Sunday, April 29, 2012

cactus blooms, palace scenes, and a New England lighthouse

From earlier today,
some prickly pear cactus buds and blossoms
in the mountains around Tucson:
(some tilt-shifting to concentrate
the focus on the blooms and buds,
and a bit of vignette, using the center focus filter)


In the last posting, I played with a snapshot
of the Throne Hall in Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul;
Here's another angle of the same grand, upswept building,
 still going for the 'scroll background' effect:

This is a 'transplanted' photo; I took it on my Canon,
then e-mailed it to my iPhone in order to snapseed it;
below is the original shot--late afternoon shadows made the
main fa├žade very dark:
So, a bit of selective tool brightening and color-saturating,
and then de-saturating the sky before 
using one of the 'grunge' filters
to end up with the 'scroll effect' version.


Another palace photo, 
showing an overview of one of Seoul's minor palaces--
this one taken with my iPhone on my last day in Korea last summer
--this is the view over the main courtyards of 
I had climbed to the rooftop terrace garden
of Seoul National University's Cancer Hospital
across the street from the palace in order to get this view,
and just then, the drizzle began to turn into a downpour...

The umbrella adds a certain effect,
but crop it out, and the focus is more on the architecture:
Using one of the grunge filters again,
this time I was aiming more for nostalgia instead of a 'scroll-painting' effect:
 Looking at it now, there's more blur than I would like on the sides...
will do some more tweaking later...

To finish for this week,
a shot of what is perhaps the most-photographed-lighthouse in America,
in Cape Elizabeth, Maine:

This is another 'transplant;'
took this with my Canon a few summers ago,
e-mailed it to my iPhone a few days ago, 
and again, with the grunge filter 
(which seems to be my 'flavor of the month' right now),
I played around and ended up with this:
The crispness of the image contrasted with the watercolor-paper-feel of the background--
a combination that lends itself to a coastal scene...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Against a 'naturally textured' background...Scenes from Gyeongbok-gung Palace in Seoul

One of the aspects of NE Asian painting that fascinates me is the fact that, often, no attention is given to the background in the scene; in Western painting, a canvas will be completely painted over with a base layer--showing the blue sky, for example. In many NE Asian scrolls, the silk or the paper is left in its natural state; the foreground elements are recorded in detail, but the artist feels no need to fill in the blank background space with a 'realistically-colored' sky: 

19th-century painting reproduction from:

The above silk scroll, depicting a ceremony in the Throne Hall of Gyeongbok-gung Palace in Seoul is a typical example of the 'raw parchment' look in many scroll paintings.

Or, below, in this handpainted hanji (artisan hand-made paper) scene of a drummer, the fibers in the paper are part of the rustic effect; no need to place the percussionist on an identifiable background when the textured paper contributes its own rhythm:

So, I thought it would be interesting to see if I could mimic the 'naturally textured background' of traditional Korean art by playing with some of snapseed's filters and applying them to some photos I took with my iPhone in Gyeongbok-gung Palace last summer. (A bit of historical background: Gyeongbok-gung was established as the seat of government when the Joseon Dynasty was founded in 1392.)

Here is a view of the Throne Hall depicted in the scroll painting above,

(Lofty architecture with a lofty title; 'Geun-jeong-jeon' means 'diligence helps governance.') 

Below is the original photo from which the above scene is cropped.
You can see how the mid-day lighting hides the colorful eaves in dark shadow.
Using the 'selective adjust' filter allowed me to specifically brighten the colorfully painted eaves.
Finally, applying one of the 'grunge' filter styles,
and then intensifying the 'texture strength' produced the 'parchment look' above.

(above panorama stitched together on the iPhone using "AutoStitch.")

This is the east gate of the palace, "Geon-chun-mun,"
meaning 'spring begins.'
Through it, you can see the double-roof of the Throne Hall:
I particularly wanted the 'grunge filter' to blur the street details in front of the gate--
painted yellow lines along a concrete curb don't belong in a 'scroll-painting.'

Below, experimenting with a different texture, a scene of the Palace's main gate,
"Gwanghwamun," with Bugak-san mountain behind,
taken from Gwanghwamun Plaza:

I don't like this texture effect as much as the texture style
used for the Throne Hall and the east gate,
but it does turn the otherwise pastel evening sky into a more 
neutral 'scroll background.'

A more close-up view of Gwanghwa-mun gate,
with a mythical fire-eating and justice-promulgating 'haetae' standing guard:

Looking through the central portal of Gwanghwamun gate,
leading to Heung-nye-mun gate,
which leads to the Throne Hall complex:
This style isn't my favorite, either,
but it shows another variation available in the 'grunge filter,'
a combination of edge-blurring as well as a sepia-tone 
to tone down the saturation,
along with the texture effect.

Another day, another scene through Gwanghwamun,
showing the re-enacting of the medieval Changing of the Guard:
By using the exaggerated texture in this scene, I was going for a watercolor-paper effect...

One last scene, from the rear gardens of Gyeongbok-gung Palace--
a hexagonal pavilion on an island in a lotus-pond,
the poetically named "Hyang-weon-jeon,"
'The Pavilion of Far-reaching Fragrance,' one of the loveliest spots in Seoul:
Again, I think this particular texture style is not as successful as what I used in the first photo of the Throne-Hall in mimicking the color and texture of a scroll-painting, but you do get an idea of some of the variations possible within the 'grunge' filter.

With digital photography and digital editing, it's more and more difficult for viewers to know if they're seeing 'what's really there' as opposed to something that's been 'photoshopped;' it's so easy to add or subtract elements from a scene now, to alter the honesty out of the frame. I used to be very wary of 'altered photos,' but if altering a photo means using certain filters to modify lighting, intensity of color, and point of focus, instead of adding or subtracting physical objects...if 'unaltered' photos can be compared to prose, perhaps 'altered' photos can be likened to poetry?--a certain way of distilling what the photographer wants a scene to convey. Prose and poetry can both convey truth, just in different ways...

[All photos in this posting were taken with an iPhone 4,
and edited solely using snapseed.]