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Monday, July 11, 2016

Photographing petroglyphs

Straight photo of the petroglyphs

Petroglyphs can be hard to see and photograph.  I've noticed that the weather and light can make a big difference in their appearence.  Earlier this spring I closely examined a rock face for petroglyphs and found nothing.  Then it started to rain and suddenly there were the petroglyphs (click here).  I've also noticed that petroglyphs are often easier to see from a distance rather than close up.  It seems that your eye has an easier time making sense of less rather than more detail.

After finding the petroglyphs this spring another archaeologist had had me send her a photo so that she could apply some software to it that is especially designed to enhance rock art.  It ended up not showing much more detail than I could do myself by playing with the contrast and definition in 'Photoshop', but it did pique my interest.  The image she sent back also reminded me of the photos I take with my point-and-shoot camera set on the 'dramatic' setting.

So this past weekend on Afognak I decided to try taking photographs of the petroglyphs on the drama setting.  It worked pretty well!  I still think I can achieve much the same effects with 'Photoshop' at home, but for a field setting to help one see the carvings the 'dramatic' setting worked amazingly well.  I can see myself using the technique to help find and draw undiscovered petroglyphs.

In the field it is hard to change the light or the weather (water bottles and flashlights only go so far), but by changing the filters in the camera you can make your own 'weather' and 'light'.  Next time I plan on trying the various 'clouds', 'fluorescent', 'sunny day' etc settings.


Petroglyphs taken with camera on 'drama' setting

A lamp I found with the drama setting - shows the details better

Lipsett petroglyphs from afar - they really look good through binos

This one was touched up and still hard to see from close up

Lipsett Petroglyphs - drama setting

Lipsetts Petroglyphs - artsy black and white setting

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