Pushing the curve, or pushing the “S” curve to give it it’s proper name is a colourist’s term for adjusting the gamma curve of an image to crush the blacks and roll off the highlights giving the image a more “filmic” look. Film has a particular performance characteristic when exposed to light which means it is much more sympathetic to extremes of contrast than video sensors which tend to blow out the highlights when confronted with extremes of brightness.
Here are a few extremes of this process taken around London. Some are successful than others, there’s a very specific point where the image becomes “unreal” – hyper-real if you like. That’s the point that I find interesting – the point at which the image stops being a photograph and starts turning into some some sort of electronic hybrid of photograph and processed image.
My next plan is to start trying this with HDR (high dynamic range) photos or native RAW images from my GH1 to escape the confines of the 8 bit colour space imposed by the JPG format.