Making versus Taking
"Did you DO something to that?" is a question about my work that used to bother me. I guess it still does to some extent. The implication is that the camera itself, and what it records, is more valid than something 'enhanced' with a computer. This may be true for documentary photographic work, but I completely reject it for the fine art approach to MAKING images that speak to people.
That process involves planning, imagination, conceptualization, organization, balance, and of course, some technical skill.
This article by Pete Myers does an excellent job of explaining the 'postproduction' part of the process: Making Images - not Taking Images
I would like to give an example from my own work that shows one step of many in bringing an image 'to life'.
My goal was to capture an image of the comet Pan-STAAR when it appeared on the western horizon along with a crescent moon in the late winter of 2013. I noted its position the night before in relation to Mount Taylor and the moon, and visualized an image with the two heavenly bodies over the city lights of Albuquerque. The next afternoon, I drove to the Sandia foothills on the east side of the city, and found a spot that overlooked Lomas Boulevard and the western volcanoes. After setting up my equipment, I strained to find the comet, but could not make it out in the twilight. So I shot the area it should be, and bracketed for possible HDR processing. The though I might have missed it was disappointing.
After downloading the RAW files, doing some preliminary development, and then running them thru my HDR software, I finally saw it! But more work needed to be done to realize my initial vision. I will not go into detail of what I did, but one step was crucial to the final result. The preparation had created 'banding' of the colors in the sky colors that I did not like. It is an artifact that digital processing sometimes leaves in areas of subtle color changes. One would be tempted to correct this with some smoothing or noise reduction filter. But that does not help. In fact, just the opposite. I needed to add 'noise'. Very fine grained color noise to be precise. And then in a happy discovery, I found that using a 'overlay' blend mode at 75% opacity further improved the night sky contrast in the image.
You can see the final result in my Luminous image gallery titled "Night Visitor".