We introduce a gradient operator that generalizes the Euclidean and Riemannian gradients. This operator acts on sections of vector bundles and is determined by three geometric data: a Riemannian metric on the base manifold, a Riemannian metric and a covariant derivative on the vector bundle. Under the assumption that the covariant derivative is compatible with the metric of the vector bundle, we consider the problems of minimizing the L2 and L1 norms of the gradient. In the L2 case, the gradient descent for reaching the solutions is a heat equation of a differential operator of order two called connection Laplacian. We present an application to color image denoising by replacing the regularizing term in the Rudin-Osher-Fatemi (ROF) denoising model by the L1 norm of a generalized gradient associated with a well-chosen covariant derivative. Experiments are validated by computations of the PSNR and Q-index.

JF - Proceedings of International Conference on Scale Space and Variational Methods in Computer Vision (SSVM-2013), Austria ER -