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Image ProcessingThree Versions, Same Picture

Post-processing: Editing techniques, software, hardware and other resources. Chemical or digital.
From simple corrections to multi-layered edits, actions, tone mapping and more.
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Charles Haacker
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Three Versions, Same Picture

Postby Charles Haacker » Sat Nov 18, 2017 3:18 am

Elsewhere we have been having a lively discussion about the ethics of manipulation in landscape photography. This post is not about ethics but rather the manipulations themselves, at minimum a demonstration of possibilities. In 2014 we went out to photograph the Point Arena Light on the northern California coast. I was hoping for sunset but the furshlugginer fog rolled in. We'd spent considerable time on a rough dirt track to get out there. I usually go with whatever Mother hands me, so I shot pictures and at the same time tried to time things so I'd get a seagull (or two) in the shot but the (stupid) seagulls sailing over your shoulder are just like wherever.

The first picture below is a straight-from-the-camera jpeg. To me it is illustrative of why I cannot be an SOOC photographer. My recollection is that this is what the scene actually looked like. BLEH! YUCK! Flat! The third picture below is the scene as I "saw" it, mind's eye. Clearly there has been considerable manipulation on that one, but at base it's still just the first yucky shot, but enhanced. Several things happened here. It was worked globally in Lightroom using my now fairly routine steps, including setting white and black points (which I now consider essential and are not the same as highlight and shadow) and applying The Miracle Tool, dehaze! Then I took it into Photoshop, slid the (stupid) gull back to where he ought to have been had he had any manners, and then borrowed another gull from one of the other exposures. I was well satisfied and thought myself clever beyond measure.

But as it happens, Matt Quinn liked the misty version better! So I went back and reworked the picture to restore the sense of mistiness while still setting black and white points, which I find essential to keeping a picture from looking muddy. Then I put the gulls back.

So what we have are three fairly different versions of the same picture, and the original a jpeg at that (although I now shoot nothing but raw having Seen The Light so to speak). This shows that properly exposed jpegs can most certainly be successfully post processed to a fare-thee-well, and that uncooperative seagulls need not be a hindrance to good composition provided you are willing to compromise your ethics.
:D :clap: :yay:
But seriously going back to the ethics thing, Matt remarked, "... I begin to think that intent is central to the issue of truth v deception. When I am photographing, I want to capture what I felt when I saw the scene. The feeling can't be expressed in words, only in the picture; that's why I take it instead of writing a poem.The emotional reaction is to something visual; a poem could be also be an attempt at that, but more frequently a poem conveys intellectual responses for which words, with their sounds, are more appropriate. (The word "roar" mimics the sound of the waves on the rocks and takes time to say it; a picture freezes the wave and allows us to contemplate and admire it.) The scene I saw was the third one. The scene Matt preferred was the misty one. If there is a point to this post it's that, within reason, you can have both.
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03.original.EMlr.jpg
This is a zeroed-out SOOC jpeg of the Point Arena Light on the Northern California coast, a wicked hard drive on dirt that takes a long time so that by the time you arrive as the sun should be setting the !@#$!! fog has rolled in. This is the original picture. Obviously I was waiting for a gull to sail into view, which they did, but they come over your shoulder with no warning moving fast. I tripped as fast as I could but the furshlugginer gulls was never inna right place (grrrr). This gull was close, but too far into the frame.
DSCN3917-2-Edit-2.EMlr.jpg
To keep the misty, foggy look I went back to the original file and reverted it to its SOOC state (the original is a jpeg; this was 2014 before I started shooting raw). Then I set a white and black point, moved the bird, and added the second (nearer) gull. This picture may look closer to what the scene actually looked like.
01.final-Edit.EMlr.jpg
Daphne was cold and tired of shouting HERE COMES ONE so I quit and figured, well, I'll see what I can do when we get home, and this is what I did. If I had painted this picture, surely even I would have had enough imagination to paint in a couple of gulls in what I hope is a compositionally pleasing position. So why not do it here? I moved the original gull that was too far into frame, and dragged the other one in from the middle picture.
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Re: Three Versions, Same Picture

Postby LindaShorey » Sat Nov 18, 2017 1:39 pm

I don't have a specific de-haze tool, but I don't recall there being a time I would have wanted to use one in the past few years (which don't include a visit to the coast). My first thought is Why would you want to remove the mood that gives us that sense of place and time? But perhaps if I were a tourist seeing Mt Rainier for the first time, I'd want to optimize its visibility that way if haze was the hindrance.

So that thought leads to where we often end up, "It depends." Including regarding the addition and manipulation of placement of the gulls. "Here comes one!" Daphne shouted. Too funny!

For me, the gulls are (of course) 100% natural to the scene and you have not shown anything out of ordinary (such as a predator bird attacking and bringing one home for lunch) that puts me into the mindset of "O.M.G. How lucky was he to see and photograph that?!"

To de-haze or not is in that subset of edits that IMO are the right of the photographer to optimize his/her vision of the mood of the scene without my feeling deceived by not being told of the manipulation. In this category are also selective or global edits to brightness, contrast, levels, saturation, small clone jobs and OH! ...the addition of textures. "It depends..." What can I say? :)

I prefer your misty (cold, wet, miserable, disappointed that I missed the sunset after trekking all that way) mood and the benign replacement/addition of the birds. It's a terrific marriage of truth and fiction.
"What's important in a photograph and what isn't." http://photographylife.com/whats-import ... -what-isnt

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Re: Three Versions, Same Picture

Postby Charles Haacker » Sat Nov 18, 2017 3:18 pm

Thank you for viewing and commenting, Linda! It's interesting that Monte Phillips (aka Didereaux) remarked on this conundrum on a 2014 version I have up on Flickr: ImagePoint Arena Light by Charles Haacker, on Flickr
I notice, incidentally, that when I did this one I placed the gulls differently. :D

Monte is in agreement with you and Matt Quinn. The picture, having the fog obviously in it, probably ought not to be cleaned up to the extent I did. I do love that dehaze filter (I'm pretty sure you do have it as part of Adobe Camera Raw but I only use ACR as part of Lightroom). I admit that it is far too easy to take it too easily far! Here's what Julianne Kost said about it a couple of years ago:
The new Dehaze control in Lightroom CC and Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 can help you to dramatically improve an image by removing haze. The Dehaze technology is based on a physical model of how light is transmitted, and it tries to estimate light that is lost due to absorption and scattering through the atmosphere. For the best results, you’ll want to set the white balance for the image before using Dehaze. Then, in the Effects panel, move the slider to the right – to easily remove the haze from the original scene. Move the slider to the left to add a creative haze effect.You can choose to make very subtle to very significant adjustments – if you’re pushing the slider to the extreme, you might want to refine the image using the Basic panel (increasing the shadow detail or refining the Vibrance slider) in order to achieve the exact look that you’re after. [...]
So not only can dehaze remove haze (up to a reasonable point), it can also add it! It can also be used as part of a radial or graduated filter to subtract or add haze or fog selectively.

As I told Monte in my Flickr reply, I can't disagree that I maybe overdid the dehazing since several other folks say the same. Part of the challenge is trying to reproduce what I actually saw vs. what I wanted to see. When we started on that long dirt road the sun was out and setting so I thought I'd get golden hour stuff, except for the fog. Somebody some time ago twitted this picture as not having enough snap, plus with the passage of more than 3 years my memory of what it actually looked like as opposed to what I wanted it to look like has evolved, along with my tools and skills. Now I can't make up my mind! :D
Friends call me Chuck. :photo: This link takes you to my Flickr albums. Please click on any album to scroll through it.
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All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|

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Re: Three Versions, Same Picture

Postby Matt Quinn » Sat Nov 18, 2017 4:21 pm

Chuck,
Now I can't make up my mind!

If that's your only problem with this, you are a lucky man, man. Matt
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Re: Three Versions, Same Picture

Postby LindaShorey » Sat Nov 18, 2017 4:30 pm

Re the dehaze filter, I have PS Elements which uses a "stripped down" version of ACR (no dehaze, at least in PSE 13). I hear ya about being undecided on which way to go. When that happens I usually just go out and take new photos and forget about the conundrum :)
"What's important in a photograph and what isn't." http://photographylife.com/whats-import ... -what-isnt

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Re: Three Versions, Same Picture

Postby Matt Quinn » Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:19 pm

Chuck,

"The third picture below is the scene as I "saw" it, mind's eye."

Here''s a quote from Schopenahuer that might fit this discussion obliquely: "...the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what no one else has thought about that which everybody sees."

Trying to make sense of that hurts my head. I think I'll go outside and take some pictures. Happy Sunday. Matt
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Re: Three Versions, Same Picture

Postby Charles Haacker » Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:15 pm

Matt Quinn wrote:Chuck,

"The third picture below is the scene as I "saw" it, mind's eye."

Here''s a quote from Schopenahuer that might fit this discussion obliquely: "...the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what no one else has thought about that which everybody sees."

Trying to make sense of that hurts my head. I think I'll go outside and take some pictures. Happy Sunday. Matt

Ah! But there is more to the quote: "Also for this reason, it takes so very much more to be a philosopher than a physicist." Schopenhauer has been called "the artist's philosopher" on account of the inspiration his aesthetics has provided to artists of all stripes. I think about this sometimes when I take/make a picture of something as over-photographed and painted as the Point Arena Light. The current tower dates from 1908 since the 1870 original was destroyed by the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, but I have little doubt that the station has been photo'd and painted to a fare-thee-well over more than a century. So how does one do something entirely new and different? I conjecture that if you lined up 10 photographers at roughly the same viewpoint, you'd get 10 different pictures, some very different, if for no other reason that each viewer has a different vision of the same thing. They also have 10 slightly different viewpoints but that's not so material. I've already done several slight variations of the same theme, and even the exact same file. It may be that I am thinking "...what no one else has thought about that which everybody sees." :) :)
LindaShorey wrote:Re the dehaze filter, I have PS Elements which uses a "stripped down" version of ACR (no dehaze, at least in PSE 13). I hear ya about being undecided on which way to go. When that happens I usually just go out and take new photos and forget about the conundrum :)

I never seem to be able to remember who shoots what and finishes it how. I need to make a list. Indeed Elements itself is stripped down Photoshop. I think they were up to 15 and have now released v. 2018, and all subsequent versions will be named for the release year. My last one was 11 and came with ACR, so that was when I started to dip my toes in the raw waters, but I don't think I realized that the ACR that came with it was stripped down. For me it no longer matters since I concluded that I wanted to subscribe. I absolutely love the subscription LR + PS but clearly the $11 a month is not for everyone, and I more than grasp that I will never truly be able to use the full power of Photoshop. (?)
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Re: Three Versions, Same Picture

Postby Matt Quinn » Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:34 am

"... it takes so very much more to be a philosopher than a physicist." Nowadays, I suspect, there's little difference when one starts to think about non-matter, black holes, string theory, an expanding universe, multi-verses and extra dimensions. I'm happy I don't have to ponder any of that; more headaches. Happy Thanksgiving. Matt
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Re: Three Versions, Same Picture

Postby davechinn » Tue Nov 21, 2017 12:57 pm

Charles Haacker wrote:Elsewhere we have been having a lively discussion about the ethics of manipulation in landscape photography. This post is not about ethics but rather the manipulations themselves, at minimum a demonstration of possibilities. In 2014 we went out to photograph the Point Arena Light on the northern California coast. I was hoping for sunset but the furshlugginer fog rolled in. We'd spent considerable time on a rough dirt track to get out there. I usually go with whatever Mother hands me, so I shot pictures and at the same time tried to time things so I'd get a seagull (or two) in the shot but the (stupid) seagulls sailing over your shoulder are just like wherever.

The first picture below is a straight-from-the-camera jpeg. To me it is illustrative of why I cannot be an SOOC photographer. My recollection is that this is what the scene actually looked like. BLEH! YUCK! Flat! The third picture below is the scene as I "saw" it, mind's eye. Clearly there has been considerable manipulation on that one, but at base it's still just the first yucky shot, but enhanced. Several things happened here. It was worked globally in Lightroom using my now fairly routine steps, including setting white and black points (which I now consider essential and are not the same as highlight and shadow) and applying The Miracle Tool, dehaze! Then I took it into Photoshop, slid the (stupid) gull back to where he ought to have been had he had any manners, and then borrowed another gull from one of the other exposures. I was well satisfied and thought myself clever beyond measure.

But as it happens, Matt Quinn liked the misty version better! So I went back and reworked the picture to restore the sense of mistiness while still setting black and white points, which I find essential to keeping a picture from looking muddy. Then I put the gulls back.

So what we have are three fairly different versions of the same picture, and the original a jpeg at that (although I now shoot nothing but raw having Seen The Light so to speak). This shows that properly exposed jpegs can most certainly be successfully post processed to a fare-thee-well, and that uncooperative seagulls need not be a hindrance to good composition provided you are willing to compromise your ethics.
:D :clap: :yay:
But seriously going back to the ethics thing, Matt remarked, "... I begin to think that intent is central to the issue of truth v deception. When I am photographing, I want to capture what I felt when I saw the scene. The feeling can't be expressed in words, only in the picture; that's why I take it instead of writing a poem.The emotional reaction is to something visual; a poem could be also be an attempt at that, but more frequently a poem conveys intellectual responses for which words, with their sounds, are more appropriate. (The word "roar" mimics the sound of the waves on the rocks and takes time to say it; a picture freezes the wave and allows us to contemplate and admire it.) The scene I saw was the third one. The scene Matt preferred was the misty one. If there is a point to this post it's that, within reason, you can have both.


Chuck, I don't see or find anything wrong with the three you posted. However, my personal favorite of the three is the second one. I prefer the placement of the added seagull and your chosen position. The fog/mist is a must for the drama that was handed to you.

I hardly ever concern myself with what I see in an image once captured. I almost always post process to my desire and usually lean towards the dramatic effect. Sometimes I'm successful and sometimes not, but I never concern myself with what I saw. So, I'm not a SOOC photographer either. Usually, it's what is presented in front of me that determines my direction and my mood at the time of processing, because I can process the same image on different days with different results based on MOOD FOR THE DAY !!!
Dave

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Re: Three Versions, Same Picture

Postby St3v3M » Sun Dec 03, 2017 6:25 pm

I'm torn with this one, but as always I revert to What's The Story You Want To Tell? Is it the cold bleak day, or something else?

I can tell you which I like but what matters is what you like, and maybe why! This was a fun exercise, thank you for adding this! S-
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