Broken Arrow and Creating LAB Patterns

Wandering the pedestrian walk on new San Francisco Bay Bridge span in the waning days of the year, I shot this directional arrow, intended to guide foot and bike traffic, straight down and broken up by strong shadows from the railing.

Broken Arrow © Harold Davis

Broken Arrow © Harold Davis

Before I converted Broken Arrow to black and white, of course, it was color (shown below). (The monochrome version is still an RGB color file technically speaking—but that’s another story!)

Broken Arrow - color © Harold Davis

Broken Arrow – color © Harold Davis

It’s astoundingly easy to use Photoshop adjustments in LAB color and blending modes to create intricate patterns out of something like the color version of Broken Arrow. Here’s one example:

LAB Cross Pattern #1 © Harold Davis

LAB Cross Pattern #1 © Harold Davis

To get to the pattern from the color photo,  in Photoshop I duplicated the image, and converted the duplicate to LAB color mode. I next used Image > Adjust > Invert to invert the LAB color values within the file, and then converted the entire image back to RGB, with results shown below:

LAB Inversion (all channels) © Harold Davis

LAB Inversion (all channels) © Harold Davis

Next, I made another duplicate of the original image file, converted it to LAB, selected the L channel only, and inverted the L channel. I flipped the image horizontally, with results shown below:

L-Channel Inversion (Flipped) © Harold Davis

L-Channel Inversion (Flipped) © Harold Davis

The last big step is to align the two LAB inversions as layers in one image, and set the Blending Mode to Difference (by the way, they have to be back in RGB, or the Difference mode isn’t available).

There are many possible variations on this technique of course, depending on what channels you invert, how you flip the image, and what blending modes you use. Here’s another variation from the same original image:

LAB Cross Pattern #2 © Harold Davis

LAB Cross Pattern #2 © Harold Davis

To learn more about the LAB color techniques for creative image making I have pioneered, check out The Way of the Digital Photographer  (pages 156-163) and The Photoshop Darkroom (pages 148-201). If this really intrigues you, you may want to consider my Mastering Creative Photoshop workshop (January 25-26, one last minute spot available, more space in the second session, May 31 – June 1, 2014).

This entry was posted in Abstractions, Monochrome, Photoshop Techniques and tagged , , , , .

3 Trackbacks

  1. By Mandalas from a Crystal Bowl on March 7, 2014 at 8:44 am

    […] hard to get me going on this kind of thing without wanting to play in Photoshop, so I started using LAB adjustments. How do you make a mandala from a crystal […]

  2. By Rose after Delauney and O’Keeffe on March 25, 2014 at 8:08 am

    […] a couple of other examples of this kind of thing, check out Mandalas from a Glass Bowl, Broken Arrow and Creating LAB Patterns, and also see my article on Photo.net, Using LAB Color […]

  3. By New span of the Bay Bridge on February 27, 2015 at 11:24 am

    […] Related stories: Out with the Old; Bay Bridge Lights. For a pattern I observed on the new Bay Bridge walkway, see Broken Arrow. […]

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