Monday, September 27, 2010

The Mad Hatter's Tea Party

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, 2010

My friend Carol called me a big tease the other day for not telling you the story behind The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, above.

I wish there was a good story in it. I wish I were clever enough to have arranged the scene this way. I’d be the seaside version of Gregory Crewdson, admired for this meticulously staged tableau, the careful multi-layered arrangement of blue and green buckets and the wind-tossed array of pink and blue chairs framed by the unopened umbrellas, the ocean and the sky.

The truth is that this is the scene exactly as I found it. It’s a children’s play area in front of a resort hotel overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It looks like a strong north wind might have just blown through, tossing the chairs asunder and blowing the umbrellas southward. But I suspect it’s more a case of the beach attendant having tossed all the little chairs and sand toys into the built-up sandbox and hoping that the boss wouldn’t notice.

My friend Gail asked about the color. The color is a result of three things:

  • Good natural light cast evenly across the whole scene.
  • Good exposure, good lights and darks.
  • An advanced post-processing color adjustment made in Photoshop.

The latter is not a trick. It doesn’t create a color that wasn’t in the original image. But it punches up certain colors and gives them a richer saturation that merely changing the RGB color saturation wouldn’t do.

Using Photoshop:

  1. Start with your original jpeg image. Get the exposure where you want it if the original exposure isn’t good.
  2. Change the Image Mode to LAB color. (As I recall, LAB color has a slightly wider and more nuanced spectrum.)
  3. Use the Curves adjustment to enhance the color to whatever degree you want. (A light hand is a good idea. If you overdo it, the image will take on an unnatural look.)
  4. Change the Image Mode back to RGB color.
  5. Save your file.

Now you know all my secrets. (To be honest, I learned this one from Dave Cross at a Photoshop workshop. You could ask my friend Alice. She was there.)


  1. Thank you, Chris! What valuable information to have! Few of us will create the results that you create, however, because there is another ingredient, which is art. You are truly and artist. Still, you've shared something that will open up whole new worlds for those of us who might want to "play in the sandbox." - Sheila Strong

  2. OK, was Alice *really* there or is that just a Mad Hatter reference?

    Thanks for another great photo.

  3. Wow........once more I learned something very useful and my head still hasn't exploded! Thanks, Chris!