A digital camera is a computer that has been programmed to translate light. As photographers, we can control the capture and translation to a certain extent using the camera’s settings. No matter how well we know our cameras and how to adjust settings, the images we capture just don’t always match the emotion we felt when we were there and saw with our own eyes.
Ansel Adams is credited with saying, “”The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.”
Digital “negatives” are no different. Editing software can help us translate the original “score” – the captured light and shadows and colors – into the “performance” we experienced.
Last May, I stood on the shore of Chautauqua Lake on a dramatic weather day. The image my camera and I captured did not do justice to the way I felt when I was standing there with the breeze in my face, my skin picking up the changing temperature.
Here is the image straight from the camera:
I took the image into Adobe’s Camera Raw editing software to straighten the horizon, crop to a 5×7 aspect ratio for practical reasons, and adjust the histogram. Here is the result:
I felt this result was flat and lacked the sense of drama I was feeling when I stood there. So I took it into Photoshop and used the HDR Efex Pro module of my new Nik Collection plug in – enabling me to bring out some of the details. (There are two versions of this plug-in – one for those times when you actually took 3 or more images bracketing the exposure, and one for those times you only have the one image. I used the latter.)
That’s getting closer to what I was feeling. I’m sure I could keep working it and from the same “negative” create a whole range of emotions. This is why I love working in digital photography! The possibilities are endless.
Here are the three images side by side for comparison: