Route 15 Bridge Avoids Photoshop

Route 15 Bridge, Point of Rocks, MD

Recent posts might give the inaccurate impression that all of my favorite photos have spent long amounts of time in the digital darkroom. While this shot did benefit from the careful selection of 14 different sliders in Adobe Lightroom, along with a minor crop, it’s a single layer, and was not processed in Photoshop (or anything else).

Route 15 Bridge, Point of Rocks, MD

A lot of photographers are blissfully unaware of the degree to which their camera, or the film in their non-digital camera, is making aesthetic decisions on their behalf, and without their cooperation. If you are just using the JPGs spit out by your camera, and haven’t put any significant effort into adjusting the camera’s various processing parameters, then at a minimum, you are letting some Japanese engineer decide how colorful, bright, and contrasty your images are.

The lower image comes as close as possible to showing what the camera saw (Canon EOS 50D, Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM @37mm, ISO 125, f/5.0, 1/160).  RAW, which confusingly is not an acronym so much as a pretentiously capitalized description, refers to a bitmap dumped directly from the sensor to the memory card, without any processing. Lacking contrast, sharpness, white balance, and the loving touch of a digital darkroom technician, RAW images need to be processed into JPG or TIF before they can be used. The advantage of always shooing in RAW (which is not the same as always shooting in the raw), is that you have the largest possible amount of picture data available to process at your leisure on your PC.

This misty photo of the Rt 15 bridge over the Potomac at Point of Rocks was taken through my Subaru’s window (trick: wait for the wiper to go past) during a record-setting rain in March 2011 (another trick: even if you don’t get out, stop the car—especially if you are the driver).

One Response to “Route 15 Bridge Avoids Photoshop”

  1. Jay Heiser Says:

    The judge last night so did NOT understand this image, and did not choose it for the top 25% that were given ribbons. Although the judge had given high marks to several images that were highly manipulated (‘diddled’ is the term she used), she immediately began expressing concern about what had been done to this image, and complaining about the location or perhaps even the existence of the bridge (theme: Bridges & Arches). The atmosphere came from hours of pounding rain, the mist, the windshield of my car, and the fact that the maples lining both sides were in flower.

    I thought her reaction was especially ironic, given that I had just uploaded this photo as an example of an image that I did NOT significantly manipulate. One of the unfortunate side effects of the flexibility of digital photography is that it leads to near fatal levels of second guessing.

    Judging is a difficult and funny thing, and the results often seem quite arbitrary. She did give me a first prize (albeit I was competing in a small set of 3 monochrome images) for one that was thrown out the night before by a different judge at a different club. That just means I’ve got 2 images that will be eligible for resubmission at those clubs next year.