Window treatments

Blind, curtain and coffee cup

With a little encouragement from Fencer, I’ve gone looking for some of my favorite art photos. Today’s offering is on window treatments (Suburbanlife’s bete noire , the name for curtains n those house fashion magazines).

I like them because they filter light and sometimes create great shadows or with sheers, offer layers of visual imagery that has to be guessed at. It can be clear on one level and obscure and tempting on another. (The verysame reason why I like Canadada’s superimposed photos). I inherited the window treatments in this house and I would never have chosen them myself because they are a bit more baroque than I would normally chose; but I’ve fallen in love with them. The photo above captures the opaque blind with the see-through fringe, the curtain with its two layers of see-through-ness – the mesh and then the embroidered leaf figures. the nature of the fabric when doubled (it’s hem), and then the shadow/light it casts on the window sill. I like the restraint in the colour, almost monochromatic, with the only touch of brighter colour being the peach on the cup’s decal.

Curtain and yellow flashlight:

Same window, same drape: Here I’ve left a large flashlight on the sill. I’m hesitant about all that yellow. It disturbs the austerity of the remainder of the coloring. Is it provocative or disturbing? (That’s an either or question; not both).

Here it is again, desaturated so the yellow is gone and sepia-ized. The photo is less jarring colourwise, but the meaning is harder to grasp. The object behind the semi-transparent curtain becomes less definable and so the meaning of the picture is lost as well. It leaves me doubtful, but the experimentation was worth the try.

Next, I’ve two curtains with light falling through them. It’s like being at the Optometrist. I look a this first one and then the second and ask “which is the better composition” . They are so similar but different. On the first there is a deep shadow on the left hand side. Does that imbalance the image? Does it make the image too vertically challenged without sufficiently strong horizontal action?

Neither one of these photos have been adjusted colour-wise nor cropped. I like the simplified and stylized plant forms embroidered on the curtain and then some very busy evergreen branch (fir or pine?) outside the window casting a precise shadow onto the semi-sheer fabric. The window mullion traversing horizontally is in better tonal balance than the first picture. I think the composition proportions are better too; but there are some nice subtleties in the tonal ranges of the first of these two images where the mullion shadow crosses horizontally. Does one have to choose? Can I have both?

And now for the last image:

As I was playing with the desaturation function in Adobe Photoshop, I was looking for a sepia-making function. I didn’t find it so I went exploring other things and found shadow highlight under Image , Adjustments. Look what it’s done to this picture! I like it. Especially, I like what happened with pushing the shadow function in photo 2 of this series:

Here’s the photo I started with. I used brightness contrast in the adjustments function to lighten up the photo, it being quite dark around the edges. It didn’t improve it sufficiently for my taste. It was too heavy and dark on top and that created an imbalance that wasn’t useful to the image.

When I found the shadow/highlight function, I produced this by pushing the Shadow scale up to 100 p[ercent:

The Money Plant arrangement at the top of the blind popped out of the gloom, making a leit motif of floral movement in that dark space. The dark space was no longer heavy and oppressive in the total image. It also introduced some light tan colour and some warmth into the image which makes it more hospitable, more friendly. So being the curious sort that I am, I wondered what would happen if I pushed the highlight function to 100 percent. I used version 2 for this experiment and here’s the answer for what happens:

It almost polarized the light in the lower portion. It made the picture warmer again and the spiraling figure, if you can call it that, from the wrought iron decoration in the middle of the venetian blind has become more like a shadow than an object. Curiouser and curiouser. I like it.

It’s getting late. I’ll have to experiment some more another day.

It’s fun. It’s grand. Thanks, Fencer, for the encouragement. I hope you enjoyed this.

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4 Responses to “Window treatments”

  1. suburbanlife Says:

    LFB – nice fooling around with intent and the camera!
    Please, Please, PLEASE! call them curtains, drapes, blinds ets, but not WINDOW TREATMENTS – sounds like an illness that must be overcome.
    Okay, having had my rant, now – i must say that i like the different types of materials covering the windows in your house – they play peek-a-boo nicely with the outside landscape and do make gorgeous shadow patterns on your interior surfaces. There is something stage-y about curtains, that makes a drama of ordinary appearances, alternately reveals and obscures, aside from their rather ordinary function. G

  2. fencer Says:

    Hi there,

    Interesting experiments! The shadow/highlight control does create such differences…

    Very enjoyable!


  3. forestrat Says:

    Oddly enough I didn’t even notice the yellow flashlight until I read the caption. I was looking at the shadow on the left and trying to figure out if it was a cat.



    Thanks for your comments Forest Rat, Fencer and Suburban Life.
    To Forest Rat’s comment:
    I rarely set up a photograph, rarely move something to make a photo better. What I try to do is always have the camera ready for that magic moment of light and form, ready to capture it on “film”, now digitally, to freeze the moment in time. If one waits a second too long, the image is changed, lost forever. The light just poured in the window, one lovely day, and created this random grouping of objects I’d left on the window sill awaiting a better, more permanent “putting away” place. Without the light striking these objects in a certain way, it was just a messy window sill!

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