‘They Photoshopped that!.”

THEY PHOTOSHOPPED THAT!!!

This is a term I hear from time to time in regards to my work and others as photographers.  I don’t know why anyone would say this in terms of degrading our work except that they have no knowledge behind their statement.  You either like our individual work as photographers or you don’t.  The same with any artist’s work.  How we produce that work is really irrelevant, though it is important that we know how to use our tools and do so correctly.   Because of this I have decided to write a blog on this subject.  Not my normal blogging, as I prefer writing about being immersed in the moment of a shoot when I express what I saw and felt, so others can see and feel what I experienced, when looking at the results of my work.

Most people have heard of Ansel Adams and have seen his beautiful images of our nation’s National Parks.  A well-known photographer, first known to heavily manipulate his images in the dark room.  His famous statement, “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and print to its performance”.  In the digital world, the negative is the RAW/DNG file.  This file is full of information captured by the photographer in full control of the camera.  Just as in the darkroom of Ansel Adams, that file has to be processed in the digital darkroom to perform.   A digital darkroom consists of color calibrated monitors and programs such as Lightroom, Photoshop and others.

Sir Clarence James Supervises
My assistant, Sir Clarence James in my digital darkroom. Captured in RAW using only the available ambient light. He has his own blog if interested in checking it out.

There are three groups of digital cameras; the point and shoot fixed lens camera, the dSLR with less than a full sensor, and the Pro-dSLR with a larger full frame sensor.  Both allow the photographer more control and artistic flexibility, the ability to shoot in low light without a flash and both RAW and JPEG images.  A Pro- dSLR, which I use, allows me, the photographer, an even greater ability and flexibility, such as capturing more light in a dark situation without a flash than that of the smaller sensor dSLR and has more control options.    It is more durable and has a higher price tag.

I shoot in RAW almost exclusively, which allows me to keep all the recorded data from the sensor giving me the highest quality files to work with.   With a much wider dynamic range and a larger color space, I can push the image further bringing out hidden details in the darkest shadows and/or brightest highlights, without blowing them out and boosting color without oversaturating, which can affect the quality of print.  This is Artistic Flexibility!  In JPEG files this type of detail often gets tossed away and lost forever by the camera’s JPEG conversion process.

Shooting RAW allows the ability to bring out the the shadows without blowing out the water.
Shooting RAW allows the ability to bring out the the shadows on a dark rainy day without blowing out the water.  Again only the available ambient light

Point and shoot cameras use JPEG exclusively and the camera does the processing.  Most times these look great, for the camera makes all the adjustments for you.  It is like sending a roll of film to the photo lab to develop your images for you.  With JPEG images, you can edit and retouch afterwards, but you will be working with an image that has already been processed with permanent changes, and further changes you make will only degrade it.  This is why you always work with a copy of a JPEG file so that the original stays in good shape.

When comparing a RAW file and that of a JPEG file of the same image, the JPEG will always look better.  Why?  Because it has been processed by the camera.  The RAW file appears dull in comparison for it has not been processed.   RAW files take up a lot more space on your disc as it is such a huge file packed with information.  When closely looked at, the JPEG image may not show the detail in shadows that you wanted to show, because the camera made adjustments by darkening the overall image to compensate for an overly bright sky.  Those shadowed details are gone, tossed out by the processing.  When processing the same image in the RAW format, one can bring out the details in the shadows and tone down the light in the sky without losing detail in either, if exposure is captured correctly, because nothing was tossed.

Snow like a waterfall can be blown out loosing the details.  Here I was able to capture the details in the snow like the rows in the field behind the tree and the details in the tree and barn by shooting in RAW.
Here I was able to capture the details in the snow as in the rows in the field behind the tree, and the details in the tree and barn by shooting in RAW. Again only the available ambient light.

To further explain digital processing, one must know before they shoot an image how they want the final output to look.  So time is taken to set the camera’s aperture, shutter speed, ISO and white balance, along with numerous other settings required to capture a well-balanced RAW file with tons of data to process later in the digital darkroom.  Ansel Adams did this well.   A person who does not know how to do this will not be able to produce the image they are after, for they will lack the necessary data required to do so.

Dale Chihuly Float Boat.  This was shown in a dark room with only the illuminus of the art work on a mirrored floor.  I was able to capture this image without a flash using RAW format.
Dale Chihuly Float Boat. This was shown in a dark room with only the luminous of the art work on a mirrored floor. Using only the available ambient light shooting in RAW.

Many photographers will shoot portraits and weddings in both JPEG and RAW.   The RAW file is so very important for the photographer to use, if need be, to tone down an overly bright cheek, chin or forehead, remove a blemish or anything else that would otherwise make a less than perfect picture to cherish forever without degrading the image.  I have had to remove blemishes, spots on clothing, and sometimes those spots that show up from lint or dust on the lens.  One thing I do not do is alter one’s appearance. When I work with a person, I will shoot from many different angles, pose them in many different positions and place them in good lighting to capture them at their present best.  Teenagers worry about breakouts and since those are not permanent I will “Photoshop” them out as any professional will.  If you have wrinkles, they stay but I will position you where they are not so prominent. I strive to capture the best of a person in their true form, including those awful ones of myself.  LOL!  Like most people I do not like pictures of me, so I let my husband decide which ones to show others.

My grandson, only one blemish needed removing.  Shooting in RAW I was able to remove it without degrading the image.
My grandson, only one blemish needed removing. Shooting in RAW I was able to remove it without degrading the image and capture the skin with no blown areas. Using only ambient light.

When shooting real property, RAW is so important in capturing an indoor image of a home that leads to an inviting outdoors.  The interior lighting and outdoor lighting comes from different sources.  Having a full frame sensor is imperative as it captures more information.   Having the knowledge how to process these files correctly is also important for it must represent the true property being captured.

My dining room. Outdoor light is not blown out revealing the inviting garden deck area while no loss of detail in the darker areas of the room. Captured in RAW using only the available ambient light.
A real property marketing shoot I did. This had a mixed ambient light source. I shot it in RAW working with the ambient light only.

So yes, I “Photoshop”.   In reality I use Lightroom and Adobe CS6 Photoshop.  When someone uses the word “Photoshop” in a derogatory way, we professionals know they are far from being knowledgeable in the profession of a photographer.  So… when you look at a photographer’s work and you think “Wow that is a nice picture!”  Appreciate it!  Be inspired by it!  And by all means BUY IT!  LOL!  We are artists too and how we use our tools to achieve what we see and interpret, is no different than that of an artist with a brush or other various tools.  Unless you have the original file to compare it to, there is no way of knowing how much manipulation was applied beyond the normal process.

Dee Browning, photographer/artist    www.deebrowningphotography.com

AMBIENT LIGHT IN PHOTOGRAPHY:  available light or ambient light refers to any source of light that is not explicitly supplied by the photographer for the purpose of taking photos. The term usually refers to sources of light that are already available naturally (e.g. the sun, moon, lightning) or artificial light already being used (e.g. to light a room).[1]

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Garden and Glass House

Dale Chihuly Exhibit Glass House and Garden
Dale Chihuly Exhibit
Glass House and Garden

On a recent balmy, damp Saturday morning Sonia and I boarded the train to Seattle at Union Station in Portland.  The predicted downpour for the day had thankfully arrived early the night before leaving only puddles of water and low hanging clouds.  A little disappointed that our train was not the new European style one, recently purchased by Amtrak, but pleased to find it clean and comfortable for I had heard since my last train ride that Amtrak had fallen behind in the upkeep of their trains’ interiors.

Settled in our seats we looked out the picture window, the sky growing lighter with the lifting of the low ceiling clouds allowing a nice view of the scenery passing by.  As the train moved northward we noticed periodically leaves, from seemingly nowhere. were flying past our window leaving us to pondering their source.   As we passed by the south end of the Puget Sound, we watched the choppy waves rolling across its vast expanse.   It was then we realized how hard the wind was blowing and its strength is what carried the fall leaves from their unseen source.

As we drew nearer to Seattle, we began discussing one of our favorite artists, glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly, whose ‘Garden and Glass House’ exhibit we had come to see.  Upon our arrival at King Street Train Station, again the wind made us aware of it’s strength as we ventured outside.  Whirlwinds of fall leaves flew in our faces as they pushed past us and into open doors of shops as we walked, or rather pushed past.  The next day, we learned due to the high winds, the floating bridge crossing Lake Washington closed, leaving cars abandoned as people walked off the bridge to safety.

We had on a previous occasion, a couple of years ago, visited Dale Chihuly’s Museum of Glass in his native home town of Tacoma, Washington.  Enchanted with the Bridge of Glass, a 500 foot long pedestrian overpass that links the Museum in Tacoma to the downtown section of the city, a  delightful walk with walls and ceilings showcasing  his work.

Our first sight within the Garden and Glass House exhibit, in Seattle’s Center, brought a sense of calm as we paused to admire the Chihuly’s ‘Glass Forest’.  I love light and its effect on a subject whether it be natural or created by man.  Chihuly  truly understands its importance as it illuminates and reflects off his sculptured pieces.  A real treat to one’s eye and mind.  Allowed to photograph his work, I captured a few of my favorites.  These are very large displays set on a stage, its floor covered with reflecting mirrors producing an impact.

Dale Chihuly's Glass Forest
Dale Chihuly’s ‘Glass Forest’

We moved on to the ‘Northwest Room’, a gallery of his glass sculptured Indian Baskets.  Magnificently done, with Indian designs painted on the blown glass.  His success revealed in his sculpturing the glass to the likeness of ancient Indian baskets with their slump and saggy forms.

Dale Chihuly's Indian Baskets
Dale Chihuly’s Indian Baskets

Another gallery ‘Macchia Forest’, intrigued me as the shape of the glass sculptures captured and reflected the light directed upon it.  Below I captured a section that really caught my eye.  Subtle yet bold!

A section of Dale Chihuly's Macchia Forest
A portion of Dale Chihuly’s ‘Macchia Forest’

Further into the exhibit we came to ‘Ikebana and Float Boat’.  The ‘Float Boat’ literally took my breath away.  Full of glass blown floats the boat drifted upon an illusion of water created with mirrors.  Other floats appeared to have fallen from the craft and been set adrift.   I shot two different angles. This is a life-size boat.

Dale Chihuly's Float Boat
Dale Chihuly’s  Float Boat’
Dale Chihuly Float Boat
Dale Chihuly’s ‘Float Boat’

The other side of this display is another watercraft filled with Dale Chihuly’s interpretation of Ikebana, a traditional Japanese art of flower arrangement.

Dale Chihuly's Ikebana
Dale Chihuly’s ‘Ikebana’

As we moved slowly through the rooms, contemplating this man’s magical work,  one enjoys  the many themes displayed here besides those shown above.  The ‘Sea life Room’, filled with sea plants, starfish, anemones, octopuses, fish, all intertwined, appearing as if moved by the sea’s current.

To our delight, we came to another ceiling gallery, ‘Persian Ceiling’, for we so enjoyed the one displayed at the Tacoma Pedestrian Bridge.  ‘Mille Fiori’ another gallery, at the Glass House and Garden, is fifty-six feet in length and twelve feet wide, a garden of sculptured glass.  Very colorful as most gardens are.

When we finally reached the ‘Glass House’. which sits at the base of the Space Needle, we marveled at the size of this sculpture.  This piece has two thousand individual Persian glass forms fused together.

Myself and my editor, Sonia Picture taken by exhibits staff.
My editor, Sonia, and myself.
Picture taken by exhibit’s staff.

Below a closer view of the Persian glass sculpture in the Glass House.

My self and my editor Sonia In the Glass House.  Picture taken by exhibits staff.

We exited the glass house to stroll in the garden.  At the base of the Space Needle ‘The Sun’, a sixteen foot in diameter sculpture in bright yellow, sits center stage above a platform of sculptured plants.

Dale Chihuly's "The Sun" sculpture
Dale Chihuly’s ‘The Sun’ sculpture

My favorite piece in the garden, as shown below, I see dolphins riding the surf.  The garden, a fun enchanting place, is filled with Chihuly’s glass sculptures.

7After our stroll in the garden we went to the Collectables Café .  A cute little café with tables inlaid with shadow boxes, displaying items from Dale Chihuly’s personal collections.   To our surprise the foods presentation at other tables evoked our reason for eating here,.  We were not disappointed, it delighted our palates.  I highly recommend it.

Though invigorating, we had fought the wind and mini-tornadoes of autumn leaves coming to this exhibit by way of city busses.   With our time running short to catch the train back to Portland, we decided to take a cab.    At the station as we departed our cab, the wind ushered us into King Street Station, along with dry crackling leaves,

With a little time on our hands we took in the architectural beauty of the building.  Sonia commented that it looked freshly painted.  I took pictures of some of the architectural design and when I got home I looked up the building’s history.  Built between 1904 and 1906, over the years it endured many remodels, one that resulted in a lowered ceiling, leaving much of the original ornate interior hidden, till now.  The restoration completed just this year reveals a very stately structure of classic architectural design.

King Street Station restored to it's original architectural design.
King Street Station restored to it’s original architectural design.
King Street Station restored to it's original architectural design.
King Street Station restored to it’s original architectural design.
King Street Station restored to it's original architectural design.
King Street Station restored to it’s original architectural design.

Darkness descended as we traveled south.   Without the views to distract us we made acquaintance with some of our fellow passengers.  One small group told us about eating at Ivan’s that afternoon, a well-known restaurant on one of the many piers along Seattle’s waterfront.  This restaurant is a newer version of it’s former self, destroyed by fire.   As they ate, the strong winds drove waves crashing over the piers.  The rolling white-capped seawater, in clear view of  Ivan’s vast picture windows, left one in their party feeling a little queasy as he tried to finish his meal.

We arrived on time back in Portland, though we didn’t get the opportunity to ride the new train, the comfort and cleanliness of the ones we rode in left us in good form.    An enjoyable day, windy but no rain!