Monday, January 28, 2008

A Hair in My Soup

The bad thing about finding a hair in your soup is not so much noticing the thing before you ever put the spoon in... that's easy enough to remedy. It's finding it after you have taken a few sips. Somehow, for me at least, this is worse. Much worse.

Why should it make any difference?

I guess finding the hair before I get started prepares me psychologically to indulge in the soup without further concern. I found a hair. I removed it. No big deal.

But, if I have some soup, then find a hair, its like my entire dining experience has been tainted or sullied in some way. It doesn't seem to matter that the soup is just the same no matter when I find the hair (or if I find it at all) or that the fix--prompt removal--is exactly the same in either case.

Which brings me to todays image. Despite its size, I never saw the hair as I was framing the shot. Then, as I began processing it, I had to decide if I should clone it out or leave it in.

One the one hand, this critters hair (a deer, an opossum, a squirrel or a skunk... I have no idea) is certainly a part of the outdoor environment in which the shot was taken. It's natural. On the other, it distracts (if only a little) from the main subject.

In the end I decided to leave it in. I had no moral quarrel with either option, but once I realized I could spin an entire post around this silly hair the choice was made.

Of course, the hair was in my picture... not in my soup. This made the decision to leave it alone a lot easier to swallow.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Saturation, Sharpness, and Salvage

Like so many other film_to_digital photographers the first digital tools I experimented with were saturation and sharpness. With a few simple mouse clicks my previously dull and otherwise not so interesting image could be brought up to a new level. One that I imagined more closely matched my perceptions of the scene when the shutter was tripped.

After all, I was there, I ought to know. So was the sunset not truly as crisp and colorful as my newly saturated and sharpened image suggested? Did I go too far and step over some invisible line that took my work from photograph to digital art? To be honest, I worried about such things.

These days I don't worry about it so much, though I try to remain thoughtful whenever using these tools. They are easy to overdo, and I have certainly done it.

I should also mention that, early on with digital, I had a definite fascination with purposely going too far. Sometimes in the name of enhancement, and sometimes to salvage images that otherwise failed to meet my expectations. Ultimately, though, I decided it was not something that I wanted to do on a regular basis. My photoshop skills were sub par. I did good, in my opinion, to not oversaturate, to not over sharpen, and my early digital art creations were often disappointing given the mind-numbing amount of work required to create them. I still consider myself a photoshop novice, and the thought of layers makes me ill. I can use a few simple ones, but I have never really tried to master them. Kudos to those that feel at ease with these tools.

Part of my reluctance towards layers was in their seeming complexity. They may not be that hard, but they required more effort than I initially cared to invest. Besides, I usually work in RAW and developed a certain fondness for reworking the image several times. Once perhaps for web viewing, later as a print, then again as different crop or to try some other technique. The first few runs would be like practice, and once I started sharing the image it was like performing the same song to a different audience each time.

Another thing I began to work with after going digital was the ability to crop. I wasn't used to having so much freedom when it came to choosing the final composition. With film I felt bad if I shaved a little here or there, but with digital you could crop heavily with 3 megapixels and still manage a great web image and usually a decent 8x10. And now, with 6 or more megapixels being the norm, you can carve an image up like a butcher if you want.

Times have certainly changed.

Oh yes. Three images today. A old digital art piece (dogwood in fall colors on Petit Jean mountian), a sunrise image of rocks in Negro Bill creek, Utah, and sunset shot of the Arkansas river.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Dancing with the Devil

OK, not really. But the image today is one of the Devil's Walking Stick (aralia spinosa). It's quite common around these parts (central Arkansas) and it is a thorny, dangerous thing, to be sure. Resembling a small tree, or sapling, it's really more of a large shrub as it rarely gets over 15-20 feet in height and the "trunks" are usually no more than 10 to 12 inches in diameter.

They grow in clusters and don't branch much, and when isolated (especially during the winter months) they look like a a stand of thorny sticks stuck into the ground ( hence the name). They are usually found along densely overgrown river banks and in low lying areas where its often hard to notice the thorns before its too late. Yeeouch!

At first glance it might seems as though the thorns would be impossible to miss. And usually they are. But at times they are so interleaved with other vegetation that the thorns get hidden, and the trunks look like the most stable thing to grab onto.

The image was taken using what is perhaps my most favored "botany lens", an old Tamron manual focus 90mm f2.5. It's hard to beat this lens for woods walking. The reasonably fast aperture and excellent optics usually assures a crisp shot.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Black Canyon

It's time for my first post of the new year and I'm almost ashamed to not be posting something new. As you know I have grown rather weary of mucking through the Utah images, so I'm offering up a few from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado.

I only dropped by the Black Canyon for one night before flying out. My companions, though, had spent several days hiking and camping in the canyon prior to picking me up for the trip to Utah. (Nothing like getting picked up at the Montrose airport by a pair of four-day-in-the-canyon, unshowered and unshaven adventure partners.) So while I didn't get to have a "real" inner canyon experience, I did get s small taste of it at the East Portal campground.

The first image is a view of the canyon from one of the many scenic overlooks. The other two are a before and after set. Sort of a photo essay of our dinner that night, smokey trout. It took four hours to cook them over our open fire, but it was worth the wait. I can honestly say I've never tasted anything quite like it.

My companions tell me the trout tastes even better from deep within the canyon... after you have hiked in. Maybe next time.