From One, Many

September 30, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

I will tell you right off the bat, the following has the same image over and over — sort-of. If you're interested in seeing some (just some) of what's possible with a single image, jump in!

If you need to scroll through something akin to counting sheep so as to lull yourself into slumber, you might also find value here.

If you have no interest in interesting things, well, I suppose you can do something else. But you're here already, so you might as well make the most of it, right!? But I'll make a deal with you — I'll not ask for too much reading of text, preferring (don't we all) the looking at of pictures.

Let Us Begin

This airplane is a contemporary of the Douglas DC-3, which was known in military parlance as the C-47. This is a Curtiss C-46, which might look similar, but it is actually much larger and heavier and, to my eye, much sleeker. I photographed it at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Virginia, during its single low-level fly-by.

I trust your first impression of the photo is, "yuk," as well it should be.

But that "yuk" is not because this is a bad photo, but because we are looking at the RAW image; the data saved by the camera when I pressed the shutter button. Most RAW photos will look rather bland because, while the camera is actually recording the most data it can, the immediate result is not particularly attractive. What every RAW file needs is processing.

First, though, you might spot a tiny bit of dust in the sky, above the  wingtip on the left. We should get rid of the dust first, but it's just the one spot, right? Or two?

For purposes of this demonstration I have darkened the sky so the dust-fixing indicators will be more obvious. There's more dust than was obvious, right? To find them all, I actually add a removable setting to the image to accentuate the dust spots. And believe me, it is best to ferret them out and take care of them at the start.* & **

Add a minimum of processing and, while it's still blah, at least it's clean.

Let the Processing (Really) Begin

And then, voilà! With adjustments to color temperature, brightness, clarity, saturation, and sharpness, a clean, bold, colorful image can emerge from the blah.

Let's remove those foreground attendees so there's nothing to distract us from this beauty thundering by.

We can punch the colors and contrast which, despite the trees developing a lot of vibrancy and busy details, the aircraft jumps even more boldly out of the image, with its wider range of colors and its smoothness differentiating it from the foliage.

Or, kill the color and the image becomes all about textures.

Here, the textures are muted and the color is almost, but not completely, gone — though with a sepia tone over the whole.

Forget sepia! Blast it with fiery orange! Notice how this and the sepia version have, like, zero detail in the sky. Interesting…

Finally, purple and peach dueling it out for what might be a dawn flight. Or a spooky one.

Why, Oh Why?

My first thought, in crafting this piece, was to show that it takes time and effort to bring beauty to photography. The initial capture is important (proper exposure combining aperture and shutter speed appropriate to the subject and the intentions), but it doesn't stop there.

And beyond that initial capture and that initial processing, there is much that can be done to create an image that blends with others or stands out from them all. Keeping in mind the first rule of communications — get the viewer's attention — consider how an otherwise fine photo can rise above its innate goodness to grab eyeballs by the horns (whatever that means).


* Why so many dust spots? This was a multi-day trip that had me swapping lenses on my cameras. Take a lens off and put a different one on, and off and on and off and on, where every swap is an opportunity for teeny tiny dust specks to waft into the camera and attach to the sensor. I do what I can to minimize those opportunities, but it happens.

** If you're concerned that I left two splotches of dust just above the tree line on the right edge of the image, those are actually birds. I could have removed them, same as dust, but I kinda like seeing them.


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