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Photo Evolves Into Art (long - lotsa pics)

Discussion in 'Landscapes, Architecture, and Cityscapes' started by DavidM, Feb 16, 2005.

  1. I'm frequently amazed at how differently a given group of people see the exact same image. We often get caught up in the technicalities of our photos, and I think it's fair to say that sometimes we "can't see the forest for the trees" in our own shots. This was brought home to me in a big way in 2003 after I posted a particular scenic shot, and I'll describe here what happened. It was a very humbling experience.

    While on a trip to West Virginia in 2003, I stopped at Babcock State Park on my way back to the hotel one evening to see if there was any hope of getting a shot of the Glade Creek Grist Mill. It's one of the most-photographed scenes in the area, and as a beginner I thought I'd try my hand at something fairly easy. It was about 5:30pm, early October, and unfortunately the skies were mostly cloudy -- the light was flat and dull for the most part.

    I found the mill, quickly scoped out the angle I wanted, and decided on a long exposure to get that hazy smoothness in the water lapping over the rocks in the stream. I ended up getting several shots, but the high contrast between the dark mill and the (relatively) bright sky were too much for the scene. (Technical side note: I now know that either using a Graduated Neutral Density filter or taking multiple shots with varying exposure and combining the well-exposed parts of each would have been the proper thing to do. But I didn't know it at the time...)

    So anyway, I packed up my gear and didn't get a chance to really look at the shots until I returned home from the trip (no laptop available). Plus, this was back before I had any idea what I was looking at with histograms. When I saw the result, my reaction was pretty typical for that time period: "Wow. Too dark. That's not what I saw! How did that happen??" What I had hoped to be a reasonably good shot was quite a bit worse than I was expecting. Since we're all about pictures at the Cafe, here's what I saw out-of-camera:

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    In my usual fashion, I decided to give it a try in post processing (PhotoShop -- I don't think I even owned Capture at that point). The sky was totally blown out, so I put some slight color there just to keep it from being total white-out. Fixed some dust spots, tried to improve the contrast some, but still wasn't very happy with it. So, I decided to play a bit and pumped up the saturation to actually bring out those nice fall colors that were starting to show in the trees. Wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, but (IMHO) turned out reasonably well after making all those changes:

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    (YAWN.... OK, so what? Where's this going?)

    This is where it gets interesting. Not long after posting this image, I got an email from Phyllis Stewart, sysop for a Photo-art/Retouching forum called "Innographx". She had seen the Grist Mill photo and asked if I would mind them using it for one of their periodic Challenges (sound familiar?). I didn't even give it a second thought -- I agreed right away, and she proceeded to set up the challenge. I thought it could be mildly amusing, and I always like to learn new techniques from folks, but I really didn't think much would come from this.

    I was totally blown away by what happened. The folks on that forum are a talented, friendly, and creative group (again -- sound familiar??). They took that photo and worked magic with it... saw things that I probably never would have seen, would not have thought to try, and/or would never have the skills to try. It was a fabulous experience to realize that so much could be done with an image that I thought was "pretty good" but not really all that great.

    Just goes to show you that your own personal bias, even toward your own work, can sometimes get in the way. Never underestimate the value of collaboration... that's what I think is the best thing about this forum (and others like it).

    If you're interested, here's the thread that they created for this picture:


    and here's just a few of the resulting pictures:
    (there's more interesting ones in the thread that I can't embed here)

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  2. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    First of all that is truly a great image. OK so you shot it wrong. But look what you have. Yours is my favorite.

    I do like paintings, sometimes and sketches etc. don't have the photoshop skill, but learn a little at a time.

    I have seen some amazing work on the Retouching forum at DPR, which I frequent alot.

    Thank you for sharing this and hope we can do alot more of it.

  3. Thanks, Gale!

    Most of their renditions were fairly quickly done and weren't necessarily great works of art, but they got me to see different sides to this image that I simply hadn't seen before. Actually helped me somewhat in considering composition for some future shots.

    One of my favorites has apparently been deleted now; someone had done a "Thomas Kincade" interpretation of the image that was actually very nice. Really got me thinking about the art of the image for a change instead of the technical details. I need that more often than I care to admit.
  4. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    I went to a local out side art show, that had local artists showing thier great talent.
    Something I found interesting, is that many are photographers and they go to the canvas and paint thier version of the vision of the image they had photographed.

    Alot of painters will go to a location and do thier canvas art.

    Wether it comes from a photo taken or on location they have a deffinate goal and vision when start out.

    Unlike most of us that go out and shoot several gigs of images in one day.

    They have a vision to start with and may only take one image a day in several lighting situations to create a really great painting.

    First time I had really looked "into" a painting.

    Asked a few questions along the way :>))

    Not a place to go shooting for sure, artists don't care for that.

    Great big world of color vision and lighting.

  5. Very interesting post. When you can see the range of results from a single image it makes you want to spend more time in post processing. I am still a neophyte but I'm working on it. When I first started in digital I almost quit and went back to film but I am so glad that I didn't.
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