Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Joy Of Play

I'm a serious photographer.  I mean it.  I am.  I, like all truly serious photographers, know things.  Like, I know that historically what photography has done best is mechanically reproduce two-dimensional views of the three-dimensional world.  That is, what photography does best is show how things and people actually look.  Therefore, the best photography has always played to that strength - the strength of its documentary nature.  Those poor pictorialists and their sad attempts to make photographs look like "painterly."  I pitied them.  Those poor Flickrites with their oversaturated, oversharpened pictures and their little clubby, cliquey groups  labeling each other's work as masterpieces.  Just as bad were the oversaturated blurry creations.  All those sad little, wretched, tortured pixels!

But then...


I like to play a little.  (Sigh.)

It all started innocently enough.  With a trip to the cemetery. The Lexington Cemetery.  In Lexington.  Kentucky.

There is a lovely lane of weeping cherries there.  The trouble is, I was a few days late for those and the blossoms were past their peak.

So I started playing to see what I could do to make those stand out.  In the end, it was a couple of Nik plug-ins that seemed to work best.  First an HDR effect, then a black and white conversion in Silver Efex Pro 2 using first the red filter to lighten the pink blossoms and make them "pop," and then the selective color to give it something of a Wallace Nutting vibe.

My wife loved it.  And really, who can resist that kind of encouragement.  So I decided to venture further.  There is the small white bridge at Lexington Cemetery that reminds me of what is probably the most famous little white bridge ever - the one in Monet's garden at Giverny.  And while the cherry blooms were past their prime, the tulips were just hitting their stride at the cemetery.  So some Lightroom tweaks, an HDR application, and some Glamour Glow in Color Efex Pro 3, and here was the result.

Whoa!  That's some color!  Again, my wife loved it.  And let's face it, some things are better in color.  I was so inspired (or had so lost my sense of direction, take your pick) that I worked up a shot from my latest Sunday morning outing.

Okay, okay.  Enough color.  The process, using essentially the same three plug-ins (HDR Efex, Color Efex and Silver Efex) can be used to create black and white pictures.

The overall look, in the end, reminds me of pictures I used to make in the darkroom with some black mesh under the lens to diffuse the image.  That technique leads to some bleeding of the dark parts into the lighter areas - the opposite of the usual effect when the image is diffused in camera.  Anyhow, I have enjoyed playing.


  1. I used the black mesh technique in the darkroom too. Personally, I like the look after having seeing it in some Mapplethrope prints. Yours look each there own.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Clifford! I found the technique worked well on some pictures (the one with the "State Maintenance Ends Here" sign is now my 2nd most interesting picture according to Flickr), and not so well with others. But it is something I'm going to add to the toolbox for those images that it helps in my opinion.


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