Processing order

I have to admit I’ve been doing more post-processing of my pictures since the eyesight failure. Most of it is cropping to make up for not seeing what in the viewfinder correctly, but some of it is the usual colour/brightness/contrast tweaking to get things just right. Then I usually shrink things down and sharpen them as a matter of course.

One of the photographers I follow recently did a very long video on all the rigmarole he goes through in processing, and at least I haven’t fallen into that trap. I say “trap” because I think a lot of people over-process their images, and not just the HDR ones. I probably will never do this because I now lack the ability to see subtle differences.

That said, I’m going to show you some subtle differences! The purpose of which is to demonstrate that what order you make adjustments (at least ‘automatic’ ones) has an affect on the final result. First the base image which has only been shrunken down and sharpened:

A somewhat poor image of lilacs, taken with a not-so-good lens.

This picture can benefit from both some colour enhancement and tonal correction as it is somewhat washed-out, lacking both richness and contrast. So let’s correct the white balance then enhance the colour, using ‘automatic’ functions for both, before shrinking & sharpening:

White balance, colour enhance, S&S.

But what if we colour enhance first, then correct the white balance?

Colour enhance, white balance, S&S.

There is a subtle difference, even to my eyes. Better? Worse? That’s a matter of opinion.

Now let’s look and see what happens if we shrink & sharpen first, then adjust white balance and colour:

S&S, white balance, colour enhance.

And in the other order:

S&S, colour enhance, white balance.

The last two images are the most alike, and you can see they are both different from either image which had colour changes before being reduced in size. This is because the computer program judges the whole image when making its adjustment ‘decisions’, and if the image is made smaller first there is less information to work with. Will that make the end result better or worse? That would depend on the particular image and your personal tastes. It is important to remember this especially if you are cropping segments out of the whole, as whether or not the removed portions are included in the program’s analysis for adjusting can have a significant effect of the final result (as in if large amounts of a particular colour or shadow/highlight are being left out).

There’s not only science to this, but art as well. You may find it helps to try such multiple changes in different orders to get the best results.

It’s still not a good picture, though.

How much kit?

Recently I watched a video about some wonderful magnetic neutral-density filters. I thought: “I have neutral density filters, but do I ever use them?” The answer is “no”. I have all sorts of gear in fact, and most of it stays home all the time even after switching to the Canon DSLR which doesn’t have all the built-in capacity of the Nikon bridge. Hmm. Let’s think about this.

Deadhead. (Canon T100 & Sigma 150-600mm)

I have often read one of my favourite professional photographers writing about how he went to a gig and brought these four cameras and those six lenses – and ended up using two of each if not less. He’s not alone in that either. How often do you schlep around a bag full of kit and never take it out? Let’s be honest, for all the fun specialized gear is it’s simply easier to just shoot with a basic set up and get what you can out of it. This is why we are often happiest with the point-and-shoot pictures we grab when “playing” with simple cameras rather than agonizing over getting just the right camera-lens-filter-settings combo – and then going mad in post-processing trying to decide over +1 or -1 variations of brightness/contrast/colours.

Angels’ hair. (Canon T100 & Canon 55-250mm)

In truth I only ever take out the special gear when I have a specific idea in mind, such as shooting in infrared. Otherwise I have favourite camera/lens combinations and take one or maybe two and whatever happens for pictures happens. Whatever doesn’t, doesn’t. No sense getting all worked up over it, eh? One of my often-used sayings is: “If only things were different they wouldn’t be the way they are”. You’d be surprised how often that is true. Or maybe you wouldn’t.

So here’s to serendipity, kismet, chance, and fate. The artist should embrace them as friends, not view them as enemies.

Oh yes, and as an engineer that goes entirely against the grain!

A good picture

Or: Take On Photos: Part 5, analysis

I realize I dropped out of my series on what I think makes a good picture, having completely ignored the planned final entry of self-analysis (most people think I should go for the professional kind). Anyhow the reasons for why this happened are numerous and not important. So instead I’ll explain this recently taken random picture:

Lilacs coming on.

First of all, this was heavily cropped from the full image to eliminate unwanted composition elements. As a result we have some of the aspects mentioned in my “Take On Photos” series: The framing and composition are there, including an interesting diagonal asymmetry produced by the ‘imaginary’ lines of both the bush branches and the slant of the varying height (perpendicular to one another). There is also depth-of-field controlled background blur to reduce distraction. How interesting the subject matter is depends on the viewer’s taste. Over-all it is a good picture, but not a great one. It isn’t going to make anyone say “Wow!”, but it is ‘correctly’ made from both technical and artistic perspectives.

Let’s examine another recently posted image while we’re at it:


Again, not a “Wow!” picture. And you may argue about how the composition aspects haven’t been applied because the guitar is slightly off vertical but not so much so as to be a ‘correct’ deviation amount. That’s because in this instance true vertical would be too ‘industrial looking’ while a greater angle would look like it’s falling over. This is a case of “time to bend the rules” wherein the slight tilt makes the composition more acceptable; more ‘human’. First we learn the rules, then we learn when and how to break ’em. For the same reason the background is not a flat, smooth, evenly-lit solid colour: that would look like a ‘product shot’ rather than a picture, and this image isn’t about selling the guitar it’s about showing it.

Now a third image:

You’ll laugh.

As an artistic picture this is bad. It’s so heavily cropped it has lost some definition (notice it is smaller than my usual sizing). The composition is destroyed by the wire fence getting right in the way of the subject. But it couldn’t be helped under the circumstances; that bird wasn’t going to hang about for a long photo shoot. In fact it was one shot and gone. This is a ‘documentation image’, which ignores all the rules in hopes of getting down on ‘film’ the fact the bird was there at all.

Now for the laugh: that bird is called a yellow-rumped warbler.

No, really.

50 years on

This is my guitar which I can no longer play due to health reasons. It was not an expensive ‘name brand’ guitar, but I suppose it is ‘classic’ now because it’s 50 years old now.


Today we find out Tina Turner is dead. Not entirely unexpected, but still sad.

Cabins at the lake

I’ve not got out there again yet this year (that’s awkward wording), but the last time I was there (which was the first time this year) I took some pictures with the Canon T100 and the Sigma 150-600mm lens. These are the few that the dust on the sensor is not obvious in; I really can’t tell when it needs cleaning until after I see the shots on a 15″ screen.

(That whole paragraph could be written better, but I’m just not going to edit it as that’s too much like work.)

I can’t remember whose is which, but it doesn’t matter.

Need to go back out there again and do some more stuff (like mow the lawn) just in case we can get out there sometime this year.

Meanwhile there’s a lot of work that needs doing here yet. Like fixing the damage to the house now that I’ve got that tree mostly cleared away.

(This writing today is absolutely terrible; should I be worried about that?)

Cabin trip #1 for 2023

It was a wonderfully warm day as I headed out the ol’ dirt road to the lake. The first 35 kms were easy. The last 5 kms … not so much so:

This, over and over again.

It was stop, cut trees off road, go another 50 feet maybe, cut trees off road, repeat … until I lost track of how many times I had to stop, never mind how many trees I had to cut. Some weren’t all that small either:

Dead and dry but large and heavy.

In fact I didn’t cut every one; any I could drive under, around, or over I just left. The F150 is pretty good at going through places that might stop a lesser vehicle, and I don’t like to make access easy. Over-all this was the most trees across the road I have ever encountered. It took almost an extra hour to get down that last 5 kms!

Fortunately once there I found nothing amiss. A couple of dead mice and one rat in the traps. No major damage of any sort, and two trees I had wanted down in the forest had in fact fallen so I’m ahead there. One of those is probably half the firewood I need for next Winter.

The leaning spruce is leaning still. (Held up by a cottonwood.)

Very high water level and it’s raining this weekend. Still snow on the mountains and in dark corners. We’ll see how it goes for getting out there to stay, probably at the end of this week. The electrical system is fully functioning but I was too tired to hook up the water.

(All photos taken with the Canon G11. I brought the other Canons but there wasn’t anything to take a picture of. Perhaps another time.)

Work goes on

Cleaning up around the tree.

A week went by with no word about the medical test. Must get on with doing things anyway.

Even some of the trunk cut up now.

On top of that I’m getting ready for a cabin trip to see what’s gone on out there over the Winter. That will include massive expenditure to put the truck back on the road.

The future looks like this.

Have not even begun to explore repairing the buildings here, much less all the other little chores that have cropped up. It takes me a long time to do anything, but at least it doesn’t cost the fortune of hiring someone – and having to do it over when they’ve done it wrong.