Knowing Which Button to Press

If I used a red filter, slow film, and high contrast paper, would I get something like this?

If I used a red filter, slow film, and high contrast paper, would I get something like this?

As a film photographer, I usually carried four filters in my camera bag: Red, Yellow, Diffusion, and Polarizer. I used the red and yellow filters to alter the tonality of black and white images, I used the diffusion filter for portraits of women, and I used the polarizer when shooting around glass or water.

Today I still own a polarizer, but I rarely use it. The other effects I simulate (but do not recreate) in software. Sometimes I do it well, and sometimes not. That’s the luxury of amateurism – I even love photography when I fail.

Many years ago, at the introduction of Photoshop 2.5, I attended the short-lived Center for Creative Imaging in Maine. It was really a basic photoshop class, but Kodak and Apple had equipped the joint with state-of-the-art toys.  I was ambivalent. When my photo of a capybara with the superimposed skull of a boar got great applause, I turned to the teacher, shrugged, and said, “What the hell? All I did was click on a button.” She grabbed my shoulder firmly and said, “Easy there. I get paid good money to know which button to click.”

Many amateurs have a love-hate relationship with post-processing, but I think it plays a really crucial role in the visioning chain: First you see what it is, and then you see what it could be. The nice thing is that you get to play along the way.

Sometimes you just have to go overboard playing with effects. This image got me thinking about how I used to shoot black and white with a red filter, and that led to a whole new approach to my Monument Valley images, like the one at the top of this post.

Sometimes you just have to go overboard playing with effects for the sheer stupid pleasure of it. This image Canyon de Chelly got me thinking about how I used to shoot black and white with a red filter, and that led to a whole new approach to my Monument Valley images, like the one at the top of this post.

By the way, someone said to me, "You were at Monument Valley at sunset. That's all about color! Why would you render them in black and white?"  Anyone want to answer that?

By the way, someone said to me, “You were at Monument Valley at sunset. That’s all about color! Why would you render them in black and white?” Anyone want to answer that?

1 Comment

Filed under Composition, Lighting, Motivation, Nature Photography, Professional vs. Amateur

One response to “Knowing Which Button to Press

  1. Myrna Cambianica

    black and white whittles things down to the essence … fine with me

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