My friend Tony Jones wrote a very interesting piece on FB about ‘developing’ photographs through programmes like Adobe Lightroom, about cropping, about how we use and manipulate images.
The taking of the photograph is just the first step. I try to take an image in the format it will be seen in, it makes it easier for me, thinking wise. So lately I have been taking in 1:1 format, and setting my camera at that means I can start the process of creating the photograph from this first step, and at least half of the images you will see on this blog are ‘as shot’ in terms of format. When I first began taking photographs (1970) there were fewer options. The main one was shooting in black and white, then in the darkroom working on the image to get close to what I initially envisaged; that meant dodging in, filters, over and under exposing, cutting shapes in card or paper – pretty well everything that Lightroom now does in seconds! For colour the only option I could afford was shooting slides, with that the composition, light readings and so forth were at the initial taking of the image, a bit of cropping could be done with strips of black paper, but as I could never afford a colour lab, what I shot was what I got. So it has been great working on older images that I have had digitised, finding what I think I really wanted. As seen below (click to enlarge).
The image above was taken in 1983 in Paris using Agfa film. On the left is the original which was OK but just a bit too busy in its composition. The ‘finished’ image on the right is more what I wanted. I removed the ladder, moved the window cleaner to the middle and also moved the street name to counterbalance. Does it matter? Well for me I got an image I was much more pleased with.
In this of a vast concrete grain elevator in North Dakota in 1979, I flattened the concrete surface and added another grain truck using Photoshop. The image to the right is how I ‘saw’ and remembered it, not what I originally took from a moving train.
So, now I am doing more work than I have ever done, purely because I can go out for an hour and shoot 150+ digital images, which I can manipulate to something like I planned. Of course it doesn’t always work out. Last Monday I posted a blog on here 3 Piece, the final image on there was a place which intrigued me, a wall in the process of becoming covered with plants due to the breakdown of the brickwork through water, and topped with ‘rolled’ barb wire. Last Monday the light was not quite right, I couldn’t get what I wanted. Yesterday the light was, but I knew, because of the tightness of the environment and the difficulties of light, for what I wanted I would have to create the image in Photoshop with at least two if not three images (below). The image at the top is what came out which I am reasonably happy with. I had to move the brickwork to the right as I didn’t like the structure above it counterbalancing the composition (you can see by the bright blue bottle how much); the sky with the barb wire needed very different metering and was shot at a much lower ISO, then worked on with contrast filters. So the photograph is as false as any painting, but it was my view of what I saw not the actual view and in essence that is what photography is.
I try not to overuse these ‘tools’. I often see photographs on line which seem to take away rather than enhance the original place/person, but that is my taste. When I am working on an image I am trying to capture what I felt when at the place, the impact the composition held for me, if that needs enhancing from the original the camera read then fine, that is what an artist does. It doesn’t always work out!
Last September I photographed this churchyard in North Wales. I could feel the looming presence of the trees, but the images I took (20 frames) just didn’t capture what I wanted, an original one is to the left. I worked on it, adding, removing, filtering, distorting, but it still is not what I saw or felt. Maybe either a painting in the German Expressionist style (Emil Nolde etc…) or large woodcut would better capture it. I may well go back and try some different angles then make up a composite, it’s another image which intrigues me.