The Surface of Things


“Do not remain content
with the surface of things.”

Ivan Pavlov

At first glance, you notice the beauty of the stonework and the tall, narrow, perfectly-proportioned window, with its lovely arch.

On second glance, you might wonder at the rusty bars – are they there to keep things in or out?

On the surface, there is a simple architectural beauty to this image. Yet on the other side of this wall lies the West Cell Block of the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio.

For the inmates, this window was their only view to the outside world and freedom.

For us, it is a reminder that things are always more than they appear.


 Texture Tuesday Processing (Photoshop CC)

  • Correct perspective distortion and crop following the Rule of Thirds
  • Run my Midtone Contrast action to bring out the texture of the stonework and iron bars
  • Add a Curves layer, masking with a luminosity mask for the bright areas of the image. Increase the darks/shadows to recover highlight detail without darkening the midtones and shadows
  • Add the Thursday texture, blend mode = Multiply. Mask the window bar detail in order to limit the impact of the texture on this area. Reduce the density of the mask to 75% to bring back a bit of the texture
  • Add an overall Layers Adjustment to increase the contrast, especially in the highlights

Note: You can find a detailed tutorial on luminosity masks here. The author also offers a free Photoshop Luminosity Mask Action Set that will create the masks for you – a real timesaver. I find luminosity masks to be a complex subject but well worth the time investment since they allow you to be very precise in your image adjustments.

Below is the original image and the Photoshop layers palette:

Apr-29-Layers-Palette Apr-29-Before

Linking with Texture Tuesday, hosted by Kim Klassen



Posted on April 29, 2014, in Photoshop and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Powerful…deep…meaningful thoughts behind this simple image. Mmmmmm…:-)

  2. Great story and quote. I love how your processing really highlights the texture and line.

  3. How gorgeous! A beautiful image and thoughtful post.

  4. Love the story behind it . . . there’s always more than meets the eye.

  5. Perfect reflections to go with a wonderful image. You masterfully combine image with language.

  6. I love your interpretation of this image….so meaningful. Your processing really brings out the beauty of the stonework. Well done!

  7. This image touches me today. I’ve been feeling trapped by circumstances this week. I need to look at them differently and see if there is more to them that what I’m making them out to be! Thank you!

  8. There are two sides to every window, as your words and image so artfully point out.

  9. Fantastic. I did wonder about the rusty bars . . . it reminded me of a prison I saw in California. Your texturing made it a thing of beauty.

  10. That’s rather an elegant looking window, bar the bars. Of which there appear to be several layers. I can’t imagine having that as one’s only view of “freedom.” Wonderful image and backstory, as always.

  11. It’s hard to imagine, in today’s modern glass-and-steel architectural climate, that a prison would be built with such style and grace. Is that a two-story window?

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