After pushing the shutter button

do you think “post-processing” is a dirty word?

When a scene moves us to want to push the shutter and capture that moment are we trying to capture simply what our eyes are seeing or what the moment causes us to feel?  The camera sensor can’t express what we are feeling nor can it truly record what we are seeing.  What we see is the interpretation of the visual signals sent to our brain by our eyes, basically our brains are doing the post-processing for us.  We have to do it for the camera.

Whether you plan to share your work by printing it or share it digitally you still want that photograph to express what it was you felt and why you were moved to take the image in the first place.  What comes directly out of the camera just can’t do that.

I posted this image a couple of weeks ago from our road trip to Idaho and Wyoming.

Jackson Lake with a snow storm approaching over the Tetons
Jackson Lake with a snow storm approaching over the Tetons

What I didn’t show was how this image began.  When I took the image I knew I wanted it black and white.  Black and white images allow the textures and shapes to take center stage without being overwhelmed by color and there just wasn’t much color in the scene to begin with.

RAW Jackson Lake
RAW Jackson Lake

My focus was the Tetons and the approaching storm clouds creeping over them so the detail needed to be increased on the mountains and in the sky.  I also created a layer to selectively draw more attention to the mountains.  I chose to add a blue tone to the image to make it feel cooler since it was cold at the time.  Ultimately there were 4 or 5 layers created to fine tune different parts and obviously I did crop the image.  I probably should have paid more attention in the field to the intersecting lines as well as the placement of the horizon and shifted my view upwards.  Diagonals play an important role in compositions, by cropping the bottom I was able to place the diagonal line of the shore in the corner of the image and use it to point to the mountains although they are still too uncomfortably centered.

After doing most of the adjusting I then shared the image with my peers through a live video hangout.  They provided honest positive and negative comments which sent me back to work to bring in more detail into the trees as well as adjusting the ice on the right side to break the horizontal line.  Some people might say that is changing reality but in reality it wasn’t in black and white either.  Be honest, had you noticed before I pointed it out?  Some people suggested I remove the holes in the ice but I don’t find them greatly distracting so I didn’t.

If you have any comments about what I did or how I did it please leave a comment below.  I’m thinking about doing more before/after posts so let me know if that is something any of you are interested in.

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