Pictures at an Exhibition

Today’s title is borrowed from Mussorgsky who composed a Piano Suite with this name; a work successfully re-interpreted by the prog rock group ELP in 1971. It seemed an appropriate title

These images come from the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, London, that I visited recently. A modern gallery space, at the time of my visit it was hosting the 50th anniversary of the Sunday Times Magazine. Some memorable images that I remember well from many years ago, but the images I captured were of the people within that space.

Here are two images from that visit. Click any image to view an enlarged version.

I like both of these originals but as with other recent images I was interested to see how these would translate using Filter/Stylize/Solarize in Photoshop. Solarization is a process I played around with a bit in my old darkroom days – then it was very much a hit and miss process of flashing the light on and off while a Lith film positive from the original negative was in the developing tray. Life is a lot easier now and you will find a number of articles on the Internet about Solarization. There is a useful introductory article on Wikipedia – click here to go to that.

Firstly, here is a solarization of a black and white conversion of the first image above.

This has a pronounced Mackie Line around the figure – this is a classic effect that anyone who experimented with ‘chemical’ solarization will be familiar with and is formed where  highlight and shadow meet in the original image

Solarization of a Colour image is in my experience not often very successful due to the unusual colours that result from a partial inversion of the image. But in the image below I think on this occasion, the process worked rather well, creating an image that gains some additional drama.

Do try this in Photoshop. When you use the filter, you will find the initial result dull and lacking contrast with no highlights. Go straight to Levels and you will see why. Move the highlight slider to reinstate them and watch the image come to life. Each image is a new experiment. Images with strong contrast and line benefit best from this process, and after the initial solarization and Levels correction try inverting the image (Image/Adjustment/Invert) to see what effect  that has. Sometimes the inverted image is more successful. It’s a fun process.

If you are interested, two of my previous posts featured Solarized images. These are: Exoskeleton and Tree Ghosts

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About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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8 Responses to Pictures at an Exhibition

  1. Nice technique and images Andy. I have yet to try this. The biggest reason why is that I don’t know Photoshop very well beyond doing some blending for my HDR images. I guess I’ll have to spend a little more time with it.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks for the comment, Len. If you were to import an image into Photoshop, already processed elsewhere and converted to B&W, then actually the Solarization process is reduced to using the Solarize filter, and then adjusting the levels – and you could of course do that adjustment back in the software you are more familiar with. That way the steep curve of learning Photoshop could be postponed.

  2. Ginnie says:

    I have always liked solarization, Andy, back to when my brother did it in his darkroom, too, in the 70s and 80s. You’re reminding me of why I like it so much. Thanks.

  3. myallegro31 says:

    I’m not too much of a fan of the last image to be truthful, but the original looks fantastic! Actually, I like both originals better than the solarized ones.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks for the comment Adam. I didn’t expect everyone to like the Solarizations (!) – but maybe to stimulate a little interest in the technique.

  4. leadinlines says:

    Great set Andy. That top shot could grace any Prog album cover in my opinion! Very Pink Floyd!

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