Saturday Evening Post# 142 Design in Tone

The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.
~ Brene Brown

There are two major ways of defining “Tone” in photography.

Pity is they seem to get mixed up by under or over use.

Tone 1. The scientific measurement of the range of dark to light values in a photograph. Formally known as the Characteristic Curve.
The bane of photostudents in the days of filum, as it required astounding numbers of tests, peering through densitometers and calculations from log tables. Never a topic that people qued up to be the first in the door.

Tone 2.  The pictorial use of dark through light to help establish mood and emotion.  Light areas attract the eye, darker areas hold mystery.

Ms Brown, was no photographer, but out of her writings its possible to distill some fine photo-enhancing thoughts.

One of my fav photoshoppie, tool is the Circular Grad Tool. As best I can recall it didn’t make a Photoshop appearance until Photoshop 5 in 1998.
Highlight my subject.  Lighten for emphasis, Darken for mystery.   Use two, one for the subject and one for the backdrop and the eye of the viewer is both drawn and surrounded by the environment without losing the subject.  At least that’s the theory.

Funny how, even having taught the use of the tool, there is always just one more trick up its sleeve.
I was browsing the awesome book, THE DIGITAL NEGATIVE  by the equally awesome Jeff Schewe, (my copy is dog-eared and bursting with postalnotes.) and noticed a technique of resizing each individual side of the Grad Tool when it’s been drawn.  Oh, dear, how come I didn’t know that already.  Big grins.

As a lot of my current softer feel technique is based around the use of the tool, I was somewhat taken back that I hadn’t noticed this small technique.
For the interested, draw the grad as normal, hold down the Alt key and each of the ‘handles’ is independently moveable to match the need of the subject.

I’d chosen this image sometime ago to match the good Ms Brown’s quote, so decided that it fitted well with the tonal series.  Bring out the best of the red and orange in her dress and keep the green behind muted and job is done.


Scarlet Robin, Petroica boodang
She does work hard all summer long, and now the cold weather has set in, its time to throw off the old, and take a new sparkling feather set for the season.

7 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post# 142 Design in Tone

  1. There is always something new to learn, and that is part of the joy of any craft.
    Sometimes it takes a study of an image and then some experimenting, other times we read something and the ‘penny drops’!
    A splendid image of the Lovely Lady, David.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. G,day David,
      I have been fortunate over the years to have many fine mentors that treated me to the benefit of their wisdom and skill behind the camera. The only requirement was, “Pass it Forward”
      The blog I guess allows me in a small way to share elements of the craft that have worked for me.
      We can, but, just keep trying. Every new image we make carries its own learning.


    1. Hello Ashley, I’m not sure who said it, first, but one of my early studio mentors drummed into me, “We keep adding light until we have just revealed the character of the subject. Then. We Stop!”
      I was going to write a little treatise on the harmony of tones, but in the end decided to keep it for another time.
      Hope you lockdown is drawing to a close. I noted today that some Nursing Home residents were now on the ‘Active’ List. Hope it’s containable.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I began my Sunday check of ‘what’s happening in the world’ with your Saturday post and what a great start to the day it was! Beautiful quotes and this masterful image of Lady Scarlet Robin.
    With all that beauty comes the educational and well written part of your blog as a special bonus. I’ve been admiring your recent ‘toned’ images on Flickr for some time and now I’ve got a better insight into your artistic workshop. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Adam, you always inspire me to bring something worthwhile to the blog. The ‘artistic workshop’ is not always working so hard these days, and I have been very pleased to have had a couple of weeks with someone who has given me some good insight, to techniques I mostly know about but I guess have passed over. It’s nice to have returned to some simpler processes that have a more subtle result.

      Hopefully, I can keep bringing the occasional bright spot for your Sunday breakfast edification.
      Catch you Along the Track


  3. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who can read something many times over (in my case the camera manual) and each time find something new in there that I slid over previously without comprehending. I suppose we see and understand something when we are ready for it and understand its significance.

    A lovely study of the elegant, understated female Scarlet Robin.


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