Making of “Welcome to Hell”

Inspired by Aldous Huxley’s quote: “Maybe this world is another planet’s hell”

Low key


From the artistic perspective low-key is used to create elegant images especially portraits and artistic nude photography as well as many other fine art subjects. Low-key helps not just to add drama or interest to a particular subject but it also helps to create particular moods and feelings such as fear, anxiety, oppression and many others generally perceived as negative feelings, so the idea I had in mind when I pre-visualized this image was to create an image that conveyed those kind of feeling to the viewer.

It’s fascinating all the situations and things you can find below bridges in urban zones, so in order to click this image I went to an area close to Houston’s downtown, I’ve to say I didn’t get the guts to get there after dark — maybe 20 years ago I’d do it but not at my 45s — so I did it at noon with plenty of light nevertheless I think it was a good choice given that allowed me to capture good harsh chiaroscuros in some areas under the bridge.

I believe the graffiti statement and graffiti figures in this image suggest multiple possibilities of interpretation: The whole fam miss you in this context it sounds to me a little like “welcome home …” being home this place …


In-Camera Settings

Regarding the in-camera details there is not much to say just that knowing I was going to process this image as a low-key I wanted  an image naturally contrasting, so the first step was to look for the right place below the bridge (kind of dark and with natural chiaroscuros).

Once I found the location I made several test shots in order to figure out that 320 was the lowest ISO I could use in these conditions (I was shooting handheld) which is still acceptable in terms of not getting a noisy image so afterwards it was just a matter of adjusting the shutter speed and aperture to achieve the desired effect.

Post-Processing Details

For black and white images I use two post-processing add-ons and Adobe Photoshop CC that are part of my workflow for practically all my images:  Adobe Camera Raw and The Nik Collection. Below a generic description of what I do with each of these.

Adobe Camera Raw   I added some vibrance and saturation so, this allowed me to get a good color tonality to take advantage of during the black and white conversion. I also added 75% clarity to get a better structure mainly seen on the part of the concrete where the graffiti statements and figures are.

Color Efex Pro  I used a Tonal Contrast preset in order to make the image a little bit more contrasting.

Silver Efex Pro   I used a low-key preset plus some control points to add more contrast especially in the graffiti areas and I also added a black vignette.

Photoshop CC  — I finally made an output sharpen (Smart Sharpen) in Photoshop CC.

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