Thursday, November 29, 2012

After a glass of Pinot, I apologized to Ansel Adams

Over Thanksgiving I struggled with perfection. 

Visiting friends and relatives wanted to see photographs from the September France trip my wife and I took. Groaning, I gave my all too often reply, "the photos are not optimized."

To me, that meant the photos are not ready for Ansel Adams-level show time.

Things haven't changed all that much since the film days of Ansel. A photograph from any digital camera is just raw material used to make the final image. In fact, I shoot in RAW format, which provides a pile of digital data that need to be interpreted. That interpretation is like Adams' idea of "the negative is the score, the print is the performance."

But creating a performance is a lot of work. After making a dozen or so big adjustments in the RAW file converter, I literally paint minute adjustments with Photoshop layers. Check out the screen capture of my layers palette for this simple photograph of the Gevrey Chambertin Chateau (recently bought by a Chinese businessman).

Photo as it came from RAW File Converter with about 6 basic adjustments.
Notice the addition of a sky layer with a stack of adjustment layers on top.
The final photograph has much more drama.
 The image becomes a painting, a visual performance.

But, if each France-trip image took 5 to 15 minutes to optimize, it would require at least 60 hours of painting to create a simple 100-image Holiday "slide show." (Add to that, first, I had to edit the 11,000 or so images I took during the three-week trip.)

I had to let go of perfection.

That's where wine came to the rescue.  After a glass of Oregon Pinot from White Rose Winery, I "optimized/painted" some key images—three hours—and used the JPGs straight out of the camera for the rest of the show—one hour. The show was done. Simple. No perfection.

Sorry, Ansel, it wasn't a stunning performance. But it was good enough.


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