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Thread: Recognizing a diamond in the rough

  1. #1
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Recognizing a diamond in the rough

    I was just thinking about part of Djoran’s original posting here; How much post-processing do you do?

    Let me repost the part that got me thinking here:

    Quote Originally Posted by DDK View Post
    Is it better to get the best photo possible at the location and do as little post-processing as possible or is there a balance between the original image and later manipulation which delivers the best result? Where's Wally (just checking to see if you've read this far)?

    Personally, I hope to do as little post-processing as possible to achieve the most 'natural' and 'real' result. When I see soft water and smooth clouds and blended colours or models with all their blemishes removed, I kinda think it's a waste of what is already beautiful to begin with. Then again, that could be naive inexperience talking
    I remember reading somewhere that Michelangelo had said that he could see the sculpture in a piece of stone and all he did was to release it through his carving. I was thinking about the flip side of those questions in this context; and there are really two parts of my question here:

    1. How do you know that you can you have an image that looks marginal coming straight out of the camera and know that you can turn it into a really compelling image in post-production? I’m thinking of more than the 2 minute job of minor tweaks, pre and post sharpening, cropping, etc. Rather it is recognizing that you have a “diamond in the rough” that can be turned into a real gem with a bit of work.

    2. Do you every look at a scene and understand that it will not come out of the camera looking great, but then shoot it in such a way that you can unlock its potential in post? This could mean taking a number of shots of the scene, perhaps using HDRI or other post-processing techniques.


    I’ll use one of the examples I posted in one of my earlier responses in the thread I’ve referred to:

    This is the original image (actually one of several hand-held shots)


    Recognizing a diamond in the rough




    These were taken deliberately to produce this in post:

    Recognizing a diamond in the rough


    1. How do you recognize that you really have a real gem of a capture, in spite of what your initial reaction is when you see what appears to be a marginal, or even downright awful looking your image straight out of the camera?

    2. Do you ever deliberately shoot a sub-standard scene or subject knowing that it is the best you can do, given the circumstances and that you can fix it in post and come up with something that is quite compelling?
    Last edited by GrumpyDiver; 18th May 2013 at 03:25 AM.

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    pnodrog's Avatar
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    Re: Recognizing a diamond in the rough

    1. Sometimes in trying to find a photograph for my photography club I go back through my older photographs and spot one that I have initially overlooked but with a bit of PP comes up well. It is often hidden amongst a group of photographs that at the time I was disappointed in or not what I had in mind at the time.

    2. I often take shots that I know will need PP to bring out the image I have in mind. Getting it right in camera is not as important to me as eventually getting it right. However the closer you get to getting it right in camera usually the better the end result.

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    Re: Recognizing a diamond in the rough

    OK I think I have an example. During one outing shooting bald eagles in flight, we had a pretty successful day with some good images to show for it. When I downloaded the photos there was one sequence of 10-15 shots of a bird diving on a fish that I never should have really shot due to the distance of the bird. To make matters worse, in most of the images the bird was turning slightly away from the camera (which all you bird photogs know is bad juju). Finally the lighting was fairly harsh and would take a good bit of PP to keep the whites from being blown while showing detail in the dark brown feathers, particularly on breast and under wings. No single frame in the sequence was all that great plus I did have several much better full frame images to show for the day. I was just about to delete the entire sequence when two things occurred to me.

    1) every frame was in focus. Usually my aim will drift enough for about one in every three or four frames to be OOF.

    2) The shoreline and rocky bank in the background provided a good frame of reference connecting the shots.

    So after a couple of hours of processing, I had this image that I call "One Second" due to the fact that fired at 6fps it comprises just over one second of flight time of the bird.

    Recognizing a diamond in the rough

    This image is 12x36 at 300ppi in its native resolution. I've sold a couple of 12x36 framed prints of it and most recently printed it on metal and have it hanging on my office wall. The detail on the metal print is just phenomenal.
    Last edited by NorthernFocus; 19th May 2013 at 11:47 PM.

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    Re: Recognizing a diamond in the rough

    I think it's down to the idea with the image, and I think that recognising the "raw diamond" is perhaps most of what the image-making is about. My own example of this is a picture that I really love a lot, and it displays a multitude of "errors" regarding technical quality. It does not have a striking composition, more like a chaotic one, and it isn't very sharp. There's not a lot of noise, but if you scrutinise the picture, almost none of it is sharp. Its main compositional elements are colour, a muted and subdued colour.

    And maybe others are not struck by this image as I am. Its appeal to me has nothing whatsoever to do with those components of technical quality we so often tend to discuss, and it is more what Ken Rockwell stresses so much. To me, it is a picture worth keeping, and it gives me a comfort that I actually took it. There was no evident planning behind. In fact, it is taken the day I bought a new lens, a telezoom, and I used that lens to capture this image. It is more like one of those shots one does when trying out a new toy, but nevertheless, it is the gem I saw in the viewfinder, and I captured it in bits and bytes at that time. The opportunity to take it has not repeated itself, in that way it is unique.

    But when I saw it, it was that diamond, and whenever I see it again, the instant comes back to me, captured in time. And it still has that appeal; one of the few moments to save for the rest of the time I'll be here.

    But it needed no polishing, it was there right from the moment of capture. And that is mostly what it is to me. Recognising the raw diamond is more about finding that little rectangular crop of reality that captures the essence of the moment. When I see this image, I feel the warmth of the sun, the light breeze, the smell, the mosquitoes and the snakes catching fish. And I am quite confident that I see the image as I take it, and sometimes it takes a bit of processing to get it out just as perceived, but most of the time, it is there, right at the moment of pressing the trigger.

    Recognizing a diamond in the rough

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    Re: Recognizing a diamond in the rough

    Interesting question.

    I think most of my rough diamonds have been shots that I found by chance rather that setting out to get.

    I plan out my photography a lot. In fact the planning and anticipation are an important part of the process for me.

    Inevitably though, things will happen that cannot be planned, subjects occur that we're unknown or lighting conditions or weather throw possibilities at you that you could not anticipate.

    Sometimes these things do not work out but occasionally they leave you with the best pictures of a set. My Morte Hoe shot was just such an occasion. Unplanned but now one of my favourites from that trip.

    I think part of that recognition comes from your experience when taking the shot.

    The unprocessed frame rarely conveys what it was really like to be there, so it falls to us as photographers to recreate that emotional involvement by using our vision and skills to polish the diamond.

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    Re: Recognizing a diamond in the rough

    Some of us are better at seeing diamonds than others.

    I remember reading somewhere that Michelangelo had said that he could see the sculpture in a piece of stone and all he did was to release it through his carving
    There is another part to that story...

    It is said that Michelangelo explained to one of his apprentices how he saw the horse in the stone, so all he did was to remove the parts that weren't horse. A couple of days later, he passed the apprentices work station and saw the young man sitting disconsolately in front of of a pile of rubble. When he asked what was wrong the apprentice explained "I guess there just wasn't a horse inside mine".

    I think I am a lot nearer the apprentice than the master

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    Re: Recognizing a diamond in the rough

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    2. Do you ever deliberately shoot a sub-standard scene or subject knowing that it is the best you can do, given the circumstances and that you can fix it in post and come up with something that is quite compelling?
    I do that quite often, though it would be more accurate to say that I hope I can fix it sufficiently during post-processing. Sometimes I get home and realize that that's not possible.

    The photos shown below are my most recent examples of a fix that I'm pleased with. The lighting was wonderful on one-third of the flower and awful on the other two-thirds. It was very unlikely that my schedule would allow me to return during better light. Even if I could, the flower probably would then be past its prime. So, I took the shot and dealt with the issues during post-processing.


    Straight out of the camera
    Recognizing a diamond in the rough


    Post-processed
    Recognizing a diamond in the rough
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 19th May 2013 at 01:59 PM.

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    Re: Recognizing a diamond in the rough

    With no commercial imperitives I normally after a one second review following exposure like to leave what I have taken to mature and to come back to it in editing with fresh eyes to see what is really there, not what I hoped for.
    I guess a favourite is 'Fetch' which wasn't in mind when taken. But I am biased towards Labradors after living with one for some fifteen years and thrown many a stick for her, often the same stick many times, even if this one is only black and not a gold
    Recognizing a diamond in the rough

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    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: Recognizing a diamond in the rough

    There are a select few photos I've rescued from poor technical execution because they were good moments. In those cases, it's about focusing on the slice of time you captured rather than whether your focus and exposure are dead-on. But I wouldn't call any of those shots diamonds. Amethysts, maybe.

    If we broaden the discussion a bit, I think setting out to find a scene is where we're really searching for diamonds in the rough. This guy, for instance.

    Recognizing a diamond in the rough

    I took this photo (with permission) shooting across a busy street with my camera stabilized on a trash can with a 135mm zoom at 1/60th (deliberate, but hardly ideal). My horizon wasn't perfect, and there was a grey Mercury Sable speeding into the scene before cropping. Spent about 8 to 10 minutes looking for good moments between this gent and his pups. The wait yielded my favorite street shot, and a strong contender for my best portrait. In this case, it was about recognizing the potential for good moments with the dogs and their human (they were playing most of the time), then working the scene long enough to find a composition and settings I liked, the waiting long enough to pounce on the right moment. But that recognition happened before I took the shot, so maybe this is all off-topic.

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