Thursday, 7 June 2012

Freak Of Nature



While out walking yesterday my progress was arrested by this horrific face staring up at me. It only took a milli-second to realise that it was just a tree root worn by the passage of many boots and revealing its internal structure to the world. When I got home I read some of my favourite blogs and found that Madge "The View From Right Here" was asking questions about how much we edit our photos, a matter that I've often thought about. So here is my rather extended answer.

You see, I've passed by that old tree root many times before and it's never interested me before. In fact I doubt I could find it again without a long search. And when I looked at the photo it didn't have the same intensity as when I'd been stopped by it in the wood. Maybe I should edit the photo on the computer. Would that be cheating in some way?



Well, it strikes me that we've already done a great deal of editing before we even get to see the picture. The photo above is exactly as it came "out of the camera", so no editing there then? On the contrary, first of all I imposed my framing on the landscape before me. That had the effect of editing out some rubbish that'd been dumped in this lovely tranquil lane. It also enhanced the "tunnel effect" created by the overhanging branches - in fact my cropping of the scene was not quite tight enough and you can glimpse the sky right at the top of the frame. Did I say "tranquil"? Actually we're really close to a main road at this point so the traffic noise has been edited out too! A man with a dog was nearby but he's been omitted and the impression is that the viewer of the scene is alone. Then out of all the time which God created - and he made lots of it - I chose that particular 1/500th of a second to show you; at other times it would have looked different.


How about the above picture then? Is that more edited or less edited? It's actually been fiddled about with a great deal; I wanted to show you the way that the daisies were being gently blown around by the wind. Now if I'd just shown you one 1/500th of a second they wouldn't have looked as though they were moving at all. What you're looking at are three separate shots superimposed, one of which has been allowed to blur. Is that more like reality or less?


Of course you can really have fun with your photos and it's fairly harmless fun too. But usually the aim is to re-create that moment when a scene grabs your attention, that moment when you say "Wow, look at that!"
For the technos: the "face" was transformed to a near B/W image by de-saturating the image. Then some vignetting was carried out - making the picture darker around the edges to make the "face" stand out. (Interestingly early cameras used to do that anyway due to imperfections in their lenses, they also weren't as sharp at the edges as modern cameras - lots of shots benefit from re-introducing this "old look" on the computer). Then a new layer was created and very subtle colour was added which was later blurred a little. Hopefully it now has the same impact which that old tree root had for that milli-second I experienced it.


Take care.

12 comments:

  1. If your photo appears a little over-exposed to when you saw the gnarled tree root, then I'd have no qualms about making an edit to bring it back to that point. I wouldn't think that as cheating. Your second photograph is tranquil, but simply 'a 1/500th of a second-moment in time' Taking a photograph and presenting it your way is a little of realism and sometimes a little creativity happening; put your own stamp on it.

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  2. What is reality anyway? If we fiddle a little to re-create that which we thought we saw that inspired us to take the shot in the first place, one could say it just created what to us was reality in the first place.
    At first your tree root seems to be a relative to Paul M√ľnch's "The Scream", yet when looked at more intently there is a charming herbivore face there too with a perfect eye, including pupil. Had you not had your camera with you and come back the next day, you may never have seen the wonder of this root again.

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  3. All clever stuff and way above my head and capability John. But it is interesting how we see faces in things. Our woodburner (yes we are still lighting it every night in spite of it being June) has fascinating 'pictures' - last night a man's face; he was wearing a beret and sunglasses and lasted for all of five minutes until a log fell.

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  4. I never really thought that the limitations of the camera meant that I was having to edit out everything except vision. I pass smells all the time that I think would make a great blog. I'm not a great Techno at all so I have to rely on it going into the camera in decent condition but if somebody can make a good picture out of something less promising, then good on them.
    This reminds me that there is a Munch exhibition on in Edinburgh just now - all I have to do is find the courage to go.

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  5. Cheating? Never! Photography is all about communication, especially when used in blogs. We have something to say to our readers. We freely use inflection, emphasis, and pitch when speaking, so why should we be limited to visual monotones? You are a master communicator, John. Keep up the good work! Jim

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  6. Since we're not claiming to be journalists, I think it's the end product that's important, not how we get there. Painters always tinker with the scene in front of them. The face at first glance looks threatening, but,as I keep looking at it,it just looks sad. Like some people, I guess.

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  7. I do very little and sometimes nothing to my photos before presenting them onto my blog, partly because I do now know how to use all the tools in my photo program which is just as well. But now you have me thinking, the mere act of composing a photo is editing? Hmmm.... I really like the root and probably would have passed it on by. Well done.

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  8. Fascinating post on editing, well worth reading. I think we edit all the time, actually. That's why some of us see life in a certain way and others view it quite differently. And I'm not just talking about photography.

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  9. Great posts ....love that 'face' and I roared at your expression 'flower children gone to seed' on Strawbery Fields post ...so absolutely perfect. Sorry i have not popped by for a while ....but I had a brilliant catch up.

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  10. I tend to see faces in tree branches and trunks all the time---greenman?

    I often crop off houses and structures that "ruin" my wildscapes, or adjust a little exposure and contrast, but not good for much more than that.

    All of it is filtered through our experiences and expectations--photographer and viewer.

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  11. THe face is quite something - I think you can walk past things dozens of times without really seeing them then suddenly one day they jump out at you. As for editing I do very little because I don't really know how, my DH has shown me the little I know, I can rotate photos so they are straight and I can crop them. In the last couple of weeks he's shown me how to 'add more shadow' and that's about it. Apart of course from things like appearing to be alone somewhere when actually you aren't at all:) I do try to photograph buildings and things like the Well Dressings without people - in Tissington that was easier said than done as it was absolutely heaving with people:)

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  12. Trees are so amazing. I love that first shot.

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Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'll try to answer any questions via a comment or e-mail within the next day or two (no hard questions, please!).