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Business / Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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Extreme post processing
Old 03-17-2013   #1
peterm1
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Extreme post processing

Perhaps because this forum is primarily about rangefinders and rangefinders have traditionally been used for street photography I find that many people here are resistant to the idea of doing much post process work. Post processing is like darkroom work in the analogue photo world - more the domain of art photographers. (In my mind I compare Ansell Adams - the artist who spent huge amounts of time processing / printing his images with Robert Capa the reporter. These kind of epitomise the two extremes for me).

I quite enjoy the possibilities post processing opens up and while most of my photography is straight forward I occasionally "go for broke" and turn images into something quite different from how they started.

Here are a few of my more "extreme" examples. Not great art, maybe but fun to do never the less. Lets see yours...............

CHIAROSCURA


Chiaroscuro in hood by yoyomaoz, on Flickr

TEXTURE ON A CITY SKYLINE


Textures on City by yoyomaoz, on Flickr

CITY WALKERS


Impressions by yoyomaoz, on Flickr

COUNTRY GRAVEYARD IMPRESSIONS


Abstract dreaming - churchyard by yoyomaoz, on Flickr
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Old 03-17-2013   #2
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wow... very nice, esp the 2nd pics.. more plz.
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Old 03-17-2013   #3
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Very, VERY good work !

I'd gladly hang any one of them on my wall - indeed, ALL of them.... (!)
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Old 03-17-2013   #4
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Post processing is not really my cup of tea, but I do quite like the second one, although I wonder if the original would be every bit as good?
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Old 03-17-2013   #5
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am having same impression RFF of being conservative regarding heavily photoshopped material. there are other forums for that kind of images. but when cows fly over the rainbow there, I run back here

nice images btw
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Old 03-17-2013   #6
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Let me guess ... these weren't done with an M3 and Tri-X right?

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Old 03-17-2013   #7
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Nice work Peter, especially "Textures on city".

Interestingly, it reminds me of




borrowed from Wikipedia.

"This image is a faithful digitisation of a unique historic image, and the copyright for it is most likely held by the person who created the image or the agency employing the person. It is believed that the use of this image may qualify as fair use under United States copyright law. Other use of this image, on Wikipedia or elsewhere, may be copyright infringement. See Wikipedia:Fair use for more information.
Please remember that the non-free content criteria require that non-free images on Wikipedia must not "[be] used in a manner that is likely to replace the original market role of the original copyrighted media." Use of historic images from press agencies must only be used in a transformative nature, when the image itself is the subject of commentary rather than the event it depicts (which is the original market role, and is not allowed per policy)."


Moderator - if this does not constitute "fair use" please feel free to remove it and let me know.
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Old 03-17-2013   #8
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I think I have appreciated most of photo's that I see you post on RFF. Most seem heavily processed, but I think you get good results. Post processing takes skill and time. You seem to have both. I suspect your photo's are pretty good before you even start post processing. Your compositions are usually very good. Keep posting.
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Old 03-17-2013   #9
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I won't go to the extremes that Peter has but I am prepared to push settings to get a look I want that is different to the reality of what I shot. In this case I deliberately blew the highlights and reset the black point to get what I wanted which was virtually a silhouette.

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Old 03-17-2013   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tom.w.bn View Post
That statement surprised me because your "normal" photos are already strongly postprocessed.

I like the first one.
I suppose its all a matter of what you consider "strongly post processed". By the standards of this forum that's certainly true, as I would be the first to admit. But what I meant is that generally I am not fundamentally changing the image that comes from the camera - just optimizing it (in a "post processy" kind of way - tonal adjustments, saturation adjustments, dodging / burning, cropping etc - all pretty much within what could be achieved in an analogue world in a dark room.). In the images in this thread however, I am clearly changing the image in a much more fundamental manner - hence labelling it extreme.

But I am glad people seem to like it. For me the main consideration is the fun of being creative. Some times it works, some time mot so much.
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Old 03-17-2013   #11
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I like 'Impressions/City Walkers' a lot, not sure on the others ...
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Old 03-17-2013   #12
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I have enjoyed literally every image I've seen from you on this forum. I envy your vision and your skills. The images that you posted here are . . . . what's a word ? . . . excellent, "just great".

On the general topic . . . IMO, people who stop their image processing at the shutter click are basically stopping at first, maybe second, base. Why they do that, I have never understood (except in the case of documentary work).

I don't say "the more processing, the better". But (to me) you can make every OOC image better by some little work. And (with the right skills) you can create that wonderful image that's in your mind with a lot of work (others may not see it as so "wonderful" but so what - someone out there will "get it").

Lots of photographers skoff at processing images. Okay, but then there are guys like me who don't appreciate snapshots that some people label "great capture" or whatever.

No doubt this thread will go on, and I am glad that someone at your skill level is putting cards on the table.

Finally: I have often wanted to ask you "Do you care to share some of those processing secrets?" I love what you do with your pictures.
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Old 03-17-2013   #13
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Old 03-17-2013   #14
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Peter M, those are terrific.
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Old 03-17-2013   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peterm1 View Post
I suppose its all a matter of what you consider "strongly post processed". By the standards of this forum that's certainly true, as I would be the first to admit. But what I meant is that generally I am not fundamentally changing the image that comes from the camera - just optimizing it (in a "post processy" kind of way - tonal adjustments, saturation adjustments, dodging / burning, cropping etc - all pretty much within what could be achieved in an analogue world in a dark room.). In the images in this thread however, I am clearly changing the image in a much more fundamental manner - hence labelling it extreme.

But I am glad people seem to like it. For me the main consideration is the fun of being creative. Some times it works, some time mot so much.
Dear Peter,

Your work is normally among the best I ever see on RFF, but this is stunning -- especially the first. The only criticism I'd make is that I'd like to see more consistency of subject matter, as well as of technique. There are at least two series there, maybe more.

Wow!

Cheers,

R.
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Old 03-17-2013   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daveleo View Post
I have enjoyed literally every image I've seen from you on this forum. I envy your vision and your skills. The images that you posted here are . . . . what's a word ? . . . excellent, "just great".

On the general topic . . . IMO, people who stop their image processing at the shutter click are basically stopping at first, maybe second, base. Why they do that, I have never understood (except in the case of documentary work).

I don't say "the more processing, the better". But (to me) you can make every OOC image better by some little work. And (with the right skills) you can create that wonderful image that's in your mind with a lot of work (others may not see it as so "wonderful" but so what - someone out there will "get it").

Lots of photographers skoff at processing images. Okay, but then there are guys like me who don't appreciate snapshots that some people label "great capture" or whatever.

No doubt this thread will go on, and I am glad that someone at your skill level is putting cards on the table.

Finally: I have often wanted to ask you "Do you care to share some of those processing secrets?" I love what you do with your pictures.
Dear Dave,

Seconded.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 03-17-2013   #17
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Thanks for this guys, I appreciate your kind words. DaveLeo I particularly like your image. Very watercolor like (and I love color). Its amazing what can be done with quite straighforward images to produce interesting results.

RogerHicks, I am inclined to agree I should have more consistency in image types / subject matter. It is something I am working towards. At the moment as I work and photography is just a sideline hobby I tend to shoot whatever image that comes my way that I like. I guess "serious" photography requires the shooter to go out with an "assignment" in mind and shoot accordingly. I certainly don't do enough of that at the moment but need to.

Keith - your image of ladies talking framed in a nearby window I like. I think this kind of PP is important. Its the digital equivalent of dodging and burning. I do it a lot as its a kind of "foundation" technique that many images can benefit from and especially whens shooting people shots most will benefit from the effect as it concentrates the eye on the main subject. It can be done so subtly that one is not even aware that its been done or be done very dramtically as here.

I think the creative experience and experimentation is why I enjoy doing this post processing stuff. I am never totally sure what will come out of it when I start - although I have a fair idea by now as I have done it quite a bit. But I still experiment a lot and sometimes find that I end up with half a dozen or more different interpretations of the same image. most of which I keep on my PC- I usually pick one that I( like best to post on the web.

I am of course happy to share whatever knowledge I have if people are interested. I enjoy teaching others these skills and sharing their joy when they get a nice result. I am not quite sure how would be the best way to do this however but I suppose I could pick an image to process and by taking screenshots walk people though the steps involved????? That would be a bit time intensive so I would only do it if people want that.

Alternatively if someone wants some one on one advice I am happy to do this via Private Mail. (e.g. if someone is "stuck" and cant find how to advance in the PP of an image.)

Also someone suggested a standing series on this site of extreme post processed images (much as there are existing threads with particular themes in the Words / no words forum section). Would people be interested in that?

Keep those images coming.

Peter
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Old 03-17-2013   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peterm1 View Post
Thanks for this guys, I appreciate your kind words. DaveLeo I particularly like your image. Very watercolor like (and I love color). Its amazing what can be done with quite straighforward images to produce interesting results.

RogerHicks, I am inclined to agree I should have more consistency in image types / subject matter. It is something I am working towards. At the moment as I work and photography is just a sideline hobby I tend to shoot whatever image that comes my way that I like. I guess "serious" photography requires the shooter to go out with an "assignment" in mind and shoot accordingly. I certainly don't do enough of that at the moment but need to.

Keith - your image of ladies talking framed in a nearby window I like. I think this kind of PP is important. Its the digital equivalent of dodging and burning. I do it a lot as its a kind of "foundation" technique that many images can benefit from and especially whens shooting people shots most will benefit from the effect as it concentrates the eye on the main subject. It can be done so subtly that one is not even aware that its been done or be done very dramtically as here.

I think the creative experience and experimentation is why I enjoy doing this post processing stuff. I am never totally sure what will come out of it when I start - although I have a fair idea by now as I have done it quite a bit. But I still experiment a lot and sometimes find that I end up with half a dozen or more different interpretations of the same image. most of which I keep on my PC- I usually pick one that I( like best to post on the web.

I am of course happy to share whatever knowledge I have if people are interested. I enjoy teaching others these skills and sharing their joy when they get a nice result. I am not quite sure how would be the best way to do this however but I suppose I could pick an image to process and by taking screenshots walk people though the steps involved????? That would be a bit time intensive so I would only do it if people want that.

Alternatively if someone wants some one on one advice I am happy to do this via Private Mail. (e.g. if someone is "stuck" and cant find how to advance in the PP of an image.)

Also someone suggested a standing series on this site of extreme post processed images (much as there are existing threads with particular themes in the Words / no words forum section). Would people be interested in that?

Keep those images coming.

Peter
Dear Peter,

"Assignment"? Not necessarily. Just shoot more (with series in mind) and select your series from what you shoot. At any one time I typically have at least two series on the go, e.g. Recycled Religion and 1000 Motels.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 03-17-2013   #19
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I thought people might enjoy this one as well. Its the result of a cross between distortion caused by photographing a reflection in an uneven reflective surface and some PP. In this case I applied a series of effects to create a watercolor like effect to the reflected image. This was purely an experiment.

If there is one message I can get across it should be that willingness to spend time experimenting will pay you dividends. Chances are you will have the immediate enjoyment of getting results that you never anticipated plus you will learn skills that can be applied to other images.



Impressions 4 by yoyomaoz, on Flickr

I think I have have posted the following image on this site somewhere previously. Again I have used the "natural" effect of an uneven reflection and heightened it by boosting its colour saturation etc. In my view often good processing (even "extreme" processing) will start with the characteristics of the image and use them as inspiration for / part of the final result. Otherwise you have to "fight" with the image to get it to do what you want. Its only when you scroll down and see a person in the lower right hand part of the image that its fully obvious that this is a photo of an office tower.



Office life by yoyomaoz, on Flickr
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Old 03-17-2013   #20
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I've used Photoshop for image creation for a couple decades now... for most of that time, I didn't process photographs, but rather just painted with it to create images. I know it pretty well, at this stage, and the thing that ends up turning me off of "extreme post-processing" is generally being able to tell which 2-3 filters got used on an image. Especially when its obvious the filters were used at default settings...

Like HDR, there's a lot of badly PSed photographs out there, with the good stuff generally hard to find. I've ended up biased against "extreme post-processing", mostly because it's often used so very badly, to do something not very creative (either Instagramish, or some other solarized, found-edges, sumi-ed, craquelured attempt at mimicking other media).

That said, Peter's images in this thread aren't really examples of any of that.
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Old 03-18-2013   #21
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@hteasley

yes that's the hard part for me too.
you can play around for hours on an image, and then you look at it and ask . . .
"Does anyone really need to see this picture? Why?"

Lots of times, most times, you should just chalk it up to playtime and torch the image.
My scrap bin is the biggest folder on my computer.

That aside, here is a "monster movie poster" I made up a while back.
Superimposed 3 photographs (one was a lamp from an old movie projector) plus some simulated lens flare.

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Old 03-18-2013   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daveleo View Post
@hteasley

yes that's the hard part for me too.
you can play around for hours on an image, and then you look at it and ask . . .
"Does anyone really need to see this picture? Why?"

Lots of times, most times, you should just chalk it up to playtime and torch the image.
My scrap bin is the biggest folder on my computer.
I certainly agree that its possible to waste an awful lot of time on post processing that goes nowhere and results in deleted images. As you will see from the steps I describe below.

Incidentally I always save my image with a new name (Usually I just add a letter or a dash and a number suffix to the original number) This way I always have the original in case I want to go back to it and the adjusted image will be sitting right beside it in windows explorer. And of course if shooting RAW its not an issue anyway.

Also usually an image has to have some inherent interest before you start processing it. If you start with a poor image you usually just end up with an equally poor processed image.

I find it best when processing to start by doing the more or less minor but essential processing that every image gets - check and correct the tone, adjust the saturation if needed, denoise the image if needed and sharpen the image. Finally I may straighten the image - I hate inadvertently having verticals or horizontals that are not! This plain looks sloppy and unprofessional unless its clearly intended as part of the composition.The same can be said for the "falling over building syndrome" caused by tilting the camera off the horizontal when shooting things like buildings. My software has a perspective correction tool that allows you to correct some or all of this if you are so inclined - often I will as its hard not to get this when shooting certain types of images. I then save the resulting adjusted image as a high quality jpg or tiff. You can easily see that good image quality is always about taking extreme pains and paying attention to the details.

I can then use that as a basis to start experimentation and more extreme processing. Without going into too much detail that can involve: creating a duplicate layer and then using layer blend modes to create an interesting effect (Read up on layers and blend modes if you don't know about them), dodging and burning to focus attention of the viewer one one part or another of the image, adjust the image's color or color balance more if desired. At this stage too I may fire up Nik Color Efex software plugin and use some of the very powerful effects it has in its kit. Favourite ones include effects that apply a glow or a soft focus effect selectively. but there are many more.

And if I want to be really extreme I may use a texture overlay. A texture is just an image of something like a piece of rusted metal or weathered wood grain or some such that can be imported and applied as a semi transparent layer on the main image. They are widely available for free download on the web courtesy of Mr Google. If you look at some of the images I posted you can see textures I have applied. And even more extreme the textured overlay can be erased partly or completely in some parts of the image so that parts are textured and some are not. (You can of course also repeat this several times with different textures if you wish).

Once you have the basic skills its really much easier to do than it is to explain. And I find it a lot of fun because its creative - it does involve experimentation and that's a bit of a journey itself. All I can say is thank god for the ability of PS (or in my case Corel's equivalent - Paintshop Pro) to save images with layers intact so you can come back to them later.

That's about it really although I have to admit it took me a few months of experimentation, study and research to learn how to use some of the more powerful features of Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro properly.

My final word on this is that even if extreme processing is not your thing all photographers should be prepared to make the basic adjustments that I describe first in this post. If you cant be bothered learning to use PS pr PSP (and it is quite a chore with a steep learning curve) of course Lightroom is the way to go. But the important thing is to make sure your images are the best they can be as they are seldom good enough when they come straight from the camera.
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Layers
Old 03-18-2013   #23
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Layers

Most definitely the single biggest step in post-processing for me a few years back was learning to use layers.
These days, I never touch the base layer; do all manipulations on upper layers (some are copies of the base layer).
Recently experimenting / learning the pluses and minuses of layer modes (multiply, burn, etc etc).
That's where it's very easy to go way way overboard with special effects - it's fun and it draws you in,
but that first wild and crazy version of the picture is never the one that looks good the next day.

In the end, it's the image that rules. If the image is happy where it took me, then I'm happy to have gone along with it.
But that doesn't happen very often for me.

Footnote: I never edit the original OOC image. It gets saved off to CD, once the original lot is sorted for trash.
Unfortunately today I work only in 8-bit color space; when the GIMP goes 16-bit stable, I will upgrade my monitor and
computer and enter that brave new world.
I used PaintShop for years, but switched to a Unix system, then to a Linux system, so the GIMP walked into my photo life.
That's another story. I can't blame my computer for what my pictures look like.


Oh . . . let me add that the sub-forum here on Holga / Pinhole / Polaroid is populated by some very bold people
and very cool images. I call that stuff "extreme pre-processing"
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Old 03-18-2013   #24
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"In the end, it's the image that rules. If the image is happy where it took me, then I'm happy to have gone along with it.
But that doesn't happen very often for me."

Dave you are a man after my own heart................ I agree.

I agree too that layer blending modes have to be used carefully. Almost always the effect is too strong (or inappropriate) and you need to back off on the density slider to bring it under control. And I find that there are only three or four that I use regularly plus one or two more occasionally. Mostly these are blend mode effects like multiply (which darkens an image), screen (which lightens it), hard light, soft light etc. The more oddball ones have specialised uses but are mostly not for photographers. Layers are powerful tools which can save an image that would otherwise be lost. For example if an image is way over exposed a quick and usually very effective way of fixing it is to duplicate the image layer and then change the blend mode to "multiply". The image instantly becomes much darker - it works better than 95% of plugins for darkening without unwanted artifacts. If its too dark just back off on the layer density slider. "Screen" does the opposite - lightens a too dark image. In a couple of seconds a photo is reclaimed that otherwise may have had to be binned.
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Old 03-18-2013   #25
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This thread has made me go back and look at some of the images I made with my Bronica RF645 and various other cameras that can be manipulated when shooting. The Bronica in particular can do multiple exposures very simply and I think that this is the way I prefer to create images that that don't follow the normal procedures. Post processing via software is interesting but being able to produce a negative that has been manipulated in the camera is far more satisfying to me. This image has been adjusted for contrast etc digitally after scanning but what you are seeing was created in the camera and during the development process ... very little on the computer!

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Old 03-18-2013   #26
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Another example where very little was done in digital manipulation via photoshop etc.

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Old 03-19-2013   #27
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Thanks Peter and daveleo (and the others) for this thread, which I find one of the most interesting here in RFF. I agree each image (most images?) has to be at least "adjusted" in order to get the maximum visual effect out of it. Than, in some cases you can go to what you call extreme and the pictures posted by peter (not only in this thread) are a good examples of it. Not over processed, not casual and with a good taste for color coordination. I would like to know if there are visual artists (not photographer) who inspire you. Because one thing is to know how to do it, how to use the tools but more important is to decide in which direction to go and when the applied work is ok (or not). Thanks again
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Old 03-19-2013   #28
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@ Keith
Coincidentally, I commented on that multiple exposure of yours in the gallery yesterday ! Very nice. Your second one here shows a good example that should be left alone as-is

@ robert blu
here are two links about your "inspiration" question . .

http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...d.php?t=130320

http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...play.php?f=125

@Peter
I see we are using the same layer modes most frequently.
So why do your pictures look wonderful and mine look like child'splay?
I will have to PM you with a few specific questions when I put the words together.

This should be a sticky thread or maybe even a sub-forum ? ? ?
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Old 03-19-2013   #29
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Thanks daveleo for the links, I read the discussions here in the forum which I found interesting. But being english not my native language it is sometimes difficult to find the correct words to take part in it.
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Old 03-19-2013   #30
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Peter, thank you for the timely exhortation
I'm going there (heavy post processing), but using B&W and darkroom printing.
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Old 03-21-2013   #31
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In terms of time spent in post-processing, this is my most heavily processed image.
It's a hiking snapshot (okay, semi-snapshot) from my Panasonic LX3 and I have printed it 12X18
and it is easily my most popular print to date. The print has a very painterly look to it.
The original didn't look like much except for the (I feel) solid composition.

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Old 03-21-2013   #32
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Wow what a breath of fresh air this thread is. Peter I have always enjoyed your 'Life in Shadows' series. Is a unique look and brave to start this thread because it could have gone the other way as well Especially like #1. Exceptional.
Keith I really like those double exposures. Is something I am experimenting with with my Linhof 612.
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Old 03-22-2013   #33
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Thank you Hausen and thank you everyone else for their posts and for their thoughts.

My apologies for not paying much attention to the thread over the past few days - I have been off work with the flu for 3 days. Then to make matters worse just as I was getting better I managed to almost sever two fingers while sharpening an already razor sharp chefs knife. Ouch. Fourteen stitches and some nerve damage later all coming good. I think I have learned my lesson - PAY ATTENTION when playing with sharp objects.

I like the images posted here by others and particularly agree that its nice to get images that look post processed - but are not. I will post a couple of such images below that fits this category - thanks mainly to water flowing down a glass wall shot from inside of an art gallery. Hardly any PP at all but very abstract. I suppose it proves the adage that what a photographer needs to develop and learn most of all is a "photographers eye". This is something I work on constantly as its the one thing I think is crucial to producing good images.

I do not really shoot film any more so my hat is off to those who do and who get great images from it. I never managed to get the hang of that - better I stick to digital.


waterwall and abstract by yoyomaoz, on Flickr


Water wall by yoyomaoz, on Flickr

And here is an interesting one that I managed to get - simply because I forgot to focus properly when using a Canon FL mount 58mm f1.2 on my NEX 5. No PP other than to drop the colour out but quite effective never the less.


City impressions by yoyomaoz, on Flickr
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Old 03-22-2013   #34
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I like the painterly touch to your photos. I've spent the most post processing time cutting and pasting... I'm almost happy with it.

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Old 03-23-2013   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gshybrid View Post
I like the painterly touch to your photos. I've spent the most post processing time cutting and pasting... I'm almost happy with it.
That's interesting - you have more patience than me. Making selections is very slow and problematic I have found.
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Old 03-23-2013   #36
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Peter, great work. "Texture on a City Skyline" is one of the most powerful graphics-oriented photos I've seen in a long time. Would be the perfect cover for a future-based graphic novel.
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Old 03-23-2013   #37
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Quote:
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That's interesting - you have more patience than me. Making selections is very slow and problematic I have found.
Indeed....
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Old 03-23-2013   #38
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I do enjoy some intense post processing.

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Wet Hostas, lots of PP . . .
Old 03-26-2013   #39
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Wet Hostas, lots of PP . . .

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Boston yesterday
Old 03-31-2013   #40
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Boston yesterday

maybe not so very "extreme", but close to it I think . . .



(or maybe I just wanted to post something here ? )
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