Heads or Tails?

Section of alligator tail.

So here is the start of my “gator week.” I’ve wanted to gather a pool of alligator photos for a while so I could work with their textures and colors. Unfortunately, the farm I visited was not a photo haven or at least not for the photos I was seeking. Either the farm has an excellent track record of protecting visitors from gators or it has had an unfortunate history. If the alligator farming business dries up, they have a solid start on building a maximum security prison. The viewing areas had layers upon layers of fencing and rails. Most of the wired fences were a 3in x 3in mesh. Zooming through worked but you would catch heavy vignette-like blurs. To boot, the waters were either coffee brown or an intense teal. But, all part of the fun, right?

As for processing, I had a difficult time deciding what I wanted to do with this one as alligator skin is more complicated than I realized. The textures look much sharper from a distance, but when you get closer they are more sodden and smooth. And here is why I love the Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex pro. I was able to keep the midtones at bay, retaining the smoothness while bringing up the highlight and shadow tones for texture. After I worked that filter, I brought it into Photoshop where I desaturated and used a curve layer mask to darken. I then applied a black/white gradient map on a new layer and dropped the opacity to keep some color.

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