The Man at the Window

The man at the window, Myanmar. Photo by Aloha Lavina.

He was at the old wooden temple with his family, but they were somewhere else in the building, in another room. He sat by the window, deep in thought.

It was my first trip to Burma, and I had a D200 with the Nikkor 17-55 mm 2.8f lens.  From inside, I saw him sitting by that circular window. All wrinkles and warm colors, seemingly the same textures as the wood.

I ran downstairs to get this shot.

To get the shot: I zoomed the lens as wide as it could get and angled the shot so that the wood would distort.  I saw the planks at the bottom of the shot, leading to his hand. I abstracted the window by cropping it above and on the right, so his face would float in the dark background. To get the colors to pop, I used Aperture priority and compensated for exposure by underexposing three quarters of a stop.

In post processing, my goal was to enhance the underexposure and separate the man from the shadows around his face. I also wanted the textures accentuated.

Most often my exposures are subjective, so I did not do a levels adjustment with Photoshop CS2 as I was quite happy with the underexposure. The more dramatic the contrast, the better, for me. Instead I wanted the skin tones to remain the chocolate color of the man’s real skin. So I used Channels, using the blue channel for the wood to give it more grain or noise, and the green channel for the man. I blended the two channels using the Multiply mode, which effectively darkens the whole image. Then using a layer mask, I brushed back the color, using a very soft brush and around 30 percent opacity. Later, on a separate layer, I used the dodge and burn tools to achieve more pronounced textures in the wall. Lastly, I sharpened the whole photo using Unsharp Mask and Fade Unsharp Mask combinations, with the aim of increasing the already dramatic contrast.

And that was how this image was created.

This photo is special to me, one of my favorites, and the reason why I fell in love with the stories of Burma.

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NOTE: This post was written for LightStalking, who asked me this question on Twitter. Thanks for inspiring this blog post!

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About Aloha

I am a photographer and writer currently based in Bangkok, Thailand. My work has appeared in CNNGo, Canon's PhotoYou magazine, Seventeen magazine, The Korea Times, Thailand Tatler, and a few photography books including recently Blogging for Creatives, a book published in the UK. I believe there is nothing you cannot imagine that you cannot do.

3 Responses to “The Man at the Window”

  1. Good to see a photographer using the Digital Darkroom effectively.

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  1. Tweets that mention The Man at the Window | imagine that -- Topsy.com - October 12, 2010

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Light Stalking, Robin S-C, Lily Leung, Aloha Lavina, Ricardo Nespoli and others. Ricardo Nespoli said: RT @LightStalking: Photography: How this stunning environmental portrait was taken. The whole process. http://bit.ly/b8hYQQ (via @alohal … [...]

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The comment’s server IP (208.74.66.43) doesn’t match the comment’s URL host IP (74.112.128.10) and so is spam.

  2. Playing with Monochrome Picture Mode | imagine that - April 19, 2011

    [...] pronounced blacks and glowing whites, so you can use exposure compensation to make what I call a subjective exposure—an image that looks like what I have in mind. This means you can underexpose or overexpose to [...]

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