Three Wise Monkeys

I have some photos of Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine a UNESCO world heritage site located in Nikko, Japan. This is the shrine with the three Mizaru, Kikazaru, Iwazaru -- the orignal Sanzaru wood carving on the top of the stable building. That is the wood carving of the  "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" monkeys -- the famous Three Wise Monkeys. There are around eight panels with wood carving of monkeys in various pose around the stable building but these three monkeys are the most talked about and everybody knows them.

The photo of the three wise monkeys or sanzaru was taken almost 20 years ago during a one day tour to Nikko on a Saturday. The weather was really bad on that day. All traffic and tour buses going to the Nikko Toshogu Shrine were stopped by the traffic police for almost 2 hours due to heavy fogs and low visibility. When we arrived at the Nikko Toshogu shrine our tour leader was in a haste to make up for the lost time on the road. The weather was still misty and cloudy when we entered the shrine compound.

The see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil monkeys
The original film scan images of the three wise monkey was dull, watercolour-liked and uninteresting.

So the photos of the three mystic apes were taken in a hurry as our tour leader was rushing everyone to get back on schedule. The condition of the wood carving was not helping as it was in dire of some restoration work as the paintwork was faded and washed out.

The camera used for the Three Wise Monkey photos was the Olympus OM-4Ti. The lens was the OM Zuiko 35-105mm F3.5-5.6 zoom lens set at the 105mm setting. The film was Fujichrome Provia 400X, exposure setting not recorded. The focus was slightly out, the misty atmosphere and the faded wood carving added to the poor quality images. I had tried many times to improve this image but just couldn't seem to get it right .

Few days ago I suddenly got this idea to turn the three monkeys into a black and white photo to see how my sanzaru image will turn out. I tried the Gimps'  Black-and-White film simulation plug-in. This wonderful Gimp plug-in can simulate a wide range of popular black-and-white film emulsion with choices such as Kodak Tri-x, Agfapan 25, IIford FP4 and etc. The Photo below is the Kodak Tri-X version.
Monochrome image of the three wise monkeys
The photo of three wise monkeys is converted to black-and-white with the Kodak Tri-X look using the BW film simulation plug-in of the Gimp.

After the conversion to a Black-and-white image on a separate layer I experimented with blending the top Black-and-white layer with the colour layer below. I tried all the blending modes available on the Gimp editing software. When I set the top BW layer to value blending mode  I was surprised to get a better looking three wise monkeys without doing much editing on the original image.
The Sansaru or the three mystic apes of Nikko Toshogu shrine
This images of the Sanzaru or three wise monkey is created by blending the converted black-and-white images with the original film scan.

So I started working on this sanzaru image again with this new found technique. May be this method of blending a black-and-white image with a color original to enhance a film scan is not new to others but it is a first for me.

Here is one with three layers blending. The base layer is the original Three Wise Monkeys from the 35mm film scan. The middle layer I used the Gimp G'MIC Black-and-white conversion mode and blend with the value blending mode. The top layer is a duplicate of the bottom layer with the black point adjusted blend with multiply mode at 50% setting. I am quite happy to see the rather boring original image of the Three Wise Monkeys now looking better and closer to what I saw back then. The image also looks sharper even with no USM or sharpening applied.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" or "mizaru, kikzaru, Iwazaru" the sanzaru or the three wise monkeys
This is the final images of the Three Wise Monkeys of Nikko Toshogu Shrine blend in 3 layers on the Gimp . I am quit happy with this final result of this sanzaru photo.

Looking at some of my 35mm film scan images in my collection I really wished I had an Olympus Digital Pen camera or something similar 20 years ago. That is funny because just about 10 years ago I was saying to friends and myself that digital photography still had a long way to go before they can catch up with 35mm film images. Well, what can I say now? I supposed time has changed and the table is turned.

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