When Life Hands You Lemons… Ask for Salt and Tequila.
For the latest round of the ever-entertaining HDR collaboration project between Mark Garbowski, Jacques Gudé, and myself, Rob Hanson, I contributed a set of brackets that I’ve always wished had come out better. In those frames, I saw several serious challenges to post-processing, and I wanted to see what other minds could do with such a lousy set of photos.
I’ve included the original 0EV RAW file here so that you can see the starting point. (For any images in this blog post, you can click on the image to open a larger version in a new tab or window.)
The brackets were taken at 15mm with a Tokina 11-16mm lens, f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/320 s. (The “lousy” comes from behind the camera; it has nothing much to do with the Tokina glass.) Not having a perspective-control lens, the image of the house has a serious vertical plane skew, with the turrets leaning inward. The wind was blowing and the available light was low, so even individual frames have ghosting motion in the tree branches. Overall, the focus was soft and indistinct. A building and telephone pole to the left didn’t help the overall composition, either.
The subject is the Blades House in New Bern, North Carolina. Built for a local lumber baron in 1907, it stands as one of the most distinctive houses in the downtown historical district, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Despite having fallen into serious disrepair over the years, it was recently renovated by current owners Mark and Lynn Harakal, who are friends of mine. Someday, I’ll be shooting the interior, which features an incredible selection of prime woods, including beautiful old oak wainscoting and birdseye maple mouldings.
Jacques Gudé’s Version:
Jacques said of his post-processing efforts, “I played with the distortion, and could have corrected it fairly well, but I was not pleased with how much I was going to lose of the top right steeple, which was already missing some. In the end, I decide to leave the distortion and focus more on the patio level and just a wee bit above.”
Mark Garbowski’s Version:
Mark said, “My frustration was, I think, mostly at my own inability to correct the distortion.”
I have to admit, the distortion wasn’t easy to address without losing chunks of the house!
Rob Hanson’s Version:
For my version, I wanted to evoke a bit of a creepy, unsettling feel to the image, in keeping with the cold, gray winter day and the old Queen Anne style of architecture. After cloning out distractions and improving sharpness and contrast in areas, I desaturated it for more coldness using Nik Color Efex Pro. Afterward, I applied a bokeh spin effect using Alien Skin Boheh 2 to generate a sense of extreme disorientation. This also helped to divert attention away from the overall lack of focus and motion blur inherent in the image. Darkening things up a bit on the edges helps to give more of a foreboding feel, and that evidently seemed to be enough to conjure up possible past residents of this estate. (Hint: Zoom in and check the windows closely.)
I’d like to thank Mark and Jacques for participating in this fun and interesting project. As with the first round, I find it fascinating to see how widely varied the artistic vision can be from one photographer to another, and how we each address key challenges in a given image. It’s very enlightening to see through anothers’ eyes, and I learn something new with each pass.
To see the previous round of images from the collaborative experiment, please click here to open Mark Garbowski’s blog “Too Much Glass” in a new window.