Denise McKay  


Train Art by Denise McKay

October 2020 - Train Art

October 2020 - Denise McKay

Original 1

October 2020 - Denise McKay

Original 2

About the Image(s)

I have been working on a series of photos taken at the National Museum of Transportation. I am struggling with determining a name for the series, but maybe you can all help me out!

I'm intrigued by the graphic images you can get by isolating parts of old trains or cars. The lines, shapes, colors, textures; I'm drawn to all of those things. And I think the fact that the items I’m photographing were built only with function in mind, but invokes an artistic vision in me, attracts me as well.

This image is of a section of an antique train that was sitting outdoors in natural light. Knowing I wanted to convert this to black and white, initially, I started post-processing in Silver Efex Pro 2, which is Original 2 of the images I uploaded. I chose the Fine Art Process filter and then customized the effect, adjusting the sliders on the brightness, texture, etc. I also added some control points to make adjustments to just certain areas. I then added the edge texture. I still wasn’t completely satisfied, so took the image back into Lightroom and used the adjustment brush to touch up certain areas where I wanted more texture and clarity.

Then, I decided to do a version using only Lightroom but adding an edge texture in Analog Efex Pro 2. Nothing was left untouched. I adjusted the exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, texture, and clarity, using the adjustment brush to paint in the edits over specific parts of the image. I also did some spot removal to small areas that I found a little distracting. I decided to go with that for my final image, but I’m really torn between the first edit and the final.

I would love to hear your suggestions for naming the series and feedback on this image.


8 comments posted




Stephen Levitas   Stephen Levitas
(Group 32)
This is a striking portrait of a machine, and a great item in your series. I feel very strongly that titles are important. Perhaps your series title could be "Machines That Go." This one could be "Leaf Spring No. 6," and I am intentionally joking by adding on the "No. 6."
My colleagues in my home Monochrome Group 32 are always telling me to increase contrast, and that while blown-out whites cannot be saved, dark areas can be drawn out. So I am suggesting the attached changes, which I did in PS Elements, using overall adjustments: "Lighten Shadows," "Darken Highlights," and increased "Mid-Tone Contrast." I did not increase sharpness, but you might try a small touch of that control. What do you think?   Posted: 10/01/2020 16:22:55
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Denise McKay   Denise McKay
I tend to be a little hesitant about opening shadows too much when I'm trying to show some depth within an image. I worry about my image looking too flat. On the flip side, a black muddy area doesn't do anything for me either!

Thank you for your suggestions and comments. I think your edit looks a little closer to my first edit as well. You can definitely see more detail in the shadows, but it doesn't look completely flat. It's very helpful to see an example, so I really do appreciate it!   Posted: 10/01/2020 18:37:29
Stephen Levitas   Stephen Levitas
(Group 32)
I see, yes, I think you are right about not opening up shadows too much. If you had leading lines going backwards, they would express the depth, but you don't in this case. Only the deepening shadow expresses the depth. Good point.   Posted: 10/01/2020 19:27:29



Witta Priester   Witta Priester
Denise, what a fascination bit of a train. There's a lot to look at and enjoy in this photo. Even with the title, it's full of intrigue.

As for which version, in my opinion the final one is too dark. Therefore, I would suggest you try laying the two versions on top of each other in PS and blend the top one at 50% percent opacity. I find that sometimes works for me.

Deciding where you want the eye to "rest" and working to add depth are points I think are worth considering.

  Posted: 10/03/2020 11:48:40



Connie Reinhart   Connie Reinhart
I like original 2 better. It has a smoother look that adds to the natural abstractness. There is a lot to see here, and my eye can't settle. Have you tried cropping from the top to the horizontal bar above the thing that looks like an Aztec temple? Stephen's suggestion of "Things That Go" is pretty good. If it is a historical museum, perhaps that could be "Things That Went."   Posted: 10/05/2020 12:57:05



Guy Davies   Guy Davies
(Group 4)
Denise, I love a good monochrome and I like the detail in this shot. Like Stephen, I would like to see more contrast, but just to confuse you (!) I have an alternative suggestion. Make a copy layer in PS and apply Shadows/Highlights at the default setting (in my old version of PS that is Shadows 36, Highlights 0). I find it is best not to mess with the Hlts adjustment as that can introduce haloes. Then add a Curves layer and bring back the contrast with an S-shaped curve, pulling down the shadows but leaving the highlights as they are. The Sh/Hlts adjustment brings up the detail in the shadows but makes them too light. The Curves layer darkens them again but still retains the detail. Check the improvement against the original layer.   Posted: 10/11/2020 05:46:43



Denise McKay   Denise McKay
WOW - everyone provided so much great feedback that it's going to take me a while to continue to play with this image! I really appreciate everyone's thoughts as I have a number of unedited pictures in this series that I think your suggestions would apply to as well.


  Posted: 10/11/2020 09:01:12



Cecilia Clark   Cecilia Clark
Denise, Nice abstract of train detail. I prefer both the color version with it's soft shades of blue and gold and Original 1. To my eye, the final version is too flat and doesn't give the viewer any spot on which to focus. I tried Connie's suggestion for cropping to highlight the "Aztec Temple," but that completely changes the compositional proportions. The way you shot the image it is horizontally divided into pleasing thirds. So, I tried my hand in LR with increasing the contrast some.

I began with the color image adjusted the exposure, and then converted it to B&W. I applied a bottom to middle gradient to reduce the highlights and add clarity to the bottom of the image. I applied another gradient from top to middle to increase exposure, contrast, and highlights. I used the adjustment brush to lighten the hook in the top of the image. In the B&W settings, I pulled down the blue-gray level which darkened and separated some the textures on the bottom of the image. I also pulled up the orange-gray level so the gold tones would be lighter and provide more contrast. In exposure I increased the white level and then I added a -17 vignette to move the eye to the center of the image.   Posted: 10/20/2020 14:46:20
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