What do you see?

Recently fellow photographer Robin Hogreve posted about how and why he shoots RAW format, which led me to comment on how his pictures look on my computer as opposed to his. This is an issue in the digital age; it’s no longer just a matter of what does a particular person’s eyes see, but what does their viewing screen present them with. Herewith I post four versions of one picture which tackles the difficult business of getting a snow image “right” (by which I mean looking as true to reality as possible).

Original, unprocessed JPEG image shot with the Nikon.
White balance automatically corrected in GIMP.
Brightness +20, contrast +10 to compensate for poor light exposure.
Cyan saturation turned down 100 because snow isn’t blue.

The final image is as close to what the scene actually looked like as I could get. It makes a difference which order the steps are applied too, as the computer uses the image content to judge how to make certain adjustments. Usually a white balance correction should be the first step, as colour temperature varies a lot in Winter.

Now artistically you might want the scene to look blue or darker or lower contrast in order to convey the mood of the time. But really the snow only looks blue around here in bright sun when it reflects our very blue skies (full of UV due to thin atmosphere at this elevation). That doesn’t mean you want it to look that way, though.

The question here is: which one looks best to you?

It would be interesting to look at these on several computers side by side and have several viewers judge the results. Art is in the eye of the beholder, but given the medium here we have to wonder if we’re getting across to the beholder what the creator intended.

By the way that’s a highway truck “winging back” the snow on the road shoulders with a “belly blade” and possibly dropping some sand as well to increase traction. It’s been a very nasty Winter, and it continues: just yesterday we got four more inches (10 cm) of the white stuff.

5 thoughts on “What do you see?

  1. Hi Marc. Have you tried any micro four-thirds cameras? I don’t know if you’re aware, but they can accept just about any lens via adapters. Yes you may lose autofocus on most of them, but it also gives you the chance to try macro photography with reverse adapters. My foster dad uses one, the Panasonic GX7.

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    1. Well indeed I have a ‘regular’ 4/3 camera because I like the format and I adapt some ‘classic’ lenses (Super Takumars) to my Canon. Yes the micro 4/3 format is ideal for using old glass, but I can’t afford to add one to the arsenal just yet. If I had kept more of the collection I was forced to give away a couple years ago this would be a different matter.

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