Where Is Your Line?

Jeff Smallwood

Some of us have never done it, some of us do it all the time. Some of us are new to it, some of us are seasoned experts. And the variety of techniques used are as varied as the people that do it.

I’m talking about photographers and post-processing.

When the club had our presentation and discussion on Black and White photography, one of the techniques discussed was how to use simulated filters when converting a color photo to black and white. This is an example of post-processing. The ?view? as it existed in the world is not the same as they way the photograph presents it. Whether you use in-camera controls, black & white film, glass filters, or Adobe Photoshop, the image that is viewed is not the same as the world presented it to you. The world of post-processing isn’t new either. Film photographs were manipulated in the developing and exposure stages for decades before the first digital camera saw the light of day.

There are photo contests Lighting Before and After - Photo by Jeff Smallwood with ?no post-processing? submission rules and Flickr sharing groups that don’t accept post-processed images. You’d have to ask the people in charge in order to know why those rules exist, but I suspect that when you boil it down, the reasons are somewhat vague, unclear, or at least subjective.

Is it because post-processed photos should inherently be viewed differently? Is post-processing considered cheating somehow?

I think there’s a more practical question we should ask ourselves:
Is there a line to be crossed where the amount or type of post-processing creates something new rather than tweaking what already existed?

To help answer this question, consider an 18th century sailing frigate. When the ship is first built, it has all of its original construction, boards and planks, nails and rigging, from the deck to the hull, the ship is original. If on the ship’s maiden voyage a deck plank snaps and is quickly replaced, I doubt any of us would say the ship is now a new ship, it’s still original, just with one repair. Wear and tear over the years requires boards to be replaced, and one by one, over a 30 year span every original board has been replaced. Is it still the original ship? At what point during the 30 years did the ?original? ship cease to exist and a ?new? ship take its place?

I used the example above to demonstrate there is a gray area. There is no exact moment at which the original ship is transformed into a new ship just as there is no magical moment at which an ?original? photograph ceases to be ?original?. Digital cameras post-process their images before storing to the memory card, so avoiding the topic is virtually impossible. However, even though there is a gray area, there are certainly times when we all know the magical line has not only been crossed, it’s been obliterated. When it comes to post-processing, everyone has a different tolerance for how much is too much.

When admiring photographs or taking and modifying your own, it maybe helpful to know where your line might be.

My line typically involves whether new ?elements? have been added to a photo. To me, modifying saturation, reducing noise, or tweaking color balance is working with the original elements already in the photo and doesn’t cross the line. However, if you take a tree, person, or any item from one photo and merge it into another photo, you’ve now created something new and the resulting image can not be considered an original photo. This however has no bearing on whether the image is beautiful or spectacular. Some strongly edited and processed images are some the most striking ones I’ve ever seen. The alternative is also true because some strongly post-processed images look terrible.

My original question was ?Is there a line to be crossed where the amount or type of post-processing creates something new rather than tweaking what already existed??

My answer is ?yes?, but sometimes you don’t know you’ve crossed the line until it’s been crossed.

As you consider where your post-processing threshold is, how would you answer this question:
When a photography is post-processed to the point where it does cross your ?line?, is that the point at which is becomes ?digital art? rather than a ?digital photograph??

Period garb, cannons, sunshine ? who could ask for more?

Megan Snider

Photo by Guy StephensThe Calvert Photography Club gathered on a recent Saturday morning for a War of 1812 reenactment, held Sept. 18 at Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum in St. Leonard. Eight club members assembled under the park?s large pavilion, then scattered into small groups to capture the flavor of the day.

While member Jim focused on capturing the faces of participants, Spencer experimented with filters as muskets fired during the small-scale reenactment of the Battle of St. Leonard Creek, a pinnacle fight between American and British forces in the War of 1812. Member Lisa was serenaded by a local guitarist and singer who shared with her the long history of the antique guitar in his possession while other visitors milled about, listening to stories of old weaponry and early American culture.

After watching men in uniform stride forward on horseback and stand at attention during the playing of both the American and British national anthems, photography club members watched a cannon battle before dispersing to grab lunch. No longer hungry and with less room on their memory cards, many of them ventured to a neighboring beach along the shores of St. Leonard Creek to snap photos of the sand, reeds and rocky shoreline.

Photo by Jeff SmallwoodUnused to nature, Megan got fairly sunburned and enlisted Spencer to help pluck ?stickers? off the bottoms of her flip-flops—but got some decent shots. It was great seeing Bonnie, Jim, Jeff, Allen, Guy and his family, and we?re all looking forward to the next meet-up! In addition to the photo assignment for October, ?Opposites,? feel free to bring prints of your favorite field trip shots.

See more photos of the trip on Flickr!

An adventure in the belly of a lighthouse

Guy Stephens

Lighthouse columnClub member Megan Snider (also the club’s secretary) is not only a very talented photographer, but also a superb writer.  In fact when not taking great photos of food Megan is a full-time editor and columnist for Southern Maryland Newspapers.  Additionally Megan not only writes for her own blog, WriteMeg a book review website but also contributes regularly to the club’s blog.

Recently Megan authored an article titled “Right in the belly of a lighthouse” for the Southern Maryland Newspapers.  The article tells the story of a field trip Megan took with the Calvert Photography Club to the Calvert Marine Museum.  I highly suggest you read the article which is a great story about Megan conquering her fear of heights to enjoy the view from the Drum Point lighthouse.

Thinking in Black and White

Megan Snider

Members of the Calvert Photography Club were asked to think outside their Technicolor world for the club?s Sept. 11 meeting, and it was all made possible through black and white photography.

Jeff Smallwood presents…In a detailed and entertaining presentation, member Jeff Smallwood gave a short history of black and white photography and presented what is believed to be the first photo ever taken. As ?art is in the eye of the beholder,? Jeff shared many examples of both classic and contemporary black-and-white photos, asking members what appealed to them about each and what lessons we could learn about the form from perusing others? work. Photos from the master of the genre, Ansel Adams, were also shared.

Jeff encouraged members to think beyond color, examining instead the contrast, shading and other objects that could become the strong focus and focal point of a photo. As fall and winter are approaching, he reminded us that the changing of seasons can be a great time to play with shooting in B&W—especially on foggy or snowy days.

?If the reason you?re taking the photo is for the color,? Jeff said, ?never take it in black and white.? But beyond that, all bets are off; anything can be taken in black and white. Have fun, be creative and don?t be afraid to think in terms of ?a lack of color.? Because without one of those senses—say, a color sense—the others can be heightened, forcing the brain to ?fill in the blank spots.? And the results could be impressive.

After Jeff?s presentation, Guy Stephens took the floor to give the first of a series of presentations on exposure. Upcoming spotlights will feature aperture and the ability to isolate one?s subject and/or blur the background; shutter speed; ISO; and going beyond exposure.

Additional business: Jeff is now leading the club?s education committee, which will help decide on field trips, upcoming speakers and other projects; and the next club outing will be to Teddie Watts? home in White Sands on Saturday, Oct. 2 at 3 p.m. Members are asked to sign up to bring a dish to share with the group. Email Teddie to contribute, if you haven?t already; spouses are welcome.

The group meets again at 10 a.m. on Oct. 16 at the Prince Frederick Library, when local photographer Robert Tinari will speak on fall foliage. Remember to bring your camera to each meeting from now on, and make sure you have photos from this month?s assignment—?Opposites,? interpreted any way you like—to share with the group.

Happy shooting!

Cookies in August

Megan Snider

When the Calvert Photography Club met on Saturday, Aug. 21, one thing was on their mind: cookies.

CookiesSecretary Megan Snider had promised to give a presentation on food photography, a topic close to her heart (and stomach), and came bearing treats. Assembled group members were privy to Megan?s talk on why food photography can be fun, how it?s a different way of looking at your daily life—and the joy that is looking at someone else?s delicious meal. Macro photography was briefly explored, too, as some of the best food shots involve getting in close. Who doesn?t want to feel like they could reach into the frame and take a bite?

After Megan?s talk, the group assembled a cookie photo shoot for the pink, sprinkle-covered confections. Utilizing natural light and a black backdrop, provided by Guy Stephens, members took turns arranging the cookies and documenting them. After some ?traditional? shots, sprinkles were scattered across the background to give it a messy, unique look.

Additionally, Guy Stephens, club vice president, gave a demo of the new Calvert Photography Website, an incredibly impressive venture, and outlined the many ways in which the site can be used now—and in the future. Members are invited to contribute content by way of personal photos, blog posts and advice by emailing Guy directly.

CookiesFresh from a July trip to Iceland, President Teddie Watts arrived with a slideshow of her shots from the northern country. Beautiful photographs depicted native Icelandic people, the landscape and scenery and culture of the location.

Treasurer Sandy Carr spoke on upcoming club field trips and reminded members that photographer Robert Tinari will be our speaker at the October meeting, discussing fall photography. Members are asked to bring two fall photos for sharing and a critique to that gathering.

For our July assignment, shown at the August meeting, folks brought photos depicting ?movement? in a variety of unique ways. The assignment for the September meeting, held Sept. 11 at the Fairview Library, is black and white photography.

And don?t be surprised if Megan brings food photos to that one, too.

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