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Why I live in the digital darkroom
written by Fred Miranda

Thors Hammer, Bryce Canyon-Utah
Canon D30, 1/13, f/18, ISO 100 Canon 100mm f/2.8

I am on the forefront of a new era of photography. I live in the digital darkroom. All of my expertise is in the digital format. I started learning the basics of Photoshop as soon as the software was released. I was intrigued by it. I devoted all of my free time to learning as much as I could about all possible ways to use the software to restore and enhance pictures.

Through various classes, I became familiar with techniques to collage and montage images. However, I soon realized that when it comes to landscape and commercial photography, these techniques could sometimes create an unrealistic or "fake" looking image. So, I began a journey to seek out a way to make more natural looking, subtle improvements. Photoshop allowed me this outlet and I decided to start on a mission to master the software.

One of the first lessons I learned is "less is more". The less I manipulate the images, the more effective it becomes. In my opinion, over doing repair makes for a very unattractive photographic work of art. I think there is nothing better, than taking something straight from the camera that's perfectly exposed, sharp, and has great color.

However, images like this are rare. Sometimes, weather conditions, lighting or other factors will force you to have to do a certain amount of manipulation to get your shot the way you visualized it. Here is an example of a very high contrast shot I took at noon, when the lighting was not optimal.

Because the exposure range of this specific shot exceeds the dynamic range of any film or digital camera, I took a second shot exposing the sky.

Then I ran the two images through a Photoshop Plugin called Dynamic Range Increase (DRI Pro), and here is how the final image looked.

It is important to note, that the digital darkroom is not a miracle worker. It can only do so much. If you bring a bad shot into Photoshop, you will rarely take out a great piece of art. If the photo is bad, it will remain bad. All good photographers know this. My belief is that as photographers, we have the responsibility to visualize the final image before the shooting starts, and have the final product mirror that visualization. In my opinion, Photoshop is just a tool for tweaking those minor imperfections.

Most of my time is now spent shooting, developing Photoshop Plugins and Actions, or working on my web page, fredmiranda.com. For the next few weeks I plan on bringing you new and improved Photoshop Techniques. Until then, I will be where I always am -- living in the digital darkroom.