Luminance adjustments

This is posted in response to Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge Lesson #24: Black & White Post-Editing. As in Cee’s post, I have four original colour photographs, each also converted ‘as is’ to Black & White and then edited simply by shifting just one colour slider.


This mosaic picture graces one of the underpasses on the Corniche road in Abu Dhabi. The straight conversion doesn’t really do much more than drain the life from the image…

…but reducing the Luminescence of the Green channel to zero brings it back:




This – obviously – is a windsock, to be found at the airstrip just outside nearby Blond. Any interest the image has is largely in the strong diagonal composition rather than the colours, but nonetheless it provides a useful example for the purpose of this post.

There is, effectively only one channel to adjust – the Red one. Reducing the Luminance simply darkened the colour, increasing the contrast and showing up a lot of grain. However, increasing the Red Luminance gives a far more attractive image, I think:




The orange and yellow paint of this residential block in the old part of Dubai is far more striking than its ‘as is’ monochrome conversion.


Increasing Yellow Luminance is an improvement, though:




This purple wisteria hanging over a wall in Chédigny is an attractive shade of purple, providing a pleasing contrast with the stone background, which is lost in the straight conversion:

However, reducing the Luminance of the Purple channel gives the image much greater ‘presence’.



Monochrome: Texture & Contrast

Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge has now reached Black & White and as a first stage is focussing on texture and contrast. Here are some images that incorporate both these key elements of monochrome images.

This camellia flower was actually a gorgeous shade of purple, but the monochrome brings out the texture of the leaves very well, while the greater contrast enhances the perception of detail at the heart of the flower :


This little imp sits on an electricity pylon, contrasting well with the texture of the concrete post, in the small hamlet of Bonnefont, quite close to here:


Monochrome also brings out the texture in these carvings from Chartres Cathedral….


…and the contrast in this dramatic skyscape



Guiding the viewer

The latest task in Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge is to guide the viewer: in other words, to compose your image so that the viewer focuses on what you want them to see within it, rather than be distracted or have their attention drawn away from what they ‘ought’ to be looking at.

Bright Spot

Bright Spot Before

The intended subject of this image, of a church interior in Rochechouart, is the decoration on the columns and walls on the left, but the eye can’t help but be drawn to the bright spot of the stained glass window on the right: so it has to go, leaving the focus of the image as it was intended:

Bright Spot After

The S Curve

A curved object in an image is almost always more interesting and attention-drawing than a straight line and, as Cee points out, it’s a common and perfectly respectable technique in pictures involving roads. Here are two images (the one on the right is a cropped version of the first) of light trails at the T-junction. Apart from eliminating the distractions of the vehicles stopped at the lights on the bottom left, the tighter crop’s curve also takes precedence in the eye over the otherwise intrusive angular traffic-light gantries.

Flipping The Horizon

Sometimes you take a photograph and it’s fine – except that you wish it could be the other way round – a mirror image. Of course, through the miracle of editing software it’s now very simple to get the image you want simply by flipping it. The two images below (taken just along the road on a sunny autumn day last year) are identical in every respect except that one is the mirror image of the other. Can you guess which was the original and – more to the point – which one do you prefer?

(Sometimes an image can also benefit from being flipped upside down, as I did recently in my contribution to the June One Photo Focus.)

Composition: Arabian Landscapes

The latest instalment of Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge calls for landscapes. Like many ‘generalist’ photographers, I take a lot of landscapes but for the purposes of this post I decided to confine myself to ones from the Arabian peninsula.

Taken in the desert outside the oasis city of Al Ain, this image has a strong leading line, while the rocks in the foreground provide perspective:


This was also taken just outside Al Ain. In terms of composition techniques, the road provides a diagonal, but, with camels grazing beneath electricity pylons, I like it as a metaphor for the entire country: modernising while trying to retain and respect tradition.


This third image was taken in a small bay near the city of Muscat, in Oman. Not all of the Arabian peninsula is covered in sand dunes, and in Oman the volcanic rock of the Hajar mountains provides an impressive backdrop to the beaches and cities. Technically, you have the rule of thirds and the parasols on the beach provide perspective, while the contrasting colours of the orange buoys in the blue sea are also a compositional feature:

Finally, two photographs taken on the nature reserve of Sir Bani Yas Island that feature all these compositional factors. On the left, another example of the same contrasting colours, while the slope of the hillside gives a diagonal and the two groups of antelope give perspective. On the right, a solitary oryx heads off into the sunset. The two pictures were taken at more or less the same time, towards sunset, and it’s interersting to see the difference in the quality of light depending on whether the sun is behind the camera or in front of it.

Composition: The Outtakes

We’re having what the French call a pause pour reflexion in Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge this time around. A time to think about the ground we’ve covered already and also an opportunity to show some images that didn’t quite make the cut for posting under the various topics that we’ve dealt with in the past months. Here’s a selection of mine:


Now, what is this a picture of? Is it the building on the right (the apartment block in Abu Dhabi where we lived for ten years)? Or is it the glass-plated building on the left? Or perhaps it’s the reflection of the former in the latter?


Diagonal Lines

I used an image of two giraffes in my first posting on the topic of diagonal lines, but I could equally have used this profile of a horse – one of many in the fields around here.


Now two images that cover more than one aspect of the various topics we’ve looked at so far:

Leading Lines & Analogous Colours

A hillside vineyard near the village of Ay, in the Champagne region  shows blue and green together, as well as leading lines


Geometry and Contrasting Colours

Orange and blue dominate this image of a seal at Taronga Zoo in Sydney. Obviously the balanced ball is one geometric shape but the curve of the seal’s body is like an arc of a circle.




For the latest step in Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge we are asked to consider the geometrical shapes within our images. Unusually, I had no problem finding potential candidates for inclusion in this selection. Quite the reverse, in fact, which is why, as an extra challenge, I confined myself to photographs that I took in Australia – mostly in and around Sydney – a few years ago.

This first image – of an upturned boat on the beach at Watson’s Bay, across the harbour from the city – contains multiple geometric shapes, in terms of both subject and composition:


Below are pairs of images featuring the most common geometric shapes. Hover over any picture for a (slightly) fuller comment.




Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge: Geometry

Contrasting colours

Well, I learned something today. Did you know that colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel, when mixed, produce black? There’s a fact to be added to the store of useless information.

However, on this occasion we’re not looking to mix opposing colours but to juxtapose them. Essentially there are three ‘pairs’ of opposing colours, so here are a couple of images of each set:

Red and Green

Two roses, the first from Monet’s Garden, the second from outside our own back door (this one hs a wonderful, heady scent. Madame’s grandmother had some of these in her own garden and it brings back happy memories).

Orange and Blue

Two photographs taken on the island of Burano, in the Venetian lagoon

Purple and Yellow

I had to get a bit creative here, as I don’t seem to have many images featuring this pairing in my library.

The first is an imposing building in Bruges, where the yellow detail on the columns contrasts with the indigo shade of the reflected sky in the windows. The second is a detail of a window display in a quilting supplies shop in Sarlat. The purple and yellow are among the threads at the top, in case you’re wondering.

Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge: Contrasting colours

Analogous Colours

The latest instalment in this thread calls for examples of analogous colours – in other words, ones that are adjacent on the colour wheel:


The most common mnemonic to help with remembering the ‘proper’ sequence of colours in the spectrum is ‘ROYGBIV’: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Here are some images that put together good neighbours.


Two examples here: a flower from Monet’s Garden in Giverny and a selection of flowering courgettes from the Rialto Market in Venice


A bright blue dragonfly on a green leaf (from my garden pond)



My grandson sitting at the top of a slide at his pirate-themed second birthday party



Finally, this is an electronic display in The Mall of The Emirates in Dubai. The colours actually cycle through the whole spectrum



Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge: Complimentary Colours

Colour basics

Cee’s Composition Challenge has now moved on to colour basics (I’m sorry; I just can’t bring myself to spell colour without the ‘u’), beginning with the difference between the warm and cool ends of the spectrum.


To begin with, two cool images from the United Arab Emirates; on the left, a mosaic ceiling panel from Wafi Mall in Dubai, while on the right is part of the landmark blue glass-plated façade  of the Bainunah Hilton on the Corniche in Abu Dhabi.


By contrast, two notably warmer images: on the left, my grandson crawling through a brightly coloured tunnel in a childrens’ playground in Abu Dhabi. On the right a bunch of flowers from a table in the music room of Chateau d’Amboise.

Finally, two pictures, one warm and one cool. These were taken at the entrance to a cafe in a shopping mall near Circular Quay in Sydney. They are two individual images, as shot, illustrating that the same view of the same subject could be either warm or cool, depending on the light.

Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge: Color (sic) Basics


There aren’t many photographs I take that don’t go unedited – especially those that make their way onto this blog – and almost all of those begin with cropping (and straightening where necessary, of course). I agree with Cee very strongly on the importance of cropping: as she writes, it can make a mediocre photo good and a good one great.

(NB: The images in this post have only been cropped, with no other post-processing. In this way, it’s possible to isolate the impact of cropping alone from the overall editing process.)

Eliminating Distractions

This first image was taken from the observation lift that provides panoramic views over Sarlat. The roofs are interesting and colourful but (a) you don’t need to see all of them to get the picture, so to speak and (b) although it’s a medieval town that doesn’t mean that they don’t have access to modern technology. Like satellite dishes; lots of satellite dishes. The cropped version removes all but one (partially obscured) dish – which could be eliminated altogether with further editing, as well as cars, streetlights etc.

As another example of removing distractions, here’s a picture of a nice foxglove, which doesn’t really need the roofline behind it.

Cropping for Composition

Cropping can also be helpful in improving the composition of an image, as in this photograph of the distinctive seedpods of the ‘monnaie du pape’ (‘Honesty’) plant, which in the cropped version are placed on a ‘Rule-of-thirds’ intersection.

Finding a new image

Sometimes, close cropping can reveal a ‘new’ image nested inside the original that isn’t immediately obvious – as in this view from Oradour-sur-Glane.

Taking more than one picture

And finally, as per Cee’s advice always to take more than one photograph, here are two shots of a set of decanters and glasses from a museum in Sarlat. The second is not a crop of the first, but just a close-up: same subject, completely different image.


Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge: Cropping Tips