Upload & Sell: Off
Bob Jarman wrote:
With all due respect Chuck, I think we're tipping into the world of gimmicks and losing sight of the photography involved...far astray from critiques.
Too heavily processed? I plead guilty myself, but now I try, not always successfully, to avoid it.
I had to chuckle reading that because most shots are PP'd to death in an attempt to "improve" them in PP and in this case the shot as posted already had heavy PP
In most cases, as here, my objective in editing is to show the OP how the entire process could have been done differently, starting from the pre-visualiztion of the message and emotional reaction the photographer wants the viewer to take away.
For example my crop decision was based on the idea of a ping-ping dynamic between the gate and the gardener. Making those two points in the photo the two most dominant eye catching features is what creates the eye path between them which causes the viewer to literally walk across the garden, retracing with their eyes in reverse the path the gardener took when he entered from the gate.
That was the concept I had in mind before starting the edit. How do you pull that off? If I took the shot it would have started at capture, resulting in a different starting file than the one the OP presented for comment. Mine would have looked more like the edited version out of camera, I just would have executed it differently.
To get the viewer to follow a specific eye path you want them to you must eliminate and minimize anything in the photo that will pull attention off that planned eye path. Here I wanted the path to be a straight line between gardener and gate.
The color contrasting blue clothing of the gardener in the overall warm tone background and his size and position in the foreground on the left side all predict that he's the first thing that will catch the eye of the viewer. Its a instinct to find people in photos first. The "problem" to solve is then how to get the viewer over to the gate in the opposite corner.
The solution? Try to eliminate all the eye catching detours. Cropping off the eye catching red roofs on top was step one — which could have been done at capture. Step two was blurring the background buildings beyond the rooftop garden to isolate it — that also could have been done similarly with DOF control at capture to some degree.
In the good old days with a filter over the lens and a bit of Vaseline to blur the edges would be used to eliminate distracting eye catching detail on the edges of the frame. The same is true with vignettes. In the days before Photoshop I always carried a roll of black masking tape in the camera bag to create "as needed" vignettes by apply it to the bottom and sides of the lens hood. That was pretty much standard procedure for creating vignettes on dark background window-lit portraits I took back in the day...
The rest of what I did, such as pulling more detail out of the fish pond in the middle, isn't much different than what I'd do in the "good 'ol days" under the enlarger with the dodging paddle when making the print.
Different time, different tools, but the biggest difference in the look of the image was having a different story line in mind when starting the process which is always the "bigger picture" point of all the edits and C&C I do here. I encourage those whose photos I edit to think more about the message and emotional reaction of the viewer before raising camera to eye, then using that message to define the goals and strategies for capturing and editing the shot as a single holistic process leading to the desired result. That's exactly what my first "expert" mentor did via the Introduction in his book "Camera and Lens" 40 years ago. It seemed to work well for Ansel so I've been following that approach ever since. All that has changed is the tools.
With Photoshop "in the bag" in most cases it is much easier and quicker, all things considered, to capture images on the basis of necessary technical parameters for perceptual "normalcy" in the final image, then make most of the artistic manipulations in Photoshop vs. using graduated ND filters, saw toothed vignetters on monster lens shades, and the dozens of other modifications made possible by the Conklin bag to add-to-lens tricks.
So when shooting I try to capture a full tonal range, at least in the foreground, so I have "clean" bits to manipulate in PP, and either set WB off a gray card or use Daylight WB preset outdoors regardless of time of day so I have the same consistent baselines at capture in my images for tonal range and color. On the technical side that's analogous to how the Zone System works — always tailoring the negative to fit a full range of detail to the print as a given underlying anything creative that is captured by the camera. Fitting scene to sensor is what makes a photo seem real. Arranging what winds up in front of the lens in a creative way is what makes a photo interesting and thought provoking to look at. Without doing the first competently the second usually suffers to some degree, varying in proportion to how interesting the content is. The more ordinary the content, the more important it is for the reproduction process to trick the brain of the viewer into thinking it is real, and that starts with a full tonal range and WB that seems "seen by eye" normal based in the way the eye would scan the scene in person, shifting focus and exposure selectively as it scanned, seeing far more in person than the camera sensor can record in a single exposure.
It is necessary to "fake it" (alter what the camera can capture) to match what is seen by eye in most situations.
Is a holistic "generic" digital capture and Photoshop manipulation workflow a less "pure" form of photography? Certainly, but so is using a digital camera vs. lugging around an 8 x 10 view camera. Using 35mm or med. format roll film is a compromise compared to that baseline, so it could be argued is dodging or burning or using a lens shade to minimize flare.
Finding ways to make the last photo we took better in some incremental way is how we grow. When we start thinking every photo we took is perfect because it seemed perfect when we took it, we will often miss in the photo the same distraction missed when it was captured.
Physiological reactions to things like contrast gradients are predictable because our brains are wired similarly. But emotional reactions to a scene like a lonely rooftop gardener are subjective and rooted in personal memories. So a dozen different people may imagine a dozen different storyline scenarios on that photo from the romantic, to "gee that guy needs some better fertilizer so something will grow there.... "
C&C is the fertilizer for the mind... Wellies optional as Doug will no doubt opine shortly
Edited on Feb 25, 2012 at 02:43 PM · View previous versions