The Big Q

In The Big Q, Tutorials &Technique, Wallpapers, Workflow & Technical Issues by David13 Comments

Two questions came out when I posted this month’s wallpaper last week. So it’s a Two-fer this week.

The Big Q
“I like this monochrome look. What was the original color/colors? Do you “see” these monochrome image when you are there shooting? Was this one of those cases where you look at the computer screen and see a grey uninteresting sky and wonder, how can I save this? Just wondering if you had this vision for the picture when shooting, or later.” – Chris

“Love your Wallpaper today.  I’m partial to the blue one, though I like both.  Was wondering how you put the calendar on the image.  Where did you find the calendar template? Or did you create it?” – Lisa

The Big A
Thanks to both of you. This shot was taken first thing in the morning en route to a location. I was truly captivated by Bangladesh. Dawn and dusk were really magical times – the light, the trees, the endless rice patties. Loved it! And as we pulled closer to our location this one morning I saw this and begged the driver to stop. I shot a couple frames with my 70-200/2.8L on my 5D MkII, and then the moment was gone. (EXIF, 200mm, 1/1600 @ f/2.8, ISO 100.)

Chris, you asked about my choices in rendering the tones in these images, so I’ll be straight up with you. The blue was a choice made specifically for this wallpaper. I’d played with it and liked the idea of doing two versions so folks had a choice – blue seemed a natural. And in the end it does echo the peaceful feeling I got from the scene. But my heart is still in the version with the green tones because it’s how I saw the scene. I’m posting the original raw file here so you can see the un-toned image. It’s had contrast added via the tone curve, and I let Lightroom Auto tone it, but other than that, nothing.

But this raw negative doesn’t speak at all to the mood and feel of the place, the greens, the humidity, the back-in-time feel, so I made adjustments to the tone curve, added a couple gradient filters, punch the clarity to boost mid-tone contrasts and then used the Split Toning – blue in the highlights and green in the shadows –  to give it the mood I felt when shooting. I also did some tidying up with the clone tool to get rid of a couple errant branches on the edge of the frame. Here they are side by side:


As you can see there’s nothing wrong with the sky, I could have gone several ways with this image but saw it through, I think, very nostalgic eyes, so wanted to interpret it that way. I don’t ever see it as fixing, but interpretation.

layeredcalendarLisa, you asked about the calendar element. I can’t tell you how much email I get about this. Shocking. 🙂 It’s a simple Photoshop image with all numbers, etc. on different layers. After I’d done a year of calendars I had versions with all seven variants of which day the month begins on so now it’s as simple as turning on or off the 31st day every now and then. February is a couple extra clicks. Anyways because I like you, I’m going to upload a layered PSD file for all your calendar needs – I’ve changed the fonts to Verdana to be sure you all have the font on your system and to make it a little more generic in an effort to encourage y’all to add your own personality. Click the Calendar thumbnail above – or HERE – to download a zipped PSD file.

Any questions? Class dismissed! Don’t forget that tomorrow the Twitter-view between Peachpit Press and myself, conducted live over the Twittersphere in 140 character bites. More information HERE. It’s a bit of an experiment; should be fun!


  1. I appreciate that you took the time to write about this. This to me is a piece of the “practical puzzle” of what is vision, and how you ultimately get to an finished image.

    I always find it interesting to see how people take an image that they shot, and then interpret in software to get to what they had a vision of the picture for.

    I like the green one better also. I can imagine my self seeing the green toned one easier than the brown toned one too.


    (OT: I realize that most of what went into this image is the photograph, and the person with the vision to see what adjustments to make, but I am seriously thinking of dumping Aperture for Lightroom. I just don’t think you can do most of these adjustments in Aperture. I don’t want to go to Photoshop to try ideas I have – seems like too much work – so I don’t end up doing it.)

  2. Author

    @Chris – Pretty sure you could make these adjustments in Aperture – there isn’t much, if anything that LR can do to an image aesthetically that Aperture can’t, the question is how easily/intuitively can you get there? I prefer LR because for me it’s the more intuitive. I won’t try to talk you out of the switch, I love LR. Try the free 30 day demo with a handful of images and see if it fits.

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  5. Chris, over at the Vision Collective I debated with myself for a bit about making the switch from Aperture to Lightroom. It took me a few months to make the decision, but in the end I opted to switch to Lightroom (for reasons I listed in that forum). At first I missed Aperture as it was familiar, but now that Lightroom is familiar I don’t miss Aperture at all.

    David, are you really going to tell me that you found the spray can in LR to be intuitive? I certainly couldn’t intuitively figure it out. I still find it weird.

  6. Jeffrey – Not so much, no, but I use it so seldom. When I do it’s handy. But I used LR in the beginning when there was no Spray can so when it was introduced it was explained well. Nothing wrong with the tool, I just don’t use it much. Like PS there are often several ways to do things and Spraying ain’t my usual way 🙂

  7. Hey, your book arrived today…I haven’t been reading your blog for long, but its inspiration has been great. Can’t wait to get into WTF.

  8. Just wanted to say thanks for sharing. I may as well add, while I’m here, that I follow your blog every day, but I rarely write. With kids now, I barely find the time to read, let alone write. But I love you blog and your work. And I also love the fact that you’re from Vancouver (my home) although now I’m in TO. Anyway, I just wanted to encourage you in all that you do and to say thanks at the same time.

  9. awww do we have to us PS for that? (i guess LR2 doesn’t do layer stuff, heh)

    Question submitted for the Twitterview, thought it might interest all:

    David, for learning enthusiasts who feel a bit shy/reluctant [the ]moment b4 photographing people, what assignments would you give them [for self improvement]?
    about 21 hours ago from web in reply to Peachpit

  10. It’s reassuring to hear you refer to “interpreting” an image as opposed to “fixing” it. Sometimes, I feel a bit of a out of step with many others, since I prefer to “interpret” some of my pictures —not because they are flawed, but because I felt something when I was shooting that was not captured and I choose to bring that out in processing. There is nothing like validation from someone you admire to bolster confidence. Thanks for writing about this.

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