Making Lemonade …

While we were in Charleston last month, I spent some time photographing swamp grass moving back and forth in the water next to a public pier.  At best, this type of photogrpahy is a hit-or-miss proposition, but this time I was my own worst enemy, because I had forgotten to reset my camera from the 5-shot HDR brackets I had been shooting a few minutes before.  The result was that even after carefully setting my exposure for a long capture of water and movement, the majority of the shots were either over or under exposed. (Pilot error.)  Once I looked at the shots in the digital darkroom, I tossed all but one aside – the only shot that captured at least some of the essence of the movement I was going for.  But, it was badly underexposed and very, very muddy, as you can see.

Back in the old darkroom days, this would be a very thin, flat negative, and would require, at minimum, a high contrast paper, and lots of dodging and burning if anything was going to be made of it.  That swirl of movement in the center of this image is what made me want to see if I could save it in the digital darkroom.  So, for step 1, I converted the raw file in Adobe Camera Raw. I usually don’t do much in ACR, except set all their default corrections to zeros, and apply camera color profiles and correct for chromatic abberations, if necessary.  This time, though, I just hit the “open Image” button to launch Photoshop.  Once in Photoshop, I used Nik Viveza to add some brightness, saturation and contrast.  Things began to look up:

So far, my adjustments in Viveza let me know there was enough information to work with the image further, and the swirl of the grasses above and below the water began to look even more interesting.

In Step 2, I opened up Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4, and played around with a number of filter combinations.  I settled on adding the Tonal Contrast filter, using the default setting.  This brightened up the image overall, and added some structure to the grass blades.  I then added the Darken/Lighten Center filter, but opted to darken the center slightly and lighten the edges.  My feeling was there is not enough of a central subject to use the traditional technique of burning the edges slightly to make the center stand out. 

Step 3, the final step, was to go back into Color Efex Pro 4 to add an image border as a mechanism to help keep the eye on the photograph and prevent it from “sliding” off the image.  So here is the final version – for now…. 

I am quite pleased with how this image came together: I have a feeling that I will be revisiting the original raw file again just to experiment and see where it leads me.

Charleston Stop Over …

Barb and I have been back from our road trip south for several weeks, but this is the first time I have had to work on the photos taken from our stop over in Charleston, SC.  This is the third time I have been to Charleston in the last couple of years, and each time I have been there, it has only been for a day, and I have had limited time to explore the pace and take advantage of early morning or evening light.  It has always been hot  and humid, and at the wrong time of day.  Be that as it may, we took a walk along Bay Street to the East Battery, and then back up on Meeting Street, and I managed to get a couple of images I want to share.

This first image is of the sea wall and elevated walkway that runs along the East Battery.  Beyond the wall is Charleston Harbor, and Ft. Sumter in the distance.  I like the linearity of the walkway, and the almost mirrored effect of the stairs leading up.  The sun was low and the lighting was very harsh, but the sky was a vivid blue and there was this great palm tree shadow extending across the street.  I wanted to take real advantage of the shorter end of the 16-35mm lens, but had to settle for 31mm because of some distracting shadows and cars just outside the frame.

We spotted this facade on our walk back from the Battery, along Meeting Street.  At first, we were more interested in the gate for this house and the gate to the neighboring yard, but my eye was soon caught by the Yuengling beer bottle below the door, and from there the colors and textures of the facade just took over.  The house was in shade, making the colors flat, but the reflections in the windows were bright and vivid.  So, in post processing I enhanced the color saturation and contrast moderately to more evenly match the contrast in the windows, and I used Nik Software’s structure control to bring texture to the various surfaces.

We are planning to get back to both Charleston and Savannah next spring, when the temperatures are livable and when I can devote at least a couple of days to exploring and photographing.