There is a great essay on Luminous Landscape titled “Making images, not taking images” by landscape photographer Peter Myers (1) which I like to point people to as I don’t communicate verbally very well.
In essence, the scientific rendering may be a science, but what you choose to process the image is an art. Some photographers form the opinion that zero-processing makes it art (2). The reverse is true. What makes photography an art form is the care taken by the photographer to turn a scientific capture into different images through a conscious processing workflow.
In the hands of different photographers, the same capture can become very many different things. In the hands of a single photographer, the same image can also be processed and reprocessed into different images.
Example 1: Process 1: Color
Sometimes certain capture works better in color, even though they are tending towards monochrome-ish. The delicate desaturation lost its when rendered in black and white. Obviously black and white would work here also but maybe I will circle back and work on it later on.
Example 1: Process 2: B+W. LDR Scientific rendition
The opposite of HDR (high dynamic range) is LDR (low dynamic range) or in the case of iPad, NDR (no dynamic range). The funny thing is, to do LDR well you actually need an HDR source.
If I need to extract image data from a source using only 1/8 of the total image bandwidth given any 8-bit / 256-level source, then I only have 32-level (and thus 5-bit data) to work with. But since the camera cannot adjust tonal range with regard to the image available range (I.e. that it cannot do dynamic contrast adjustment), if I wished for a normal dynamic range image (8-bit) even within that 1/8 total image bandwidth then I need a high dynamic range image to start with.
Without bandwidth remap this is the low contrast image you see. This is what I would call a scientific rendition because this is the reality.
Example 1: Process 3: B+W. Push + Pull
Here that same image is tweaked with the tonal range expanded and you can observe the limits of the iPad camera’s low dynamic range—it becomes very grainy. This is the limits of lesser cameras. If I put this into Photoshop I should be able to get rid of those artifacts starting from the original image but the grain is often part of the charm in black and white photography.
Example 2: Process 1: B+W
Example 2: Process 2: Color
I am indecisive. Sometimes I can’t make up my mind about whether a capture works better in color or in black and white. So I do both. Sometimes even multiple times. Sometimes I process images years after I captured them.
For example, there are some HDRs on my Flickr stream which were never intended for HDRs. But I always shoot RAW when I use my DSLRs and I usually photograph everything in -3/+3 bracketed shots so eventually when software were available for me to do HDRs even though the original captures by themselves were no good, it works out ok.
On the iPad there is no way to get the RAW image. Or can you? When I upgrade this iPad I will hack it open to see if I can. For now, I am embracing its super grainy imperfection. Much like what I loved about my Sony Mavica FD7—a 640x480 digital camera which stores images on 3.5” floppy disk which I bought in 1997 for US$999. It’s crazy what you can buy for that amount of money these days.
This image has a really weird cast and there is nothing I can do using Snapseed’s infantile controls.
Example 2: Process 3: Cynotype
If I actually remove the yellow cast inside Snapseed on that same capture I will get this image which looks almost like a Cyanotype print. It is somewhat bizarre. Cyanotype has its charm though. But most humans don’t respond well to Cyanotype as it is a “cold” color.
So you can see why I decided to process as black and white in my first attempt. Staying neutral sometimes help with the overall composition. To me, color usually is a distraction. But maybe because I don’t really have a good grasp of it.
Like I said, people often thought that black and white is more difficult. The reverse is true. Often the colors you see in life is so challenging that black and white is the easy way out. With color filters you can turn things which were bright into dark and dark things into bright. There are a lot of leeway when developing in black and white. For example, you can often go crazy in HDR images if you further push things in black and white because without the color information the human eye will more easily adapt even if the local contrast is intense.
Example 2: Conclusion
Originally I didn’t intend to do anything with the sky. I captured the view mostly because I liked what was left behind on the ocean. But square format has a limitation. If my subject matter is very wide then I am somewhat stuck with having to deal with the other parts of the image which I did not want in my frame.
Sometimes that get in the way. So above is the three processing which I applied to the capture. Below is what the original capture looks like. The parts which I actually want to show is completely lost in the top three images mostly because in order to properly expose the image, all I get is the dark mess in the bottom.
- Luminous-Landscape: Essays: Making Images — Not Taking Imagees by Pete Myers: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/making-images.shtml
- I see it all the time on Instagram. Photographers often tag things “nofilter,” thinking that makes them amazing photographers. To me that is laziness. I have never had a single image which pass through my entire photography life where I don’t feel a need to process them. Maybe I am just not as good as other people. But then again I haven’t really seen any masterpieces from the #nofilter crowd… http://statigr.am/tag/nofilter
Related SML Universe
- SML Photography Blog: Serenity: http://photoblog.seeminglee.com/2012/10/serenity.html
- SML Photography Blog: Serenity: Part 2: http://photoblog.seeminglee.com/2012/12/serenity-part-2.html