I’m something of a pack rat when it comes to images. Sure, I dump what I consider to be entirely worthless as soon as I see it–occasionally right off the compact flash card in the camera, moments after I’ve clicked the shutter. But when it comes to images that have what I consider to be promise, I hang on to the RAW files indefinitely. Sometimes these images present post-processing challenges and every once in awhile one of these challenges proves to be more than I can adequately handle at the time when I first attempt to work with the file.
Not long after posting a blog entry detailing an editing technique I’ve developed for dealing with certain types of images, it occurred to me that this approach might work well for a number of older images–ones I’ve never been entirely happy with in terms of post-processing. And that realization led me to revisit other old images that I felt would benefit from my overall image editing development. I’m simply better–more skilled, more experienced, with more tools at my disposal–in terms of my ability to work with the digital darkroom than I used to be.
I’ve spent time over the past two or three weeks slowly working on these images and have gradually discovered others that I felt would benefit from a rework. I anticipate taking my time with the inventory process; I’m sure I’ll find other photos that would benefit from relatively newly acquired knowledge and skills.
All of the images accompanying this entry have been recently reworked from scratch. The Anderson Falls and Living History Farm images were both reworked using a variation of the method linked above; both are images with extremely bright highlights and what amount to underexposed mid-tones, thereby being perfect for the technique described in the linked tutorial entry.
The other images were processed using a variety of techniques–manual blends (some using gradient masks) of multiple images, advanced single image editing and HDR.
The truth of the matter is that I should have realized, prior to this epiphany following the exposure tutorial post, that post-processing skills are dynamic and progressing in this area may produce the capability to rescue past images. On the very first trip I took after moving from film to digital capture–to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula more than eight years ago–I dipped my toe in the water of multiple exposure blending. On the first morning of the trip I took a pair of exposures of a spectacular sunrise at the Lake of the Clouds Overlook at Porcupine Mountains State Park. I spent more than a year fiddling with the blend of the two frames and was never able to obtain satisfactory results.
Approximately three years after snapping the shutter I returned to the Lake of the Clouds exposures, armed with a new arsenal of skills and far more experience with Photoshop (and a couple of other relevant pieces of software). The result, shown below, has served as the entry image on my Web site since I launched lightscapesphotography.com 4 1/2 years ago.
The moral of the story is, don’t give up on your old images simply because you don’t possess the skills to make the most of your photos at the time of your first attempt. Save them and take another look after you’ve gained some additional post-processing proficiency. There are few experiences that compare with seeing old, nearly forgotten gems rise, Lazarus-like, from the dusty regions of your hard drive. It may not be quite as satisfactory as creating exciting new imagery but, if it isn’t, it’s awfully close.