My Perception of Color

Except for most of the portraits, the pictures of Akka and other specifically Bahá’í-themed images almost all the images on my website are ‘false color.’ In all but half a dozen cases I created those images in camera using conventional film emulsions. To a limited degree and in a sufficiently detached or partially dissociated state those were the colors that I really saw. I used multiple optical filters and push-processing to force film to show what I saw in strongly trans-illuminated scenes of nature. My slide copier consisted of an old Nikon F2 body, a Nikon tilt-shift bellows and a 55mm Macro lens. A dichroic color enlarger head provided a very flexible and adjustable light source. I had little need to use any other filters. Nowadays it’s very difficult and expensive to obtain slide duplicating film and even more difficult to process it yourself. You have to buy enormous quantities of film and chemicals which isn’t practical unless you’re running a film lab.

Once I began to do digital film scanning and use Photoshop I was able to re-imagine colors more easily. An unfortunate consequence was that I totally lost the ability to ever see nature that way again in reality. You could say that technology gave me something wonderful but it also took away something even more wonderful. Last week on an email list someone speculated that it’s possible I’ll grow in perception and will integrate technology and free form analog photography into something harmonious. I feel that will become absolutely necessary because consumer film is rapidly becoming obsolete. In my effort for integration I’ve spent a lot of time the past few months re-imagining some of my older images. I upgraded to better image processing tools and learned how to eliminate digital noise, scanning artifacts, and grain from my film scans. By doing that I was able to make color gradations smoother and was more satisfied that the images conveyed what I really saw. It’s more accurate to say I conveyed the colors that I felt.

Everything in my Web galleries is scanned directly from film at very high resolution – 4000 dpi which creates files up to 50 MB in size. . The sad part is –as an artist, I mean– is that I have to reduce them by a factor of up to 10,000:1 for display on the Web. Compared to the real thing, it’s like showing my work to people across the street …behind a window …in the rain!

This is an example of a throwaway image that I recreated in the slide copier. The original shot had little point of interest and the composition was haphazard because it contained distracting elements.
Photographed at Mallard Lake in Golden Gate Park

By manipulating the image and exposing it three times I created this image.
Image (C)Copyright by Cary Enoch Reinstein

This is an example of a heavily filtered image that I made in camera. I wasn’t pleased with the image’s colors – yet.
Original image as shot and processed

I reprocessed it in Photoshop with Kodak’s Restoration of Color (ROC) plug-in. The ROC plug-in can’t reconstruct real life colors from a false color heavily filtered photograph. After the first pass I used a pen tablet and digital brushes to create the final image. I call it Near the Edge of the Kingdom.
Image (C)Copyright by Cary Enoch Reinstein

The final example is a “real image” which again was uninteresting but had potential.
Original image made in the camera

This is one of three variants that I made of the image. It has what I call emotional color. The other variants have similar colors but more subtle contrast.
Image (C)Copyright by Cary Enoch Reinstein

I cropped and used the central portion of this image including the prismatic burst rotated 30 degrees on the birth announcement for one of my children with this quote: “Every bestowal emanates from Thee; every benediction is Thine. Thou art mighty. Thou art powerful. Thou art the Giver, and Thou art the Ever-Bounteous.” — ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (Baha’i Prayers)

Evanescent Images and other posts in the Art and Imagery category also describe my process.

The proper artistic response to digital technology is to embrace it as a new window on everything that’s eternally human, and to use it with passion, wisdom, fearlessness and joy.  – Ralph Lombreglia, in Atlantic Unbound