Jun 17, 2018
A rose is a rose is a saying. See? Even I said it.
But this episode, by any other name it would smell, well, perhaps not sweet… let's just say, you will probably not overly suffer from its inhalation.
The Letters of our Discontent
HSL. If you've seen these initials tossed about in image manipulation programs or articles about image manipulation, or heard them muttered in dim corridors, you might be have skipped right past them. But fear not, for they are but letters that stand in for words, and the words have meanings, and those meanings are not difficult to describe. Are they easy to understand? Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves.
What's important to understand about a color is this: it is the sum total of its hue, saturation, and luminance. All three must be specified to uniquely identify what we commonly call a color. But, of course, the nomenclature can be confusing since we often bandy about terms like color and tint and chroma and brightness and boldness to describe a color. Those are fine, but to generally describe is not the same as uniquely identify. One way we uniquely identify is with hue, saturation, and luminance.
Hue is the simple color name. Blue, for example. Red. Orange. Those are hues; essentially, the broadest term we use to name a color. Blue-green is a hue. Orange-yellow. Grape is not a hue because it is a purple with other attributes of saturation and luminance already in place. Sky blue is not a hue. It is a blue with other attributes.
Technically there are infinite hues, but we have only a limited number of simple color names, and that's all that we really need to do — start with a name.
Next we can describe the saturation, the intensity, of the color. Bold, dull, clean, muddy, vibrant, gray. That's all we mean by saturation. The higher the saturation, the more pure the color. The lower the saturation, the closer it is to gray — because gray has no saturation.
Finally, luminance, like illumination, is how light or dark the color is. The higher the luminance the closer the color is to white, the lower the luminance the closer the color is to black. Technically simple, though we sometimes conflate luminance with saturation. It's just the dark or light, not the purity of color.
And that's actually all there is to, at least the basics, of understanding HSL. Hue is the simple name of the color, saturation is the range from pure to gray, luminance is the range from white to color to black.
Here is the color bars graphic I mention in the audio as another way of looking at the topic.
Okay, fine, you might have noticed that if you crank the luminance all the way to 100% or lower it to 0% you arrive at white or black, respectively, and white and black have neither hue nor saturation. That is true — white and black are special cases, exhibiting only luminance. And gray, true neutral, colorless, gray has no hue and, thus, can have no saturation either. Grays exhibit only luminance. So, you caught me! There's even more to understand about hue, saturation, and luminance.
Hey! Isn't that Elvis over there!?
What Ho, Mike!
As Michael Buchheit is my guest in conversation, so was I his guest at the Kolb Studio on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I'm hoping he got the better end of the deal, but perhaps not… (you can be the judge).
Mike is the Director of the Field Institute of the Grand Canyon Association, a non-profit partner to the National Park Service in serving visitors to Grand Canyon National Park. Listen in to learn about the history of the association, the canyon, and the Kolb Studio. And of Mike.
Michael Buchheit relaxes with a view of the Grand Canyon from the historic Kolb Studio, located at the western end of Grand Canyon Village.
To learn more about the Grand Canyon Association, here's their web site: www.grandcanyon.org. For more about Kolb Studio, here's the National Park Service's web page about it: www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/art-exhibits.htm
Beware the Nones of March
I visited Mike at the Grand Canyon on March 7 and, as you can see out the window above, the sky was overcast, the light was what is called flat, and a slight haze filled the canyon. What's a photographer to do?
Well, this photographer (that means me) made photos. Or, at least, I captured images that I would later make into photos.
One approach to the low saturation and relatively high luminance (and low contrast) of the scenes is to head to black and white where the lack of bold coloration is unimportant because the color is discarded anyway. And by actually using the colors that are there, when converting to black and white, dynamic contrasts can be developed in ways that would not be obvious in color.
On the left is the plain color image showing the obvious blech-ness of the scene. (I admit that the luminance is low in this image, but that's because I shot dark to try to keep some detail in the overcast. The view as seen through Mike's window, above, is what it actually looked like.) Next to the bland color version is the result of simply instructing Photoshop to convert the color image to grayscale; cut the saturation to zero, across the board and without regard for the underlying colors. The third frame from the left is a black and white conversion created in Skylum Luminar 2018 where, as is also available in Photoshop and in Lightroom, those underlying colors can be manipulated to impact the conversion. All I did was muck around with sliders until I liked what I saw and here it is. And finally, on the right, using those sliders in Photoshop I came upon this result! Cool and creepy and unexpected.
Perhaps I would continue to tweak any of the above black and white versions, but that would be no difficult task because I've hardly put any time into them so far. That's the beauty of playing — unless you have a specific end result in mind, you can play till you like what you've got.
Still, what I had in mind when I captured the original images was to not kill the colors, but to emphasize them. Not toward reality, but toward something else. This approach would not work well with a boldly colored original, since it's already boldly colored, but sometimes when the world gives me flavorless lemons, I make lemonade spiced with Habanero peppers. ¡Ay, Caramba!
I will point out that my exposure, appearing dark in the original, paid off by allowing me to show the detail in what might have seemed to be a featureless sky.
An Episode Can End But Once
And here we are, at the end. What have we learned? (Go ahead, this is an open book test. I'll wait.)
Having ended, it's time for me to ask again for your input. Issue your complaints. Shout out your suggestions. Plead your praise. Do any or all in the comments section, below, and if you would do me the greatest kindness, sally forth to iTunes and leave a comment there — plus, while you're there, rate the show! Your comments and ratings help get the word out about All Things Photography and, thus, spread the joy.