Whenever I take a picture, I have a vision in my mind’s eye of what I want the final picture to look like. For many years, while I was shooting with a film camera, all too often the pictures failed to live up to that vision, despite my increasing skill with the camera and my use of better and better equipment and lenses. After a while, I began to give up on photography because of that ongoing failure. Digital photography has thoroughly revitalized my interest in photography, because now taking the picture is only the first step in capturing the image in my mind’s eye. Once I have the picture in the computer, I can work with it, adjust it, sometimes do extreme violence to it, to get to the vision that I had when I took the picture in the first place.
Many photographic purists will violently disagree, but for me, capturing that vision is what it is all about, and to that end, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get an image that matches my vision. But this is still photography. It is not painting, or sculpture, or anything like that. It is not about creating an image entirely out of your imagination, your inner vision. This is all about finding, seeing, and capturing the beauty, the interest, the excitement, in the world around us. It still requires the photographer’s eye, the artist’s eye, to see that vision, to pick it out from the mundane that surrounds us, so that it can be captured. Just as my skills with the camera and with the computer are growing, so too is my ability to see the picture in the first place. I don’t believe that I’ll ever stop growing in that way.
Some of the things that I do in the computer include:
exposure adjustment, both on the entire image or selectively
distortion compensation (i.e. keystoning)
increase the sharpness, or add blur, to the entire image or to parts of it
compositing multiple images to create panoramas
dust and spot removal in old pictures, and general restoration
removal of elements in an image (e.g. parts of an object in front of the subject)
adding elements to an image, or combining parts of several images
adding special effects to an image (e.g. fog or smoke)
I’ve divided the list into two groups; the things in the first group can be done using traditional darkroom techniques, those in the second group require a computer or very elaborate special photographic techniques to accomplish.
Some examples of some of the more involved projects I’ve tackled:
- I took a portrait shot of a couple, good friends of mine. Unfortunately there was a house plant in the background that appeared to be growing right out of Marilyn’s head. In the computer I was able to completely remove the plant.
- A friend had two pictures of herself, her husband, and their two daughters. One was a very nice picture of the girls, but much less flattering of their parents. The other was great for the parents, but neither girl was looking at the camera. I was able to scan the two pictures and then combine the good shot of the parents with the good shot of the girls into one nice family portrait.
- I took a couple of pictures of my model trains on a friend’s layout. In the computer I added sky, some additional foliage, smoke, fog, a headlight beam, and weathering.
- I took a picture of a dam with fall foliage in the background. Selective exposure adjustment made the colors snap, but there was a vine in the foreground that sort of ruined the whole effect, so I took it out.
- Finally, I got curious one day about what a pink elephant might look like, so I surfed the web to find a nice picture of an elephant, and then I painted him:
Canon EOS Digital Rebel digital SLR with 18 – 55 mm zoom lens and 70 – 300 mm zoom lens, which I am still learning to use. Nikon Coolpix 4500 (4 MP), Coolpix 2500 (2 MP) digital cameras.
Auxiliary lenses (wide and tele) and slide copy attachment for CP4500 (don’t fit the CP2500)
Epson 2400 Photo Scanner, with slide/negative capability
Epson Stylus Photo 785 and HP DeskJet 970 printers
Computer: 3.0 GHz Pentium 4, 2 GB RAM, 340 GB disk, including 300 GB RAID array, ATI Radion 9600 graphics card, Viewsonic 19″ CRT monitor and 17″ LCD display, configured as a dual display system
Software: ACDSee, Photoshop Elements, the GIMP, Photoshop, ImageMagick, Focus Magic, Noise Ninja
Film Equipment: Canon F1 Camera and a variety of Canon lenses, dedicated flash