the blog of Seldom Seen Photography

Choices, Choices

When photography is exercised as an art form rather than an attempt to purely replicate a scene without any interpretation (which, of course is impossible, photographs cannot replicate reality – they are in 2 dimensions instead of 3, they are cropped and reality is not, etc. – this could be a whole separate blog by itself, but I digress), the photographer has a myriad of choices to make. Many choices are made when capturing the image – what lens to use, what exposure settings to use, what to leave in the frame and what to crop out, whether to use a high viewpoint or a low viewpoint, etc. And post capture, there are also a myriad of choices concerning processing – there are global adjustments for exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, the white point, the black point, clarity, saturation, vibrance; cropping; distortion corrections; adding gradients or brush stroke or radial filters; etc. etc. and that is just in Lightroom; go to Photoshop and the choices explode seemingly exponentially.

For the capture side of photography, I’m a big advocate of trying out lots of different options when photographing a subject to really explore its possibilities (see this old post on the subject). Much is said about per-visualizing an image when photographing. And doing so makes a lot of sense and can make for a great image. However, don’t let that per-visualization get in the way of looking at a subject from different, non-per-visualized vantage points.

Okay, I have a confession to make here, I did not follow my own advice when capturing the images accompanying this post. I had one viewpoint in mind, went out, took the shots, and left. Call me bad. These images were taken earlier in the week at Union Station in downtown Tacoma. Union Station is no longer a train station but is now the US courthouse here in the city. Union Station is an iconic shot of Tacoma which I haven’t explored much before (so iconic in fact that I saw another photographer’s image of it hanging on a wall earlier the same evening I took this shot). And the fact that it is an iconic shot maybe why I neglected to cover it from other angles. So here’s so more unsolicited advice – when shooting icons, get the iconic shot out of the way, then try to cover it from other angles and get your own take on the subject (yes, I hear you, I should follow my own advice).

But even when you only get one shot, even the iconic shot, with your post-capture processing you can put your own spin on a subject by the choices you make. Here are four different interpretations of the same subject. Three are HDR images, processed initially in Lightroom, exported to Photomatrix, then re-imported and finished in Lightroom. The other is not an HDR image and was processed solely in Lightroom. If I decide to work on one or more of the images in the future, I may take it to Photoshop to make additional adjustments. The HDR images are made from a set of five images taken one f-stop apart.

The images represent choices for a single exposure of HDR, more realistic HDR and more “grungy” HDR, and distortion correction and cropping versus no distortion correction and cropping. No one image is correct, and no one image is wrong. None represent the reality of the scene as viewed by my eye (this scene, taken at night, is mostly lit from ugly yellow sodium-vapor street lamps for example). All are interpretations; all are artwork; all represent different choices. With these shots, I believe, at least to a small extent, I put my own spin on an icon. I think I favor the cropped, distortion-corrected version the best; but do like the other ones as well. Do you have a favorite?

Union Station - single exposure

Union Station – single exposure

Union Station - more "realistic" HDR version

Union Station – more “realistic” HDR version

Union Station - more "realistic" HDR cropped with distortion correction

Union Station – more “realistic” HDR cropped with distortion correction

Union Station - grungy HDR look

Union Station – grungy HDR look


7 responses

  1. As always, impressive work…I do like the “more realistic” picture the best, however I also like the single exposure. Always look forward to seeing pictures. Have a lovely weekend!

    April 19, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    • thanks; you have happy Easter!

      April 19, 2014 at 4:55 pm

  2. Hi Joe, a great set and informative writeup! I like the distortion corrected one as well. When using that Photoshop edit, it must have to really push some pixels around. I wonder if anyone ever sees a loss of sharpness with that. When you prepare your bracked images in LR before sending them into Photomatix (as .tiff’s), do you do a batch editing process on them? What might you typically do on these up front? I seem to have good results just opening the raw files in Photomatix many times. But that makes me wonder if it’s RAW converter is leaving something to be desired compared to converting the RAW’s in LR (ACR) or my Nikon proprietary software. BTW, really a sweet image of the iconic old Union Station. Somehow you got some great brilliance in those cool blue hues rather than some sickly greens or yellows in the mixed light.

    April 19, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    • Hi Ernie. When I process images in LR prior to sending to Photomatix, I typically do very little. Normally on one image I check the chromatic aberration correction and lens correction, set a small amount of noise reduction, and set the white balance, than copy those settings to all the images that will go into the HDR. I need to set a white balance because I usually have my camera set on Auto white balance, so when the images come into LR, they default to auto, thus it is possible that the different bracketed images will have subtlety different white balance settings. By picking a single setting and copying that across all the bracketed images, I guarantee all the white balances are the same. After the HDR image is imported back into LR, I go through my entire normal LR workflow. I’ve never tried importing RAW images directly into Photomatrix as I do use LR as an image manager – so all my images start and end in LR.

      The cool blue hues on the interior of the station are because the light inside the station is much cooler than the light outside the station (from the sodium-vapor street lights). When I make my white balance correction, I try to take out most of the yellow-orange from the sodium-vapor lights. This requires the blue-yellow slider to be pushed very far into the blue range. That, or course, adds blue to both the portion of the image lit by the interior lights and the portion lit by the street lights. So while it corrects the street light, correcting for the yellow-orange cast, it over corrects for the interior light, giving it a blue cast. I could, with careful painting in LR, or masking in PS, separately correct for the interior light, taking out the blue. But I kind of like the blue cast and left it that way.

      April 20, 2014 at 3:03 pm

  3. Reblogged this on MARSocial Author Business Enhancement Interviews.

    April 21, 2014 at 7:35 am

  4. Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.

    April 21, 2014 at 7:37 am

  5. Viewing on my phone, I quite like the grungy photo, but that might change when seen on a larger screen 🙂

    April 24, 2014 at 6:31 am

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