Happy Accidents

by Charlie Miller

As a kid growing up in the 80s, I used to love watching The Joy of Painting on PBS when I got home from school everyday. For any of our international readers who may not be familiar: in each episode, Bob Ross, that bearded genius of the 30-minute landscape painting, would create an amazing scene with his oil paints. Sure he was a little far out — he liked to paint with a baby squirrel in his breast pocket — but I’m sure he inspired thousands of people who may never have otherwise attempted painting to pick up a paintbrush and give it a shot.

One of Bob's many mantras was that there are no mistakes in painting — only “happy accidents”. I thought of this the other day while using Aperture when I pressed a keyboard shortcut and mistakenly activated Onscreen Proofing. I had been demoing this feature at a workshop and left my Proofing Profile set to Generic Gray Profile.

The Proofing Profile menu

When I mistakenly pressed Option-Shift-P, the image in my viewer appeared in grayscale. It took me a moment to realize what I had done, but as luck would have it the photo looked great in black and white. I immediately turned off Onscreen Proofing and began experimenting with the Monochrome Mixer adjustment. After trying out a few adjustments, I settled on a custom preset and ended up with a great black and white photo that I may never have created if not for my “happy accident” of activating Onscreen Proofing. It’s funny how unexpected creative inspiration can be.

Unfortunately Bob Ross passed away in 1995, but his website still sells a great collection of instructional DVDs. So get on out there and start experimenting in Aperture with black and white. And don’t forget to paint some happy little clouds…

The original photograph

Onscreen Proofing activated and the proofing profile set to Generic Gray

The final photo with a custom Monochrome Mixer adjustment


Fraser Speirs
2007-10-01 04:04:53
Can you share the adjustments you made for this image? I'm curious.
Charlie Miller
2007-10-01 05:08:03
Sure Fraser. The straight "Monochrome with Blue Filter" did a pretty good job of removing the contrasting highlight at the top of the building, but I wanted to brighten up the sky even further. So I ended up with Red: 0 / Green: 22 / Blue: 100.
David Day
2007-10-01 06:55:06
I regularly use "Control-M" to see what the image looks like in B&W, if I think there is a possibility...as you know, that key sequence adds a frame to the Adjustments palette and sets the view to Monochrome...uncheck the box in the frame and you're back to color if you wish..otherwise, you can enjoy playing with the mixer...fun stuff!! your combined use here is exceptional...turned a nice shapshot into a very distinctive, powerful image...losing the highlight at the top makes it happen :-)
random bob, a.r.c.
2007-10-01 09:28:37
I find almost every image looks great in black & white ;-)
Nicole TaĆ­na Martinez
2007-10-01 11:58:02
ahhhh the joy of painting! i used to watch it everyday, bob ross makes me smile. van dyke brown, cadmium yellow and happy little trees. oh the memories. thanks charlie!
nice shot, btw.
Fraser Speirs
2007-10-09 12:06:11
Thanks Charlie.