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Transformation: What Editing Changes Can Do and What That Suggests for the Photographer

June 25, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

A very long time ago I had the pleasure of traveling with some good friends to Jamaica.  My daughter was very young then and, for some reason, she was feeling a bit a separation anxiety even before the trip.  I used to travel a lot when she was young and only occasionally promised her a special treat when I arrived home (so she wouldn't be spoiled).

At that particular period in her life, she was highly, highly into Unicorns.  She had her favorite unicorn stuffed animal, pillows with unicorns, and also lots of shirts that had various versions of unicorns.  I thought it would be great if I could bring back some sort of unicorn from Jamaica and surprise her.

It was the late 80's and Jamaica so everyone tried to sell us while we were browsing in the craft market.  There was one woodworker whose work was very, very nice.  After spending time looking at other possibilities, I decided to commission this artisan to carve a unicorn.

The first challenge was to explain what a unicorn is.  A horse, kind of, with a long shaft projecting from his head.  It was actually quite comical as I, along with my friends, tried to explain in a mixture of English, Spanish, who knows what else, what a unicorn is.

I had to wait three days before I saw the final product.  In fact, we were picking it up right before we were taking our cab back to the airport.  I paid in advance and wondered what we would be getting.

Here is the starting photo that I took to show off the Unicorn, some 25 plus years after it was carved.


Week 13:  Wooden Unicorn, Original ImageWeek 13: Wooden Unicorn, Original ImageA picture of the original unicorn. So, I was a bit surprised at what was carved.  A little scary compared to the other Unicorns in my daughter's collection.  But this was carved specifically for her and I was going to make sure that it travel well between Jamaica and home.  I was looking forward to my daughter's surprise when she opened her present.

She was very surprised at the Unicorn.  She immediately placed it in a prominent place in her bedroom.  And she was very pleased that I had something special carved for her.  Although she was a little intimidated by the look.  Her other Unicorns were happy and friendly looking; this unicorn looked like it was guarding something special and wouldn't be messed with.


​Speed up to 2015.  This year I am doing weekly challenges with a host of other photographers who have taken workshops from Andre Gallant and Freeman Patterson in Canada.  This week's assignment is wood.  One of my thougths was to capture the unicorn in various ways and to see what that might suggest in terms of insights and new discoveries.

The first thing that I did was to crop the image a little differently.  Emphasize the unicorn and get rid of distracting background.


Week 13:  Wooden Unicorn croppedWeek 13: Wooden Unicorn cropped


Then I thought I would increase the amount of detail by using Topaz Adjust.  See if can get the carvings that are so much a part of this unicorn to stand out.

Now, I am looking for various ways of creatively expressing this unicorn.


Week 13:  Wooden Unicorn SolarizedWeek 13: Wooden Unicorn Solarized

 My first attempt was to use Solarization within Photoshop.  What I liked about this image is how it brought out the carving aspect of the unicorn, although the image looks a bit scarier than what I originally bought as a present for my pre-school child.

My next attempt is a technique invented and popularized by Andre Gallant, called Moonscape Dreamscapes.  To me, this isn't as scary of an image.  But still probably not something that I would show to a bunch of pre-schoolers.  It softens the image a bit, but still has a feeling of monsters rather than a soft, cuddly, plush toy.  So, back to the drawing board to find a way to capture the cuddly feel of a unicorn rather than the harshness of the wooden, hand carved statue.


Week 13:  Wooden Unicorn Moonlight DreamscapedWeek 13: Wooden Unicorn Moonlight Dreamscaped






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