Playing with Sepia Toning of Highlights in Monochrome Images

Moody #2 - San Francisco - 2014

I recently got reacquainted with the beautiful monochrome work of Michael Kenna. His images have a number of striking qualities – mostly long exposure, his use of grain, and the square (and small 8×8 inch) print size. But for me it’s the light in his images that grab me.

Doing a bit of reading of interviews of Kenna, he has spoken about his he uses a light sepia toning in the highlights of his images – and how, by doing so, the mind’s eye sees the highlights as a bit forward in space while the shadows are pushed back – adding a sense of dimensionality to an image.

This is an image of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge shot from San Francisco’s Embarcadero with my Fujifilm X-E2 on a particularly moody February morning. I used it as an example for applying this kind of technique – sepia toning of the highlights. To do so, it’s an easy process in Photoshop CC. Select the RGB channel to create a selection, then add a gradient map adjustment layer – the selection will automatically be loaded into the adjustment layer’s layer mask. Then select the photographic toning Sepia 1 tone – and you’re done with the highlights.

I took it a bit further, duplicating that process but inverting the layer mask to add a Selenium 2 tone to the shadows – pushing them further back in the mind’s eye.

Below is the original monochrome version of this image – you can see the difference. Click on either to see a larger version.

Moody - San Francisco - 2014

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