The Techno-Impressionist Museum
Sage advice
by
Tony Karp
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Sage advice - by Tony Karp
This picture is the result of a happy accident.

The item in view is the side of a wooden chest in the section devoted to Chinese art in the Metropolitan Museum in NYC. These two figures are carved into the side of the chest, and that is what caught my attention. The one with his hand raised seemed like some sort of sage or master, and the other a person seeking counsel.

It was pretty dark in that area of the museum, so I switched on the infrared in my camera. This brought the image into crisp focus, illuminated by the infrared "headlights" built into the camera, on either side of the lens. Unfortunately, their beam was very narrow and, with the camera lens at its widest angle, only the center of the image was illuminated.

This could have been a problem but, as I examined the image on the computer, an idea occurred to me. I began a long process, first lifting the center of the image to a separate layer. Then it was reversed to a negative so the carved lines became light against a dark background. Then the color of the lines was shifted to a bright gold.

The background of the chest, a dull green-brown in the original, was changed to an interesting shade of blue. After some additional tweaks, the two layers were reassembled, then tweaked again to produce the final image.

It's a far cry from what I saw through the camera's viewfinder. You are continually exposed to this sort of accident. In a way, you have to be looking for it.

"Chance favors the prepared mind."
-- Louis Pasteur