Focus on Photography
Photo of the Week: "Baldwin #14 gets a drink at the Loose Caboose" by Bob Crum. Photo data: Canon 7DMKII, manual mode, Tamron 16-300mm lens @16mm. Exposure; ISO 500, aperture f/11, 1/400 second shutter speed.
Photo of the Week: "Baldwin #14 gets a drink at the Loose Caboose" by Bob Crum. Photo data: Canon 7DMKII, manual mode, Tamron 16-300mm lens @16mm. Exposure; ISO 500, aperture f/11, 1/400 second shutter speed.
The Magic Sauce
Bob Crum
Bob Crum

Some readers are charmingly curious. Larry M. suspected that there's more to photographic style than camera settings as discussed in the previous column. He asked: Besides camera settings, how is "style" implemented? The question presents a conundrum: Photographic style is as elusive to describe as balance, gravity and the taste of lasagna.

Let's make lasagna. I carefully layer the noodles, sauce, meat, minced garlic, whole milk ricotta and sliced mozzarella. After baking at 400º for 40 minutes, and cooled, I anxiously take the first bite. Ah! Now, let me describe the scrumptious flavor. HA! My brain tells me it tastes good, but it's impossible to articulate what my tongue's sensory taste buds tell my brain!

Lasagna and photography have much in common. To make a photo, we layer ISO, lens aperture and shutter speed in the camera. However, instead of an oven, we bake (post-process) the photo in the computer with photo editing software programs. Afterward, ah, a scrumptious photo emerges. But I can no more describe the magnificence my eyes see as I can describe the taste of lasagna. But oh how I enjoy both. The photo highlights so delicate. The background bokeh indescribable. Texture, detail and dynamic range so splendid words cannot describe the eye candy I see.

I realize that for many, post-processing, aka photo editing, is something to be avoided like sunbathing in a hail storm. I get it! But make no mistake; photo editing is essential if you desire to improve your photos. There isn't an alternative. No shortcuts. You edit, or you have to accept whatever your camera gives you.

Lest readers perceive that photo editing is a superficial exercise, a few words from George D. Lepp, an Outdoor Photographer magazine columnist. "Post-processing images is an essential element of digital photography. RAW capture (you're shooting in RAW format, aren't you?) [his words] is only the beginning of the process, not yet as good as the image can be - that's why it's called RAW. If you're shooting in JPEG format, you're letting the camera decide a lot about how your image will look."

Lepp added, "Now don't get me wrong: it's not just about 'fixing it' on the computer. I prefer the term 'optimizing.' When you sit down to edit, you still need to start with an image file that has good content and composition and is technically excellent."

A timely note from photographer Kevin Landwer-Johan on "Know your camera so well you don’t have to think about it every moment you are using it. This will make you a better photographer." Excellent advice, however, that's merely one-half of the requisite for developing a photographic "style." Style is best accomplished in the digital darkroom. Photo editing software, the magic sauce, provides adjustment options for exposure, color and contrast to produce a photo like the scene as seen by the photographer. More importantly, the editing program also empowers the photographer to, ahem, embellish the photo to taste, which if applied consistently, combined with consistent camera settings, becomes the photographers photographic "style!" But perhaps you think photo editing is boring! Or worse, tedious? Au contraire, mon ami! 'Tis creative enjoyment beyond description.

The previous photo of the week of a sea lion was not stylized. Being a jpeg from my Panasonic P&S camera, attempting to apply a style to a jpeg with any photo editor is as useless as applying lipstick on a hippopotamus.

Photo of the week is Baldwin #14 steam engine's tender getting water at the Loose Caboose in Santa Paula Labor Day weekend.

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