Adapted From Life


On one hand, this picture is substantially more color saturated than what came out of the camera. On the other hand, it’s only slightly less saturated than the sunset in real life. So on balance, I don’t feel too bad about setting Photoshop on this sunset. It’s closer to the real thing than you might expect.   

15 Comments on “Adapted From Life”

  1. People used to shoot Kodachrome 25 and underexpose it by 1/3 stop to try to recreate a real sunset. It’s difficult to do. You come pretty close here, I think.

  2. Yup. What I find really interesting is that while I can do all these things on my new camera, it’s just as easy — if not easier — to do them in Photoshop after the picture’s taken.

  3. I take pictures of wild plants and livestock, and I sometimes have to go and monkey with them after I take them to get the pictures to show what was really there. Blue flowers sometimes come out pink in a photo and I have no qualms about selecting them and adjusting the hue. I have to mess with saturation to get white flowers to come out right sometimes. And I have monkeyed with all sorts of settings to get the organism of interest to show up at all against a busy background sometimes.

    With my digital camera, it’s pretty hard to make the kind of adjustments I used to make with my old 35 mm camera, even though I thought I was getting one that would give me more control over focus, aperture, and speed. There’s something intransigent about the thing. So I resort to other means (but I like Paintshop better than Photoshop because of the way that Paintshop handles stuff like layers, selecting, copying, and some of the effects).

  4. What I find really interesting is that while I can do all these things on my new camera, it’s just as easy — if not easier — to do them in Photoshop after the picture’s taken.

    I’ve spent a lot of time doing this sort of stuff, and I’ve found that the way that works best for me is to set the camera so that it will record the most information possible, and then tweak the image in an image-processor afterward. However, I must point out that I shoot film and scan it. This is partly because I can’t afford a D70, but it is also partly because final-generation chromogenic films still have it all over digital in terms of the range of tones they will record.

    It is sad that we will be saying goodbye to film completely in the near future. Chromogenic films like Kodak Portra 400 BW are superb. The latest reformulation of Tri-X produced a wonderful film, much better than the old formulation. And old films like Technical Pan, difficult to work with but capable of producing absolutely incredible photographs.

  5. Dean:

    Agreed that film is still superior for color reproduction, and of course for detail. I remember reading somewhere that digital cameras would need the equivalent of 16 megapixels in order to reproduce the detail one gets from 35mm film. Some high-end digital cameras are getting close, but I don’t think we’ll see that in the consumer sphere for several years (my D70s is 6.1, for example).

  6. Geek moment: Actually, most high-end digital camera’s currently have better technical resolution than typical 35mm film. The problem is that this does not translate into actual image quality because of the format of the pictures.

    The CCD’s used in cameras have regular arrays of pixels in rectangular pattern, while chemical film has a random distribution of individual chemical nodes. For identical count of chemical nodes and digital pixels, the image of the chemical film will appear clearer and more detailed to the human eye. The reason is that the random nature of the chemical nodes has self-cancelling distribution of information, making a uniform presentation. However, with a rectangular array of pixels, anything that is approximately vertical or horizontal jumps out to the human eye as being slightly skewed every time it jumps a row or column.

    So, the moral of this story is that if you’re taking pictures with chemical film to preserve image quality, you’re undoing your efforts by then scanning the image which uses a rectangular array of pixels – might as well used a digital camera to start with.

    Though, with respect to the colour stuff, I’ll just shrug. CCD’s can detect pretty much every wavelength, including the visible spectrum. The fact that they don’t have the same natural wavelength bias as the human eye is something that I suspect is easier to tailor with digital data than with exotic chemical formulae.

  7. John: It depends on the film, of course. I just realized that all the ones I mentioned are black & white, which tells you something about me.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always thought that when digital SLRs got ‘good enough’, I would get one. The D70 is plenty ‘good enough’. There are some things that negative film still does better, most notably high-contrast situations, and some things that slide film does better, such as really punchy saturated colour, but there’s absolutely no question that if I had a spare $1500 I’d have me a D70. I say that with a bit of sadness as someone who has used and loved film. But say it I will: 35 mm film is dead.

    Rook: you’re right of course. It’s the old analog/digital argument that was made about sound all over again. The difference is greater than a mere recitation of how many pixels each can record, though. Photographers used different film/developer combinations depending on what sort of results they wanted. I expect that in the very near future, someone will produce a digital SLR that will produce a photograph in all ways indistinguishable from that produced from film. And I’ve just produced a sentence in which I produced the word ‘produced’ entirely too many times.

    It is my hope that, soon, somebody will come up with a plugin that will work within Photoshop to convert an image to the ‘signature’ of well-known and loved films, like Tri-X or Neopan or Tech Pan.

  8. I know a trick for catching all of a sunset in seconds, learned long ago when film was all there was, and most cameras had levers.

    Set the camera to what is a, “normal exposure”.

    Stop down, in half-stops, all the way to the smallest.

    It does a decent job of simulating the increase in red light.

    It also means one of them will be as close as the film can get to what it looked like.

    You can probably do the same with your new camera, and it won’t eat film.


  9. I still use film (though I am told tech-pan is dead. I certainly can’t find it around here).

    It will linger, but it will move to the niche and pro market.

    That Nikon released the F6 implies they think there is still a film market.

    Medium and large formats will be around for quite awhile, because the means to take that sort of picture isn’t there yet. I wish my PB-6 bellows had more than just swing/tilt (depending on the orientation) for my 35, but I don’t see the market for digital in a 4×5 appearing anytime soone, because of the difficulties in making a chip that large (which is part of the reason for the smaller format in dSLRs).

    I keep thinking about buying a freezer and stockpiling some of the films I love.


  10. John,

    Just ’cause I’m a casual Photoshop user who thinks it’s wicked cool, but doesn’t want to spend too much time reading books: what did you do to the picture in Photoshop to make it look that way?

    I’m collecting neat techniquest to refer back to, rather than having to think about it each time on my own. ;-)

  11. What’s funny is when I do my plant pictures I often have to drop the saturation a little bit in order to get true color. And to get the details to show up on white flowers.

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