<<< o >>>it's all about appearance 33 comments + add yours

"Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed" – Garry Winogrand

The above is one of my favourite photographic quotes, and one that tacitly informs a lot of my photography (e.g. my beachcombing images). It's also a very liberating motto to carry around in your head; i.e. anything and everything can form the subject of a photograph – it's the end result that counts, not the subject matter.

And if you're interested, the original is here:


As you can see, my aim with this one was to bring out the detail. There were a variety of ways in which this could be done (including creating a psuedo-HDR image, as described in this tutorial), but in this instance I used a plugin called Topaz Adjust to enhance the local contrast.

shutter speed
shooting mode
exposure bias
metering mode
focal length
image quality
RAW converter
7.44pm on 29/3/09
Canon G9
aperture priority
3x2 + macro
comment by Ilan at 07:43 AM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

At first look , mainly due to lack of any kind of size ratio in the photo, it looks like huge logs. Disgusting, smelly, huge logs.

Nice. Saw the photo seconds before going out for a short smoke break.
Thanks for ruining that :)

comment by Craig Ferguson at 07:46 AM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

Excellent detail. Makes me glad I don't smoke. :)

comment by DavidC at 08:30 AM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

I love this, Im not a smoker, but for some reason I find this image captivating. I think it one of my favorite images you have posted. At first glance I though they were corks floating in wine. This image makes you want find all the little details. I would put this up in my house if I could get a big print :) Great shot! Also I have looked into Topaz Adjust, and it is quite pricey, I would love to hear your thoughts on the plug in before I throw that money towards it.

comment by Richard Hollins at 08:33 AM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

An excellent shot. Love the detail and the tones, and it's a great example of the benefits of keeping an eye out for non-obvious subjects. The processing really works well too. It's a nice idea to post the original so we can see the difference.

comment by Pernilla at 08:34 AM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

A fantastic antismoke picture! I glad I quit smoking long time ago. Looks really disgusting. Great details.

comment by DavidC at 08:35 AM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

Also I think this image looks better on the black color scheme.

comment by Laszlo at 08:35 AM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

Wow! What a beautiful shot of such a disgusting scene! And the post processing is just breathtaking. Five stars

comment by Mirko Herzner at 09:13 AM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

An image to make one stop smoking... Some people already named this shot disgusting and they are right. But still you managed to do a great work here. The quote was needed to explain your goals...

comment by DREAMS OF LIGHT - by Odilia Liuzzi at 09:17 AM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

it makes me feel sad.. i don't know why.. anyway.. it's a fantastic macro .. impressive..

comment by Sinographer at 10:30 AM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

youve found a way to take something disgusting and turn it into a good photograph. job well done.

comment by navin harish at 11:37 AM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

"It's not about photographing beautiful objects...it's about photographing ordinary objects in a beautiful way." This is my motto and my mail signature too. I think I came up with but after reading the quote on your blog, I feel maybe I am not the first one to come up with this. Very nice shot. Can you share more details about where you took this shot.

comment by Craig at 12:47 PM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

Indeed I agree with the quotation, this image and your last post prove that to me. I too thought these were corks first of all, sense of scale is almost lost, Top job! It has put me off my smoking break a little mind you :)

comment by s.hu at 12:50 PM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

this is a great photo, except that my eyes keep swimming with nowhere to land! i don't think i agree with the quote completely, though. i understand the heart behind it, but I just don't think it's true. Looking through photos of the Iran protests, for example, it becomes apparent that sometimes it is precisely the subject matter that is of importance, whether it looks "good" or not.

for example,

comment by Carlos Garcia at 02:27 PM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

At first I thought they were Marlboro "newspapers"... Dave, your photography always draws me into the world that you see and, one of the reasons that I appreciate your artistry, is that your worlds tell a story. There are many stories here... your work invites the viewer to walk through the world of your visions.

comment by Jason Wall at 02:53 PM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

the image is great technically as always dave. but I just wanted to congratulate you on the most disgusting looking image you've posted to chromasia to date. ;) seriously eww.

btw, i've been loving those deep red IR photos you've posted recently. so much like mars. fabulous.

comment by Dan Kaufman at 06:35 PM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

disgustingly beautiful OR beautifully disgusting...either way the subject of this shot is gross and however well done the photograph is I still wouldn't want it hanging on my wall.

and yes I do agree with the quote and power of good, well done, processing. I think this is actually one of the photographic challenges I enjoy the most: can I take an ordinary object, or scene, and make it unique, intriguing, and/or beautifull?

What do you think about having an "Ordinary Object Contest" ?

comment by Laurens Kuipers at 06:39 PM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

Nice one! It's great to capture ugly or dirty things in a way like this!

comment by jaro muñoz at 08:04 PM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

Un cementerio bien resuelto, ahoga, perfecta.

comment by lightseeker at 08:41 PM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

Certainly lives up to the Gerry Winogrand quote!

comment by Claus Petersen at 08:50 PM (GMT) on 2 July, 2009

Damn it's disgusting, and I think smokers are the ones that litter the most in the world, just think about how many cigarette buds are thrown on anywhere and everywhere everyday!

comment by jaol at 11:49 AM (GMT) on 3 July, 2009

This photo has a huge depth. I knew they were buds at once due to the smell, it's so real!

comment by Jem at 04:07 PM (GMT) on 3 July, 2009

Love the processing on this shot Dave - Bravo dude :)

comment by Brooks at 04:44 PM (GMT) on 3 July, 2009

I looked into this Topaz stuff because of the image. There Denoise plug-in. I mean WOW. Way better than noise ninja. Have you experimented with it?

comment by Ted Szukalski at 11:50 PM (GMT) on 3 July, 2009

this is by far one of your better photographs in a long time.

comment by djn1 at 08:39 AM (GMT) on 4 July, 2009

Thanks everyone :)

DavidC: in terms of bringing out the detail in an image, Topaz Adjust is great - I'd definitely recommend it.

s.hu: I agree, sometimes the subject matter is of paramount importance.

Brooks: I'm trying it out now.

comment by Sylvain at 12:41 AM (GMT) on 5 July, 2009

Excellent !

comment by Debbie Harris at 08:52 AM (GMT) on 5 July, 2009

It was a scene like this that prompted my hubby to quit smoking nearly 12 years ago to the day! This is a great treatment and the scale of the image does get you wondering at first what it is. Have also just downloaded Topaz - I've been looking for a plug-in like this for ages and have used it to create some dramatic shops from some wide angle wedding shots I did yesterday from the bell ringers gallery. Finally have got round to signing up for you tutorials...:-)

comment by will pattison at 02:28 PM (GMT) on 9 July, 2009

djn1, it seems like moving to bulgaria has unlocked yet another creative level for you. what do they eat over there? is it the water? can you send me some??


comment by Marco at 12:24 PM (GMT) on 11 July, 2009

If I said I wish I was there when you took the shot I would be lying... But hey, you turned this disgusting scene into an interesting picture! Reminds me of two things:
1. I should not be too picky with choosing a subject
2. I'm glad I quit smoking a long time ago
Nice work.

comment by iheartfilm at 05:03 AM (GMT) on 17 July, 2009

WOW. What an amazing post-processing job.

comment by thomas mueller at 11:58 AM (GMT) on 26 July, 2009

cool one!!!

comment by Jim (365,000 words) at 12:37 PM (GMT) on 31 July, 2009

It does a great job of capturing the detail ... and perfectly illustrates your point: the subject matter almost doesn't matter if it makes an interesting photograph.

comment by Nick Barnett at 10:08 AM (GMT) on 2 August, 2009

Very good.