With this post, we start new series – Colorization Notes – the stories of the most exciting photographs that we happened to colorize in CODIJY. In this series we will walk you through colorization process, talk about intellectual and creative challenges we faced and discoveries we made down the road.
Today we are going to take you on a thrilling journey we made while colorizing the portrait of a Camel Driver from Sinai or Chamelier du Sinai (download MGD source file). We have stumbled upon this impressive piece of black and white photography published among 100 Awe-Inspiring Black and White Images.
Even though we don’t know the exact story behind this powerful photo and the person it portrays, its author is, by all means, worth the mention.
Sebah – Renowned Middle East Photographers of 19th-20th Centuries
The photo signature reads that Camel Driver from Sinai was shot by J.P Sebah, the son of renowned Pascal Sebah (1823-1886) – one of the best and most commercially successful photographers of the Middle East.
Around 1860, Pascal Sebah opened the photographic studio in Constantinople, the heart of the Ottoman Empire. In 1875, he expanded his business to Cairo. Pascal Sebah was known “because of his well-organized compositions, careful lighting, effective posing, attractive models, great attention to detail, and for the excellent print quality produced by his technician, A. Laroche”.
Through his career Sebah collaborated with Osman Hamdi Bey (1842-1910), the artist who posed models, often dressed in elaborate costumes for Sebah to photograph and, then, used these photographs for his orientalist paintings.
After Sebah’s death in 1890, his sixteen year old son Jean had joined the studio. He used to sign his negatives J.P Sebah, placing his initials before his father’s name. Jean retired from business in 1935, while the studio that Pascal Sebah started in 1857 operated for 95 years.
We can only guess, but the Camel Driver from Sinai can be dated back to the first quarter of the of the 20th century, as being obviously shot by the already mature photographer.
Traditional Bedouin’s Clothes
Before adding the first color strokes, let’s make the brief acquaintance with traditional dress worn by bedouins.
It consisted of the “tob” or “thobe” the white cotton or wool dress with long triangular sleeves. On top of thobe, bedouins wore overcoat (kirb) with the belt.
The headwear was different across North Africa, Arabia and other regions, but most of it consisted from the piece of cloth held in place by the stripe of the camel wool.
We can also see several traditional accessories: the handle of the knife, the smoking pipe, the shoulder belt and the handle of the object that might appear to be the whip.
Camel Driver from Sinai portrays the extraordinary powerful personality of a bedouin – the desert dweller from a Sinai peninsula.
His burnt, weather-beaten face, noble look, relaxed posture and elaborate oriental clothes create an atmosphere of a Renaissance painting, rather than a commercial photograph.
Camel Driver from Sinai is filled with harmony and carries the invisible trace of the desert. These thoughts brought ne to idea to use soft, warm colors and combine them with original pale tone of the original.
All colorization steps will be further performed in CODIJY Pro – the easy-to-use software for intuitive photo colorizing.
Coloring Photograph’s Background
As we can see no distinctive objects behind the Camel Driver’s back, the photograph was obviously shot in the studio. Once the back is merely functional, we’ve decided to pick a solid “928274” color that should return us the color close to the color of the bright sand.
Please note that we chose a darker color for a reason. It normally returns the brighter results, when applied to non-white backgrounds.
Colorization of the Face and the Arms
Picking Tone for Weather-Beaten, Tanned Complexion
The weather-beaten skin rarely blushes with color against the heavy skin pigmentation. We risked and picked “6a5756” color from the People Skin: Afro CODIJY color library – actually, my first color picking attempt was successful.
We sketched strokes over the forehead, nose, the cheek and the neck to make colors spread evenly. The result looked very natural, except for it cast an unnatural tone over the beard.
Changing the Tone for the Beard
We have decided to farther experiment with the color libraries in search for the natural tone for coloring beard. Fortunately, we came across “#1b1116” that converted to exact result we was attempting to achieve.
Adding accent to the Lips
I assume that the lips could rarely have the same tone as the rest of the face, even when the person has such tanned complexion. So, we ran a couple of experiments with other dark skin tones, and found out that the darker skin tone returns the adequate result.
Simple Option for Making Eyes Look Natural
The size of the image we’ve downloaded, was quite small, so we though that the eyes won’t require any specific effort. We only protected the couple of pixels of the eye whites with Color Protect pen. Protecting the larger area may have created in the unnaturally grey areas around the eyes.
Tob (White Shirt)
I decided to leave the white cloth of the “tob” as it is, since there are no objects nearby that might cast color shadows. We had the choice to use De-color pen, but applying the Protect pen that let me preserve the original pale tone looked more natural.
I have added Color Protection pen outline within all areas displaying the “tob”.
The color of the kirb overcoat worn overall the white tob can be whatever, but the excessively bright, since it was likely affected by the merciless desert sun.
I have picked color “#29161f” from Fabric Color Library as looking natural and maintaing the color balance.
Colorizing Striped Cloths of Headwear
Coloring stripes on the bedouin’s headwear was the most challenging part of colorization, since one has to be very attentive to trace each stripe across its folds. we used the combination of Color Protection strokes along with the color applied to the darker stripes.
The oriental headwear used to have metallic cords in the cloths elements. So, we were not surprised when CODIJY has returned “golden” stripes, after applying the color we initially used for the background outline. Not only they appeared natural, but also underlined the man’s noble look.
Another exciting part of colorizing the Camel Driver was working on various accessories: the pipe, the handle of the knife and the shoulder belt.
Working of Smoking Pipe’s Details
Smoking pipe in the man’s hand is made from either wood or metal has some metallic decoration. We have used De-color pen for decoration and the chain, while added the color to its stem.
Handle Under the Left Hand
The handle under the man’s left hand bound with the rope appears to be in the shadow. My guess it might have been the handle of the camel whip, so its made from either wood or leather.
When CODIJY applies colors to the objects in the dark, in most cases it will return the excessively bright colors, unless the applied color is very close to monochrome.
In order to make the handle look realistic we applied strokes of De-color pen at the top of the handle and over the rope. The rest of the handle will be colored into the tone of the overcoat. It’s reasonable, since this object should reflect the overcoat’s color which will make it look natural.
Shoulder belt looks like the piece of the knitted canvas. Then, it should preserve its organic color. The first bright color we picked, returned unnatural yellowish tone. To fix this, we had to adjust it with the HSB Repaint tool to reach the mild, more natural look.
Nevertheless, we decided to preserve the brightness to make this accessory look festive, so that it didn’t look uncolored.
Handle of Khanja
When viewing the image the first time, we assumed that the object under the right arm was the flask. But after studying the bedouin’s attire, we came to the conclusion that it was the handle of the traditional curved knife – khanja.
I have covered it with color protection to preserve the warm tone from the original image, since the handle might have been covered with leather.