at the boathouse too / 20 October, 2004 [click for previous image: at the boathouse]
at the boathouse too / 20 October, 2004 [click for next image: let the party commence]
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Title • at the boathouse too

Three of the comments on yesterday's entry fit quite well with what I though about writing for this one, so I'll kick off with those. The first is from Peter, the second from Joe, and the third from Miklos:

"I think the image is overly saturated, and on my monitor the lanterns look overly sharpened. Similarly the white house seems overexposed (probably impossible to expose the whole thing properly). So in summary, an interesting shot but I�d be interested in what the original looked like. I think its the post-processing which causes me to question it."

"There�s something more than just depth of field that makes this eerie and wonderful. I think it�s the lighting � the way the lanterns are lit in that twilight setting looks artificial, cinematic, and riveting. Great choice."

"I always figured that if I was going to buy a camera that�s more than $2000, I wouldn�t need to use photoshop.. Otherwise, why would I buy such an expensive camera when I can achieve the same results with a $150 3 megapixel pos?"

A few times on chromasia the issue of post-processing has cropped up, specifically the point that some of my shots seem over-processed, by which I take people to mean that a particular shot doesn't look realistic. And that's fine – ultimately I think this issue resolves to a matter of taste – but I wanted to say a few words about why I produce these sort of shots. (I did post another version of yesterday's shot though, marginally less saturated and a little less sharp, but I don't think that invalidates what follows).

First off, even 'straight' photography (photojournalism for example) isn't about producing a literal copy of the world – if I show a group of strangers a 6x4" black and white portrait of my wife I wouldn't expect any of them to assume I'd married a monochromatic Lilliputian – rather it's about representing the world in a particular way; and some conventions (e.g. black and white) are seen as more literal or realistic than others (e.g. hyper-saturation). But that's almost an aside ...

Second, and this is the important one for me, human perception isn't an objective or literal process either. We don't just see neutral images in front of our eyes, we 'feel' them. Our memories of important events, for example, are almost always more vivid than any straight photograph that we might take. And I guess that that's what a lot of my stuff on chromasia is about, capturing the 'feel' of a place or moment rather than some form of literal interpretation.

For example, while yesterday's shot looks as though it was more heavily post-processed than today's that isn't the case. Here's the original version of today's shot:


My reason for producing this one is that the groom at the wedding I shot at the weekend specifically asked me to take this shot. Well, he asked me to take it a little earlier when the light was somewhat more magical, but I didn't have the time. So, this shot is the result. It isn't a faithful rendition of the scene but, IMO, it does a much better job of capturing it's feel, at least in the circumstances in which it was shot.

So, to conclude, I guess I'm with Joe on this one, that I see my work much more as a cinematic venture than a literal one, the representation of the way something feels rather than just how it appears.

So, to finally respond to Miklos' comment, in this sense it doesn't matter that this was shot with a 20D rather than a cheap point-and-shoot because the post-processing isn't about 'fixing' a poor image from a poor camera, it's about (sometimes, not always) treating the initial shot as a starting point rather than an end in itself – post-processing is just another of the tools we use to get from A to B.

As always, though I guess I don't really need to say this, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

capture date
focal length
shutter speed
shooting mode
exposure bias
metering mode
image quality
white balance
5.40pm on 16/10/04
Canon 20D
EF 17-40 f/4L USM
40mm (64mm equiv.)
aperture priority
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