One of the fascinating parts of being a photographer is looking back at my work years later and picking it apart with a critical eye. Some images make me cringe when I look back and then there are some images will stand the test of time but could perhaps benefit from current post-processing techniques that I’ve learned in the following years. This process reminds me of how Ansel Adams’ prints of the same image would evolve throughout his lifetime from more contrast, less contrast, darker shadows, etc… (Take a look at some of Adams’ books that show how “Moonrise Over Hernandez” changed over the years.) Provided we still have our RAW files then there is no reason why we shouldn’t do the same with our work over the course of our lifetimes. Here are two images that I recently re-processed to match my current vision.
North Lake (2008) was originally processed during a time when I was shooting and processing a significant amount of stock photography so I was experimenting with Photoshop Actions for efficiency. As a result, I had a highly-saturated, contrasty photo. I generally prefer more a color-accurate look to my photos so this photo has been on my re-do list for a few years now. I’ve since added Tony Kuyper’s Luminosity Masks to my post-processing arsenal which allows me to better control contrast within specific tones within the image.
The most noticeable differences in North Lake (2014) is the removal of magenta color cast that was present in (2008) and better tonal/color separation between the sun rays and blue clouds. My goal was to keep the focus on the sun rays rather than overwhelm with saturation so I made use of TK’s Dark Luminosity Masks to increase tonal separation between the darker clouds and the sun rays. A less-nuanced post-processing style such as the one utilized in (2008) doesn’t allow the sunset any room to breathe for lack of a better term. I can probably further darken the clouds to accentuate the sun rays but I think this version is close to what the scene was supposed to look like.
Resurrection River (2010) was originally processed using primarily the basic levels & curves post-processing techniques that I was taught in art schools more than a decade ago. The class I took was more about learning how to evaluate our digital prints with a critical eye than it was about sophisticated Photoshop technique (Adobe Camera RAW Converter didn’t even exist back then.) What I learned there has been invaluable to my photography “career” but I did recognize the need to evolve my technique a few years ago. Again, Tony Kuyper’s Luminosity Masks came to the rescue when I processed Resurrection River (2014). Notice how much more detail I was able to pull out of the darker tones and cloud detail in the sky I was able to recover with the Light Luminosity Masks. I am still very much committed to getting the photos right in-camera and not relying on multiple exposure composites unlike many landscape photographers these days so tools like Luminosity Masks allow me to get the most out of my camera sensors without having a fake “HDR” type of look that has little to no shadow tones.