Yolanda’s hands

Yolanda’s hands

From behind the shutter

After several year using my Nikon D50, it was time to upgrade to a newer camera. I opted for a Nikon D90 which provides the following key improvements for me:
– higher resolution, which allows a bit more cropping options
– crisper, sharper images
– better colors
– compatibility with my previous Nikon lenses

To get familiar with my new toy, I took shots around the house. One of the very first shot (image number 0135) was the hands of my mother in law, Yolanda, who was visiting us for the Holyday. Here are some shots from that testing series:

The colors are interesting and the subject simple in nature. I want to note that this is not a staged shot.

I recently reviewed those images in my collection, and found that particular one:

Original: Nikon D90 • Nikkor 35mm
35mm • 1/60s • f/7.1
12.5.2008 11:07AM

I’m not sure what caught my attention, but I had a strong feeling that there was something I could do to turn the test snapshot into a more creative interpretation, focusing even more on my main subject which are the hands in action.

1- Monochrome + contrast + brightness

The first choice I made is to use a monochrome version. I also increased both the contrast (+67) and the brightness (+64). I did so to reveal a series of visual details that all support the main message: natural, timeless, basic. It removes the otherwise overwhelming strength of the colors vibrant colors.

Monochrome + Contrast + Brightness

2- Darkening to focus on the hands

The previous step presents a lot of distraction to the eye and lacks of focus. For example, the bright background attracts the eye, the mesh colander on the left competes with the hands, the hands (the main subject) are not present enough.
I used a simple technique to change the visual order, I painted a dark overlay using a 6 to 20% soft brush.

Here is the overlay:

Darkening the un-necessary

And the resulting image:

Focus on the core subject: the hands in action

3 – Detail touch ups

As I was satisfied with that direction, the only aspects bothering me were:
– the lack of skin details (addressed with sharpening the hands using a masked duplicated and sharpened layer)
– the the overexposed top of the hands (addressed using a curve adjustment layer with a mask to apply it on the top of the hand)
– the extra white pieces of carrots on the plank (addressed by zooming in and painting them in darker levels one by one…)

Darkening the bright spots

Here is the final image:

Final: Yolanda’s hands

I presented this image at the Palo Alto Camera Club competition on 2.11.09 and the judge liked it and awarded it a “Print of the Month“.

I wanted to thank Pier over at The Fotostop who helped with that print.

Update:

My friend Terry Cluley from Toronto saw the image and added this:
“The image of Yolanda’s Hands is really something. The subject matter, the composition and the lighting gives it a feeling of a Flemish Painting. I really like your choice of going Black and White for this image, but then again you know I really love B/W.. I tend to process my images in B/W more and more these days. The only change I would have made, if it had been my image would have been to push the B/W a little more. I felt that you had lost some of the texture and detail in the wooden cutting board and also the detail in the skin. It seemed a little soft to me.. but that is just my observation. I hope you don’t mind but I played with it a bit and applied some of my techniques that result in a more “Traditional Darkroom” result. I even try and add a little grain to make it feel like it was printed on the old Ilford Papers.”

And he attached the following interpretation:

Edits by Terry Cluley

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251 comments
saint
saint

very nice...

Ed
Ed

A really nice image, explained well. Thanks

Hellla
Hellla

Yes it does look GREAT!!

Philippe
Philippe

You are welcome! Happy to be of inspiration!

Marco Jeppesen
Marco Jeppesen

Great site! Will often come to get some inspiration.

Robert Moore
Robert Moore

Thanks Philippe; big redesign & update on the way for lightgrain, hopefully in a couple of months. This pic has inspired me to shoot some "hands at work" images of my own.

Philippe
Philippe

by the way... love your Glamour shots ;-)

Philippe
Philippe

Thanks Robert! Yes, agree with you. I may try some variations in LightRoom for example...

Robert Moore
Robert Moore

I like both images, both have their strengths. Terry Cluley's edit has certainly given a snappier and 'richer' rendition, but the softer tones of the original provide a gentle charm - which perhaps could be enhanced with subtle toning?

Bumpo
Bumpo

Lovely pictures truly nice!

Alex
Alex

Nice pictures

fofo
fofo

Uhmhmmmmmmmmm

Rich
Rich

Nice work!

Paul Abrahams
Paul Abrahams

Nice photo, echo looks really cool too and... is this a missed marketing opportunity or what, with 44,000 plus page views!

TB
TB

nice!

nana
nana

the photo's are great ;)

May
May

Really great photo - inspired me!

test
test

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J. Siler
J. Siler

Ching out Echo and appreciating your site at the same time.

connie
connie

Checking Echo out and what a treat to see your wonderful photo.

BoRhap77
BoRhap77

Checking out Echo, but enjoyed the wonderful photograpy, too! Great work.

Vadim Shadrin
Vadim Shadrin

???????? ECHO - ??? ????? ?????? ????????????. ??? ???? ???? ?????? - ??. ????? ??????? :)

ThoughtBubble Ten
ThoughtBubble Ten

Oops, I feel like I've interrupting a conversation here although I have to say it's one that really interests me..I love bw and the comment about flemish painting is so true. But to be honest, I came to your blog because it's a sample blog for this new Echo thing. Just wanted to check it out and as you can see, I feel I've barged in on a somewhat intimate or at least private chat :). Perhaps I should just leave before I make things worse...ciao

Philippe
Philippe

Thank you Dana! Capturing and interpreting the many instants of life into hand crafted artifacts is indeed rewarding in a world that favors the superficial instantaneity of the moment... But it's a choice that we all have to take the time to pause, observe, express, and share... Thanks again for the nice words.

danajohnson0
danajohnson0

The developed world has left us without this inherent beauty of hand crafted images, and natural lighting impressions - it's like re-inventing fire on the computer console, to bring us back in time. Enjoyed your work. Thanks, Dana

Philippe
Philippe

Thanks! Have fun with Photoshop!!

hermann
hermann

Really nice pictures!

Philippe
Philippe

Carrot and celery soup...