Reveal petroglyphs with digital magic: LAPC

Did you know you can reveal petroglyphs with a little digital magic? Yep, there’s an app for that. In this post, I’ll show you how I revealed several petroglyphs with the app, Rock Art Enhancer. Click through the slideshow of each image below.

In each of the first pictures, I show the original image. In the second, I used the Auto level and increase saturation tool. The third pictures show a variety of effects. All of these petroglyphs are located in southeast Oregon.

These petroglyphs were carved into rock thousands of years ago and over time they have become less clear. Unfortunately, the messages conveyed by many of these carvings are unknown. While some show obvious elements of wildlife, humans, and the sun, others are open to interpretation.

Revealing petroglyphs with an app

The first series shows petroglyphs on a rimrock cliff located in Harney County. The second effect brings out the details, but I prefer the almost psychedelic colors in the third image. The third effect used the Decorrelation Stretching (abbreviated as D. Stretch) YUV Custom tool.

The second series is from the same location. The second effect brings out the petroglyphs that are almost invisible in the original. The third image shows more muted colors. The third image uses the Histogram Equalization effect.

This petroglyph was found near Abert Lake. Several boulders at this location are thought to have rolled down from Abert Rim. Petroglyphs and pictographs at this site include lizards, snakes, and complex designs. The petroglyph was faint but the third effect eliminated distractions. The third effect uses the K-Means clustering tool.

This boulder was near Abert Lake and, like the other one at the same location, it was faint. You can see the images better in the second effect. I experimented, with limited success, with the third effect, which isolates and reveals the petroglyphs. I used the K-Means clustering tool and customized some of the settings.

This boulder is near the summit of a pass north of Summer Lake. The images are thought to represent human figures, horses, and coyotes. The multiple figures are easier to see in the second image. The third effect makes the surrounding foliage shine. I used the D. Stretch YUV tool.

One from my archives

This lizard petroglyph is at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge. It really stands out with the increased contrast in the second image. The third effect looks like a painting in pastels. I used the D. Stretch Lab tool.

Rock Art Enhancer is a cool tool to reveal petroglyphs and pictographs you’ve photographed.

Though the stories this rock art once told have been lost over time, this app helps us see what has long been hidden.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) #234 – Messages

19 thoughts on “Reveal petroglyphs with digital magic: LAPC

  1. Super interesting. I did not know about the app. Amazing clarity and amazing to think what we can do now a days. I admit I like the psychedelic ones too. Kind of an abstract art. Great info, great photos, great add. Thanks for joining. Ill bet lots of visitors are going to hop on that app.

  2. I’m always fascinated by petroglyphs, as my own post shows! I tend to prefer the more simply enhanced versions in your second images in each set. How does using this app differ from simply increasing contrast and saturation in Photoshop or another editing programme, which is what I would do?

    • The first time I saw it used was in the field with an archaeologist. He showed us what we weren’t seeing. Very impressive! Yes, you could use photo editing programs to get similar results, but this tool helped direct us where to take photos while at a site.

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