artworks for sale and enjoyment. For me it was an interesting lesson in taking risks: at the last moment I decided to include two photos among my fine art cards, thinking that no one would buy them, but, to my surprise, they were the first ones that sold — all the copies!  Here they are:

Cold Spring Resort, Tannersville, NY

Cold Spring Resort, Tannersville, NY

Mountain Top Historical Society HQ, Haines Falls, NY

Mountain Top Historical Society HQ, Haines Falls, NY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each participating artist was asked to donate one piece to the Silent Auction. My donation was a wood-framed, matted 11 x 14 titled Adirondack Barn, here renamed The Old Barn because I was afraid people wouldn’t be interested if they realized it wasn’t from the immediate area. It’s true, people like to buy local subjects. But not only did I sell two cards of it — it was also (in the organizer’s words) “the hit of the auction”! More tickets in my box than in any other. I’m so glad that someone is now enjoying The Old Barn, which is a personal favorite among my pictures. Here it is. If you’d like to purchase it for yourself, click the photo to get to my website.

The Old Barn

The Old Barn

My summer is crammed with more events — exhibitions and talks featuring my book Historic Hudson Valley. More about that in my next blog.

A Photogenic Diner

Diners are fun to photograph. I mean the ones with real local character, not those that tend all to look as if cut from the current trendy cloth for diner looks.

I had my eye on Selena’s Diner in the Catskill village of Haines Falls, New York for a while, and a few weeks ago, after leaving a reception for the Twilight Park Artists Show, where I had pictures on exhibit, I pulled in there quite on impulse to grab a light bite before the long drive through Kaaterskill Clove and down the Thruway. The timing couldn’t have been better; nor could the place where I chose to sit, because I was at one end of the oblong little building and the early evening sun was forming these long streaks of light that led my eye from my seat into and through the length of the diner. I had my discreet little Canon Powershot S95 with me and got several images. As I left, of course, I photographed the outside as well. Here is a selection of the images and how I processed them.

I began with Raw processing, as always, and here was fairly generous with the Contrast and Clarity sliders because I wanted to accentuate those sunshine-painted patterns.

In Photoshop I continued the processing with Nik Efex Pro’s ProContrast at 40%. I aimed to keep a reasonable unity of processing styles for this little series and was intending to use the Nik Tonal Contrast for them all, but it didn’t work for this one; this image needed a smoother look. Note how I deliberately included the placemat at the bottom of the picture to establish where this was!

Tonal Contrast from Nik Efex Pro brought out the different textures in this picture. I used Highlights 24, Midtones 30, Shadows 60 (excellent for defining the areas that otherwise might literally remain “in the dark,” and Saturation 20.

This one uses Nik Efex Pro’s Tonal Contrast with Highlights at 40, Midtones 50, and Shadow 62. Saturation 20. I never overdue saturation since I rather abhor that exaggerated eye-candy look so beloved of some.