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03-23-2014, 01:08 AM   #1
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Reality, revised -- right?

About a week ago, photographed a sunset over Batiquitos Lagoon near the sea at Carlsbad, California. Exposed for the sky near the sun; the land turned all dark. Today, went back and edited the photo to 'improve' it.

And realized that we are living in an age of miracles and wonder, as the song goes. It is so easy now to change an image to whatever you want it to look like. So easy. I remember just 30 years ago, helping a friend try to develop color proof prints for a catalog -- I think all his profit for that job went down with the pile of rejects on the floor. Developing your own color was HARD. Amazing how fast things change.

And I'm all for it, not being a purist. I really enjoy using inexpensive software, like Xara Photo & Graphic Designer, to bring an image up so that it looks somewhat like what I saw with my eyes. And then maybe a little bit more... more saturation, a color tint here or there, maybe desaturating an area that came out too blue, or green, or whatever. And then cropping, which can drastically change the scene, as you isolate a particular part of it that otherwise wouldn't be noticed much.

So what I'd propose, as a Rule with a cap 'R', is that this editing, this changing of that original digital data, is absolutely inherent to what we call Photography. Been so from the start, actually. But now in our digital darkrooms, it is so amazingly simple. Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, Lightroom -- whatever you use to alter reality to your taste.

Unless you don't -- and I'm curious if there are any folks who leave that image alone -- unmodified -- without any post-processing. Though I guess you'd have to take all your pictures in Green Mode or Program mode -- with Matrix metering -- to ensure that you were taking the purest, most unaltered image possible? Hoping that someone with a LuLa point-of-view could respond to this, before I get carried away and add a flight pf pelicans and a Predator drone to the edited image at right below.

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Last edited by jon404; 03-23-2014 at 01:13 AM.
03-23-2014, 04:11 AM   #2
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I guess I am a bit on a minimalist as far as processing goes. More likely because of a genetic laziness streak than because my images don't need it!
I always sharpen a bit and often add clarity, contrast &/or saturation. I think I'm old enough to be beyond understanding how curves and levels should work etc!
It is great to be able to save an image that would otherwise be lost.
With regard to your image above, I love the light, and I love the removal of the power lines!!! I like the cropping but not keen on the mauve toning (personal preference!)
The image seems to lean to the right: do you agree? (Levelling the image is another thing I often do in LR)

Last edited by rod_grant; 03-23-2014 at 08:44 PM.
03-23-2014, 04:51 AM   #3
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A few years ago, I attended a lecture by Bas Meelker, a pro landscape photographer. He said that if cameras were to become restricted to only capturing reality, he would stop photographing.

Shallow DOF is not reality, using a tele or wide lens is not reality (because your eyes have a different FOV), using shutter speed to remove people from your image or to capture motion is not reality. So that's already where it starts. What matters is that the photo reflects the feeling that you experience. Photography is a creative process, a way of communicating your thoughts and feelings. Photo editing software is just another tool in the process to achieve that. You can strive for a "pure" photo, but then what are you actually striving for? Green mode is not pure; green mode is letting the camera partially decide what the photo should look like, instead of doing it yourself.

As far as defining what we call photography, I don't think that's a particularly useful thing to do.

Last edited by starbase218; 03-23-2014 at 05:19 AM.
03-23-2014, 06:52 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by starbase218 Quote
A few years ago, I attended a lecture by Bas Meelker, a pro landscape photographer. He said that if cameras were to become restricted to only capturing reality, he would stop photographing.

Shallow DOF is not reality, using a tele or wide lens is not reality (because your eyes have a different FOV), using shutter speed to remove people from your image or to capture motion is not reality. So that's already where it starts. What matters is that the photo reflects the feeling that you experience. Photography is a creative process, a way of communicating your thoughts and feelings. Photo editing software is just another tool in the process to achieve that. You can strive for a "pure" photo, but then what are you actually striving for? Green mode is not pure; green mode is letting the camera partially decide what the photo should look like, instead of doing it yourself.

As far as defining what we call photography, I don't think that's a particularly useful thing to do.
Indeed, the photography is kind of art.

03-23-2014, 07:43 AM   #5
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Without processing, all my squirrels would look grotesquely fat, instead of trim and slim like I was able to process this little guy. Works wonders for me!




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03-23-2014, 09:37 AM   #6
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The issue with editing photos is in journalism. Someone removing or adding something in a shot that is supposed to portray some event is creative, and it has no place in journalism.

But for my purposes, I'm trying to capture a mood, a feeling, to express something. If no color works, then I'll use monochrome. If the limits of the gear missed something, I'll enhance it. I'll use as soft lens or soften to make a portrait look better. A flash to improve natural light. I'll magnify to get details that I can't see with my eyes.

That being said it is very satisfying to capture a scene where everything is just right as it comes out of the camera.
03-23-2014, 12:21 PM   #7
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Well, I really like Rupert's squirrel. Obviously the precursor for the next new feature for smartphones and then Canikon cameras -- Slim Mode! With different user-set levels of intensity, to turn your friends into the svelte hotties they were always destined to be. Or yourself, for that perfect selfie. I wonder how far we actually are from auto-image-enhancement of that sort...
03-23-2014, 01:02 PM   #8
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When I shoot, I'm acquiring as much visual information that I can possibly fit on the sensor and saving it to a RAW file. I process the RAW to show what I 'saw' during capture, at which point it becomes a photograph.

03-23-2014, 10:15 PM - 1 Like   #9
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So today, a soft sunset through the clouds. Took a wide-angle photo. Then, after the sun fell deep into the cloudbank, a biplane came by, heading south. Just made a speck on that 28mm image. But! I realized that since it was a tourist flight from Carlsbad airport, it would be returning north in a few minutes. Lots of time to change to a telephoto and get some sharp pictures of it. The K-5 IIs with Pentax f/2.8 200mm lens lets you take pictures so fast, and accurately, tracking it in AF.C mode. Easy -- it wasn't exactly an F-16 blasting along on afterburner!

Then, time to enhance reality -- or at least restore the scene to circa-1942 when there were hundreds of biplane trainers out there. Cropped out two planes, from two different shots. Raised the contrast, til the sky around the planes went white, with the planes going black. Then placed them over the sunset image -- and used Xara Photo & Graphic Designer's Transparency > Stained Glass control -- same as Photoshop's Multiply blend mode. Which gets rid of the white, and leaves the black. Done!
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03-23-2014, 10:26 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by jon404 Quote
I wonder how far we actually are from auto-image-enhancement of that sort...
We are already there!
In Japan (where I live right now), there are tons of Pachinko saloons (gaming).
In those Pachinko saloons, you normally also have some photo booths, were usually groups of Japanese teenage girls go to take group pictures - see an example stolen from google:
http://theafterlifeepitaph.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/n1121533785_122124_3345.jpg

I went to one of those with a friend of mine since he thought it would be really funny.
And it WAS funny, but on the printout of the picture we saw that our skin was incredibly smooth, our eyes were bigger than usual, our eyelashes longer etc etc... it looked a little bit creepy to be honest, but then again, whatever automatic postprocessing they run on their machines probably is not calibrated towards ugly men ^^

Unfortunately I do not have the scan of the picture on this laptop... ;-)

EDIT: ah, just found a better description of those things...
http://www.tofugu.com/2013/03/22/purikura/
03-24-2014, 12:14 AM   #11
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@wullemaha -- thanks for your VERY valuable information! The future is here indeed. It's just a short hop from that photo booth to enhanced smartphone selfies, isn't it? Add a little more computer power, and you could have real-time on-the-fly enhancement for Hillary Clinton, if she runs in 2016, to confound those baffled Republicans who will have NO IDEA why she looks like a 17-yr old Japanese anime character. Of course, they won't turn the effect up that much. Of course not.

There could also be variations -- 'cute' might not be the right image if you're job hunting at a hedge fund, for instance. Think strong, dominating, powerful. Or the converse, if being harassed by bill collectors... sick, helpless, wasted. Lots of possibilities.

Anybody reading this -- PLEASE take a few moments to check out Wullemaha enhanced-photo-booth link -- again, at The Joy of Japanese Photo Booths ... and then tell me how long it will be before this ends up as a Canikon DSLR scene feature!
03-24-2014, 12:26 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by jon404 Quote
So today, a soft sunset through the clouds. Took a wide-angle photo. Then, after the sun fell deep into the cloudbank, a biplane came by, heading south. Just made a speck on that 28mm image. But! I realized that since it was a tourist flight from Carlsbad airport, it would be returning north in a few minutes. Lots of time to change to a telephoto and get some sharp pictures of it. The K-5 IIs with Pentax f/2.8 200mm lens lets you take pictures so fast, and accurately, tracking it in AF.C mode. Easy -- it wasn't exactly an F-16 blasting along on afterburner!
Tracking F-16s can be done with a K-5 and 55-300 as well. The only issue is that you have to keep the plane under the focus point, or use automatic focus point selection. Focus speed is not an issue. The plane is not, like, 5 meters away, so the AF does not have to adjust so much.

QuoteOriginally posted by jon404 Quote
Then, time to enhance reality -- or at least restore the scene to circa-1942 when there were hundreds of biplane trainers out there. Cropped out two planes, from two different shots. Raised the contrast, til the sky around the planes went white, with the planes going black. Then placed them over the sunset image -- and used Xara Photo & Graphic Designer's Transparency > Stained Glass control -- same as Photoshop's Multiply blend mode. Which gets rid of the white, and leaves the black. Done!
But does the photo reflect what you want it to say?
03-24-2014, 12:52 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by jon404 Quote
Anybody reading this -- PLEASE take a few moments to check out Wullemaha enhanced-photo-booth link -- again, at The Joy of Japanese Photo Booths ... and then tell me how long it will be before this ends up as a Canikon DSLR scene feature!
By the way, the camera they used in the photo booth I was in, was a Canon DSLR that was triggered by the booth Automation Software :-P
Of course, the real "magic" happens on a PC, but I just wanted to point this out for the giggles ;-)
03-24-2014, 02:12 AM   #14
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@starbase218 -- yes -- I wanted to end up with a picture that shows the joy of flight, planes flying like the birds do, along the shoreline. And also the past, the biplanes. The feeling of what it was like around here, in the late 1930s, then during WWII. So many people learned to fly in those planes. I think the one that went by was a Boeing PT-24 Stearman. All that's missing (for me) is the sound of that rotary engine, and the sound of the surf breaking on the beach below. Maybe someday we'll have an enhanced JPG format that allows embedding short audio clips...
03-24-2014, 04:02 AM   #15
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For me, the fascination of photography is that it is a poor representation of the human eye and brain. The eye can take in a wide angle sweep of a scene at the same time focus on a tiny part of the image that is moving; it can focus on the foreground and ignore the clutter of the background; it has amazing dynamic range. In order to capture that effect on a photograph one needs to manipulate the photograph. It is not changing reality, it is overcoming the limitations of the camera. I'm all for enhancements that look real as well as enhancements that look artificial for the effect.

Photography always manipulates the image. Even purist photojournalists take photographs that show the journalist's perspective - which many times is not the whole truth.
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