The Scene May Not Be What It Seems

I had been reading an excellent photography book lately.  Bruce Barnbaum‘s The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression is a genius work.  It explains how to make beautiful photographs without getting too caught up in the technical jargon.  The English is simple enough to understand for beginners and experienced photographers alike.  There was one idea that stood out to me and sort of opened my eyes, as it were.

He explains that the eye sees a scene at varying apertures.  The pupil dilates and contracts when the subject is dark and light.  In effect,  a object may seem lighter than its surroundings when in fact it is much darker.  In stark contrast, the camera sees the scene at a fixed aperture during exposure.  The consequence is that we have to watch out how we expose our image and understand that the scene may not be what it seems.

This brings us to the photograph of the day.  I was walking with some friends a while back and I noted that the phrase NO PARKING was painted on the cement beside a building.   What drew me in was the painted words; they were rather bright and immediately called to my attention.  Unfortunately, that’s not what the camera saw:  the camera saw that the letters were basically the same lightness as the surrounding concrete.  Because I was shooting with film, I only found this out when I finally got the film developed a few months later.  So I did a bit of Photoshop manipulation; much like how a photographer would dodge and burn his or her prints to achieve the image that he or she saw back then.

Back then, I saw that the yellow letters had a lot of contrast with the surrounding concrete so I tried to emphasize that by darkening the surrounding building and ground.  As well, I felt a sense of brooding when I passed by this particular scene.  I wanted to convey that, so I “burned” the areas of the photograph that I wanted darkened.

The moral of the story is that I finally understand what Barnbaum said in his book about how our eyes affect the scene that we see.  So to replicate that scene, post processing almost always has to be done.

Notes:
Taken with Canon EOS 650.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II.
Fuji Velvia 50.
Edited with Adobe Photoshop CS4.

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This entry was published on March 29, 2011 at 12:01 am. It’s filed under Film Photography and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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