I took the photos above and below to provide examples of the kinds of image that can be taken with the old legacy lenses I was describing yesterday. Both these photos were taken in near darkness yesterday on my way home from downtown and were taken with a fully manual 55mm f1.8 Super-Takumar lens. They were hand held so are not as sharp as they could be but I find the colors, contrast and detail are very appealing. This lens cost me $6.95
Software I use to process images
For me what comes out of the camera is the raw material. Of course, before I click the shutter I try to frame the best image I can. Sometimes the resulting image may not need much work but generally, after I select an image that I like, I will work on it to bring out more of what I like about it, to focus it and remove irrelevant details. Mostly I am more interested in producing a memorable, appealing, striking image rather than attempting to capture reality.
When we visit the seashore, it's a multi-dimensional experience with powerful smells - seaweed and salt water, powerful sensations - warm sunlight and sea breezes, sounds such as the wind, the waves splashing and gulls crying and there is constant, often rhythmic movement. It seems impossible to capture all that all with a small, two dimensional static image. With luck and a great deal of skill we may be able to capture an image that suggests all those aspects of the scene that the camera cannot record. However, I think that often we are able to invite the viewer to participate in re-creating the scene's missing dimensions in his or her own mind by intensifying the information we have been able to record. For me that usually means adjusting the contrast, saturation and focus and improving the composition (if possible) by cropping.
For the most basic adjustments I use a free, open source graphics editing program called GIMP. It will do most of what can be done with Photoshop and does it for free. What's more, many Photoshop plug-ins work with GIMP. I recommend it highly. The GIMP organization also has a registry of plug-ins and filters that can be downloaded free of charge. Great stuff! I use it extensively and whenever I have time I go through one of the many free user-created tutorials.
|Whenever I think an image can benefit I also put it through HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing using a program called Photomatix. There is still considerable resistance to HDR processing. However, I think this resistance is mostly directed towards the more extreme manifestations of HDR that may be greatly oversaturated and cartoonish. Often HDR processed photos don't look very HDR and are not recognized as such. The prizewinning Chinatown Gate photo I posted a few days ago was processed with HDR. To the left is a split version of the photo with the HDR treated image on top and the original image below. The original image reflects a typical problem. In order to expose the darker underside of the gate properly the sky gets overexposed. Film photographers had a saying for such situations - overexpose and underdevelop. This preserved the detail that would otherwise have been lost in the shadowed parts of the photo. HDR software performs essentially the same process digitally. |
Our vision is incredibly sensitive. When we look at a scene, we are always focused on some part of it but our eyes flick around back and forth and as they do so the iris expands and contracts according to the light reflected from that particular part of the scene. Our mental image of the scene is thus composed of all those hundreds or thousands of differently exposed bits of the scene put together in our brains. In my opinion, HDR processing gives us an image that is closer to this composite image we create in our brains than the normal image that comes from a camera in that different parts of the scene are differently exposed, something no
camera is yet able to do. New cameras, however, often have HDR processing built in to the internal software image processor.
Photomatix costs about $100 but there are free HDR programs available online as well.
Well, I do tend to run on and on but tomorrow I hope to wrap up this somewhat narcissistic excercise with a little discussion of the brutally simple rules of composition that I employ - nothing very original here but it never hurts to repeat good things.