Rainy Day Editing Pictures

· Reading Time: 8 minutes

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Mercyful Fate
I had a late meeting to go to, so that meant that I had a little time in the morning to do some photography.  It was cloudy, so I was pretty excited about getting out and photographing a plane that I had found in a parking lot (long exposure possibility).  I was also going to work a ’57 Buick I had found sitting in a back yard, as well as an old Ford truck under a tarp in the rear of a house.  There was also some type of early 50’s sedan tucked in a backyard North of Walkertown that I was interested in.  I had a lot of plans for the morning.
Well, once I got Sierra off to school, I headed out to see how the morning was going to go.  When I got to the plane, the clouds were featureless with no movement in them at all.  I decided that I would return and do some light painting with it later on.  I then moved over to the Buick, and called the number on the sign out front which was for a tax prep office based in the house based on some Googling I have done.  There was no answer, and I didn’t see much signs of life in the house.  I decided to wait till a bit later on to find out if I could get some pictures.  By the time I got to the GMC, the rain was starting, and I wasn’t able to really get a good angle set up in my mind for a picture.  By this time, I was getting a tad frustrated, and went off to the sedan.
The rain had stopped, but the clouds were really thick and since the car was black, there was going to be no visual pop for the image.  I started to drive aimlessly around hunting a barn or something else to photograph.  I was also noting that the sky was getting quite dark.  I checked the phone and found that the rain was coming in, and the rest of the morning was going to be a washout.  I tucked my tail between my legs in utter failure and headed home.
Trying to get my creative juices flowing again, I opted to go into Lightroom and look through my old negatives.  All of my images prior to 2016 had been processed with Photoshop which I was never all that great with, and wanted to see what I could do with Lightroom.  One of the first ones that I started working on was the opening picture to the entry.  I had never processed it before, but had kept it just in case I wanted to try it later on.
I was actually pretty amazed at how well the picture came out.  There was lots of detail and punch in the image file, but I had been having a really hard time getting the bright truck to render the way I wanted it to.  That was a piece of cake with Lightroom.  That set the tone, and I started to go back to other images that I had really liked, but thought I could eek a bit more detail out of with Lightroom.
The Depressed Express
Magic Bus
The next one I chose to tackle was this bus which I would love the chance to shoot again.  Unfortunately, the property had sold, and the bus was towed away.  This particular image had been a lot of fun to shoot just before dawn.  I got to play with light painting on it, along with a long exposure for the sky.  Both versions are nice, but I do like the additional detail offered in the new version.  I know Photoshop is much more capable than Lightroom, but I am just so much better with Lightroom, and it fits how my mind works.  The difference is quite apparent.
Weathering the Storm
Poor Twisted Me
In this picture of the dairy barn in Greensboro, the differences are more subtle.  One of the things that has always bothered me was the perspective distortion on the barn in the original shot.  That was an easy fix in Lightroom, and gave the barn a little more of a proud look.  I was also able to do some local adjustments (dodging and burning) to bring out details, and reduce some of the contrast in areas that didn’t need it.  The sky also has a more natural color balance to it.  It is hard to tell in these low res images, but the amount of clarity that has been achieved in the second edit is quite amazing, and has brought this image new life in the gallery.  Even subtle differences can change the entire meaning of an image.  In this case, the tree becomes a much more prominent focal point, and adds a lot more interest to the image.  That lead me to the title, which was inspired by a Metallica song by the same name.
Something Brewing
Stand Here With Me
My next venture into the digital dark room was this barn from the Union Cross Community  I’ve always liked the barn, and loved the sky that I had captured, but there was just something drab about the picture, and the color balance was awkward.  This is where the Lightroom workflow is just so much easier to deal with for my brain.  In just a few minutes I had an image that really popped and dazzled my eyes.  The clouds that I loved so much were almost three dimensional and the textures shown in the tree and the wood on the barn.  Heck, the roof was even brighter.  There was just one stumbling block to the image that bothered me.  That was the big white panel on the face of the barn.  It was a visual distraction, and there wasn’t anything that I could reasonably do to minimize it without making it look obvious that it had been worked.  I decided to do something that I don’t usually do, and clone it out.  I really try to avoid doing that because it affects the accuracy of the image.  However, I decided that the payoff would be worth it because it had been a false focal point for the whole image.  Now it flowed so much better.
The Heartbeat Within
For my final hat trick, I revisited another image of that GMC truck that I’ve liked over the years.  The problem that I kept having with the image was the light colored paint on the truck was lacking detail as were the shadowed areas under the hood.  I mean, the fender is missing, might as well get a look at what is under the hood right?  There were also too many competing elements in the scene as well.  I liked the background elements as they told the story of the truck, but they refused to play second fiddle to the truck.  By processing through Lightroom and doing some dodging and burning, I was able to accomplish two very important things.  First, I was able to get the detail that I was wanting in the truck with both the highlights and the shadows.  Second, I was able to downplay the background, so I could keep the truck as a focal point.  To really emphasize this, I did a slight crop to the image to reduce the background’s visual weight.  I kept the red in the barn to the rear, but toned it down to fit with the overall look and feel of the image.  In the end, I have an image that feels completely different, and has so much more detail to look at.  I have always liked the first image, but I have to admit, I can see where my editing skills were really lacking five years ago.
It is funny how my ideas of editing have changed over the years.  Once upon a time, it was all about bright colors.  These days, I am more interested in the way the colors relate to each other, and much more interested in detail.  I look back on my early days as a photographer and remember that I refused to get into image processing because it was not true photography.  I would work the images in Microsoft Picture It just to tweak it straight from the camera.  It wasn’t until I started shooting RAW that I started to see the benefit of image processing.
Regardless of what software you are using, to really get the most accurate rendition of the scene you are using, some amount of processing is needed.  It is the same as it was in the film era.  The real art of photography was dependent on how the darkroom process was done, and ultimately how the printing was done.  The tools I use in Lightroom are pretty much the same tools that were available to film photographers in the form of chemicals, and masks for differences in exposures.  My photographs are still true to the scene that I shot and never have any serious image manipulation done.  For me, it is all about the scene that I shot, not the scene that I wanted to find.