Monday, 26 March 2012

Day Three & Some Proper Nikon Palaver


What The Muck?

What the muck?
I've just realised I've no idea where this blog is going to go. Or coming to go for that matter. Is that ok with you? Cool.

Often when I create something, especially an abstract painting, it's the painting which tells me what direction to take as it evolves throughout its production process. This is fine by me. So I'm going to treat this blog, at least in its early days, as an abstract painting.

What I currently (think I) want to do:

  • Write about Dear Nikon
  • Give you new Nikon pics daily
  • Share my Paris street photography
  • Include some technical info for the nerds
  • Talk about my creative and practical decisions
  • Get your feedback, thoughts, comments, suggestions...
  • Make it personal and fun; plenty of blogs already do serious
  • Win friends and influence people

But the style, the format, the presentation... oh dear. Should I offer you a 'before and after' type approach? But I'm not a professional retoucher by a long stretch of the imagination.

Should I make it like my Paris & I blog with a sort of photo chronicle? But that wouldn't be on target or on message according to what I've written so far.

Maybe it should just be a mish-mash of all of the above. But for that to work people would have to like my approach and my words and not just come for hard Nikon factiods, which probably isn't not be my forte, although I'd like to think it might could be.

1) The original mushy, murky picture
Oh, what the muck. I'll just plough right on with whatever comes to my mind as I start each post, slam some thoughts and pics and chat out there and see what happens. Maybe good things. I'm always positive as far as that's concerned.

Take this one for example. The first shot above is a great example to start with. Totally... underexposed. I didn't need to tell you that, did I? Here it is again on the left.

The problem's easy enough to see I guess. Here I was down in one of the disused or 'ghost' stations of the Paris metro with a geeky guide; don't get me wrong: I would LOVE to know what he does about the secrets of all those tubes and tunnels, and believe you me, there are some, and he does.

2) The autofix option, still WAY too dull
Anyway, guess what? I point the camera at white tiles and an ad which has large chunks of... white, and, surprise surprise, out it comes looking like a rugby players shorts after playing in a rainstorm. Would JAV be able to sort that out? Your guess is as good as...

Due to the circumstances (bustling) I wasn't able to employ my favourite and exceedingly simple trick of flipping the exposure up (more on my all-time favourite button many many times over the course of future blog posts, no doubt). So it came down to some simple post-processing.

I'll let you into a secret straight away. I'm no expert. I don't even use Photoshop, for cripes sake. Is this a problem for you? Don't forget: I try to take the very best shots I can as I click; for me the image, not the camera/gear/programs, is king; I'm not rich. Actually, that last one isn't true. I am very rich, because I haven't bought Photoshop. I use a program which seems perfectly adequate to my, simply because I started with it way back when it was a free download I think, and stuck with it as it went through the versions and takeovers / makeovers.

3) Now with added brightness!
It's called Paint Shop Pro. My version's 12 I think, and the latest is 13, oops, sorry, XII and XIII, silly me. I'm a fan, and from what I can see, there are plenty of image manipulation programs out there that give you the basics that I use and produce perfectly acceptable results. I don't work on women's magazine covers or food shots or weddings these days, and generally downgrade my images through various grungy and grimy special effects and whatnot (quality in, garbage out - there's a first ;~S ), so don't need most of what those fancy packages offer. So don't be here for the latest killer Photoshop top tips. Enough said.

What I'm going to offer you there, then, is three steps of my simple processing to see you how I arrived at, for me, a reasonably ok image for my purposes. In this case, my purposes were this blog post, and it took me about 5 minutes.

4) The JAV 'whiteout' effect - where's the ambiance gone?
What you see here is a French colonially-tinged ceramic ad for bleach from yesteryear, with a tastefully anonymised black person (check out the hands, check out the hands, and they're real 3D too!), because back in those days in snobby France, one didn't generally do one's own washing; not if you were the sort to buy JAV bleach, apparently, in any case.

So, it was too dark. We've established this. So I hit the 'easy fix' button in Paint Shop Pro (PSP) and let it work its magic. See how excited I am about post processing..? The result's shown in pic 2.

Now there's a problem with this automatic thingy. Several actually. First of all, it does it all, whatever 'all' is, and you really have no idea what's happened or why. Did PSP know it was a pic of white ceramics in a yellowy-lit old phantom metro station in Paris? No, it probably did not. And this counts. To their credit there's an autofix option you can go into and tweak, so I'll stop whingeing about that.

Second of all, I can't remember this one, but it was a good one, and might come back to me later... (oops!)

Go to AMAZON to get your Paris Photo Chronicles NOW!
And third of all, the danger is, when the new version pops up on the screen and looks, well, better than the original, you'll say, ok, fair enough, that'll do. But generally it won't. Look at pic 2, especially in comparison with pics 3 and 4. It's still way too dark. Those tiles are pure white, don't forget.

In pic 3 I've upped the whites quite a lot, and the blacks a tad, to get a much crisper and punchier shot.

Pic 4 was a test to see what would happen if I de-yellowed it, but in the end it looked like a sanitised hospital ward so I stuck with pic 3 as my (very 'quick and dirty') final version. But hopefully you'll see what I'm doing here, and why. As I've already said, and will say many times again, the initial image is what interests me mostly. If that's no good, then there's no way I'm going to get some seriously great garbage out ;~S

Gotta love those Parisians, huh? See you next time, and don't forget to comment, cheers.


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