A Photographer's Notes on DStretch®

One of the reasons that many of the pictographs in this website and in our book have not been previously published is that they are too faint to visualize with the unaided eye or even with available software enhancement, such as Adobe ® Photoshop®. Sun exposure, wind, moisture, sand, habitation use such as fires, and the breakdown of substrate rock, which is nearly always granitic for the Kumeyaay desert area. While the mineral component of the pigment such as red ochre for red, manganese for black and calcium carbonate for white is durable, the fixative or other paint components may not be. Many of the pictographs have significantly faded since the photographs of Malcolm Rogers in the 1930s to the early studies of Ken Hedges in the 1970s and then, again, since our photography in the past few years. Realistically, if we were to present the pictographs in this book as they actually appeared on-site, most of them would be barely visible or defined. As we have mentioned, all of this changed with the advent of DStretch (DS) by Jon Harman. 

The details on DS can be found on Jon Harman’s website, with tutorials and other information (http://www.dstretch.com/) and is really the only source of knowledge at this time. Currently, as listed on the website, there are four means to use DS: a computer or tablet, on certain Canon cameras with installed DS programming on memory cards, an iPhone or an Android phone. The particulars are listed on the website. In the past few years Daren and I have evolved from computer use only, then we added a Canon camera that would run the DS program and show results on an LCD screen. I used a Canon G12 model that I bought new for $300 with a swivel LCD screen and a ten megapixel sensor. In my hands, the Canon produced DS images in the 3–4 megapixel range when shooting in rock shelters. Since I had a much larger sensor in my Nikon, I just used the Canon as a “screening device,” not for making final images. The next step, which for me was huge, was the advent of a DS application that can be used in an iPhone or an Android cellular phone. While the iPhone 6 or 6s has an eight megapixel sensor, the LCD screen is larger and much sharper than the Canon Camera I had. I can enlarge most images to actual size. While I still use the phone as a screening device, I believe it captures much more detail than with the available cameras that can accept DS. The photo cards with DS, you buy from Jon Harman for $100 for three cards loaded with the DS program. To buy the app for your cellular phone is currently $20.

Since others have written on DS itself, there is no need to repeat that here except for one point I wish to make. DS makes use of many different colorspaces. Each one can be individually applied to nearly any strength. There are other controls that in combination give you a nearly infinite number of manipulations. Fortunately, DS performs well with red and black, the two most common colors in La Rumorosa pictographs. The response of other colors to DS colorspaces is more variable, such as white, yellow, green, and blue. Of these four colors, white and yellow are the two most often seen.

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The three guides to DSTretch and other photographic methods for rock art are in both of our books and at coauthor, Daren Sefcik’s website.

“The pictures command your attention. These photographs of ancient American rock art bleed off the pages and into that place in our minds where
the shamans once lived.”

Douglas Peacock
author of In the Shadow of the Sabertooth
and The Best of Edward Abbey

Normal Photo

Same location D-Stretched

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