London Embankment Skateboarder – June 2016. 200 ISO, 1/8s, f11, Grain added in Photoshop with Silver Efex Pro 2. The feature picture is a 2020 interpretation of the digital negative, other earlier interpretations and the original are shown below.


It’s About Tonal Contrast


The above feature shot above was taken on a day out in London in 2016 down on the Embankment. An 1/8 sec shutter speed was planned to allow for the effect of panning the camera. If you get Panning right, with practice the idea is to freeze or semi-freeze the moving subject with the still background blurred.


Lith – the reason why

The reason I use Split Toning to give a Lith effect is that it extends tonal contrast. A pure black and white rendering of a picture is varying  shades of grey. To me, the range of tonal contrast is enhanced when grey throughout the picture is exchanged for subtle contrasting colours. In my case this will be a warm tone in the highlights and a cool tone in the shadows. These two colours were chosen in 2005 when I did my first digital Lith pictures to mimic the Lith effect of Agfa Record Rapid darkroom paper. History note – It was not possible to get the same colour shift when the Cadmium was taken out of the Record Rapid paper for health and safety reasons. Agfa went bust years ago.

My Lith Process – Lightroom > Photoshop > Silver Efex Pro 2 > Photoshop > Lightroom 


This is my digital Lith process – note the added film Grain is only in the shadows and mid-tones. Here is an overview of my process for adding film Grain to a digital picture. You may ask why would anybody want to add Grain to a low noise picture? Going back to my feeling that digital is too everything – sharp, contrasty and worst of all clinically clean. The Grain also mimics the look of a darkroom Lith print as long as it’s in the right tones.


Here is the process

1 Open the colour original picture in the Lightroom Develop Module, Ctrl/Cmd + E to open a copy file in Photoshop – a low contrast file is good at this stage.

2 Duplicate the Background Layer Ctrl/Cmd + J.

3 Make the Duplicate Background layer a Smart Filter Layer (so you can change your mind later in the process if you need to). Filter > Convert For Smart Filters.

4 Open the Silver Efex Pro 2 Plugin on the Smart Filter Duplicate Layer.

5 Grain will added to all tones of the picture, we will mask out the grain from the Highlights back in Photoshop later. Use the Film Grain drop-down menu – I always start with Kodax TMZ (3200 ASA) at the bottom. Reduce the amount of Grain per Pixel to less the 50 (so you can see it easily) and take the Grain Hardness Slider all the way to the left. Paper grain is softer than Film Grain. Undo the film Charateristic Curve so that it does not make the picture darker and over contrasty. 

6 Use the Zone Histogram to check for solid blacks or burnt out whites. Amend the Exposure and Contrast Sliders to refine if required.

7 Save the file – Silver Efex will close and Photoshop will open with the result of SFX on the duplicate layer.

The 2016 interpretation of the file. Note the grain is only in the mid-tones and shadows.

8 You may need a gentle S Curve (Curve 1 – opposite) to increase the overall contrast slightly to make a better selection in the next stage. Now comes the critical bit – removing the Grain from the Highlights where it is not required, this is done by selecting the Highlights on the Background layer. To select the Highlights only I use the Color Range Tool in the Select Menu, click on the Drop-down Menu and choose Highlights. Click OK. Right click and Feather the selection by 5px.

Now apply the selection to the Duplicate Layer (Layer 1) – Select the Duplicate Layer then click on Add to Mask Icon (to the right of the fx icon – see right). A black and white Thumbnail of the Layer Mask will appear in the Layer Thumbnail.

9 Select the Duplicate layer Layer MASK Thumbnail (the one on the right) NOT the Layer Properties icon next to it, when selected it will have a white line around it. Now Invert the layer selection mask by Ctrl/Cmd + I. This puts the Grain in mid-tones and Shadows only NOT in the Highlights. No time to explain why now.

10 Reduce the sharpness of the Grain on the Duplicate Layer by Blurring the Duplicate layer by 2px. Select the Duplicate Layer, Filters > Blur > Gausian Blur = 2px. 

11 You may still have some colour remaining that is normal and will be dealt with in Lightroom

12 Save the file Ctrl/Cmd + S and Quit Photoshop Ctrl/Cmd + Q.

13 Lightroom will open with a Grainy picture in the Develop module – hopefully there will no grain in the Highlights.

14 Convert to black and white by Desaturating all the colours


15 Appy a Lith Curve – see opposite for the right curve shape. Lith produces low contrast Highlights, high contrast Mid-tone and Shadows.

16 Reduce the Exposure to counteract the Curve shape.

17 Reduce the Clarity – Lith has film and darkroom origins so it can not be as sharp as modern digital artwork.

18 Split Tone – see opposite as a starting point. The main control here is the Balance slider. For my style a subtle approach is the way to go.

19 Local Adjustments as required.


Above is the original shot without any Lightroom or Photoshop adjustments.


This picture works for me only because the skateboarder is wearing a dark coloured T Shirt against a light toned background. Many of my pictures are light against dark, this is something I drum in to my clients and workshop participants. Monochrome photography is about taking and or making tonal contrast, it’s as simple as that.

The 2020 interpretation is a more minimalist approach with the focus of the picture on the abstracted skateboard against a darker background that was there but I helped lighten it with the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom. a Search Engine that does not steal and abuse your personal data

I was introduced to the Search Engine by a friend on a Meetup walk in Bristol recently. The name is new to me so looked them up and found they are the alternative data secure search engine. They claim to

NEVER collect your data, NEVER track your data! and respect your privacy!  They say 

1.It is in our DNA to protect every user!

2.We DO NOT store your data!

3.With Swisscows you are 100% anonymous!

Take a look at it see if you prefer not to have your search tracked and feedback to you in unwanted adverts.

How To Stop The Phone In Your Pocket Being a Google Spy

If you think there is nothing to worry about, open Google Maps then go to Settings and click on Timeline… a very accurate description of everywhere you and the phone have been together. 


A little knowledge…

I must say I have no expertise in this field at all so what follows is what I have done as an attempt to retain my privacy where GDPR in 2018 and other national and international legislation has completely failed to do. How can governments legislate to protect our privacy when they and the rest of us have no clue as to the complexity of the problem we are trying to fix? A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

My feeling is every Google and Facebook product, of any kind, is only developed to increase the scope and depth of data tracking and recording about you. Your spending habits and lifestyle are the data products as far as these companies are concerned. A similar analogy would be – if you by a new or used car by finance, the car dealer is only interested in the finance deal because that is where the most profit is. You as the car buyer are more interested in the car rather than the way of paying for it. In your desire to have the car there is a risk of not understanding the finance agreement and the potential penalties particularly when using a PCP finance arrangement.

Another example, Google allows you to make “Google My Maps”, very useful for someone like me. Every time I click “Add to (My) Map” that location is stored with all the other info Google knows about me. In my case it will generally be a potential picture location on a workshop recce. 



By default, Google Data Tracking and Storage is ALWAYS ON unless you make a conscious decision and action to turn it off on your phone, tablet and computer. 


How to Turn OFF Location History – See here 

How to also Turn OFF Web and App (Tracking) Activity – This stops other Google Apps tracking you even though they having nothing to do with Google Maps.



Turning these two controls OFF will not delete your browsing history.

To permanently delete the data Google has tracked and stored about you is another step. I have looked into that yet.