Archive for the ‘collaboration’ Tag

Inland Sailor – An HDR Collaboration Project   19 comments


The HDR Collaboration Project: In each round, one photographer provides a set of image brackets to the group, and we apply our personal style in post-processing the set. The person who provides the brackets posts the results, and as most would agree, it’s fascinating to discover how each contributor ‘sees’ the same scene. 


Oh, the guff I took over this one!

As we were emailing each other for the latest project, I asked the group what genre of brackets they’d like this time. A mighty chorus of one chimed in with “waterscape.”  So be it: Let’s see what I’ve got in the library.

One potential bracket set had 11 frames, but with a heavy sun flare and dust spots, I thought it would be more effort than they’d like to endure. Another composition was decent, but nothing all that spectacular.  “Okay, I like this other one,” I thought as I uploaded my chosen bracket set to DropBox.

What I’ve learned is that one should never present a paltry three-bracket set to these Big Guns without expecting a lot of ribbing about a simple -2/0/+2 EV set. You’ll see how they processed that sad bit of information in their comments below each picture. They’re all friends, so I don’t mind giving them a place to vent their rage.  🙂

So, why I did I have the audacity – the unmitigated gall – to present only three exposures to this pool of talent?  Allow me to explain:

We were in Maine, on Mount Desert Island, one of the most scenic places I know.

Many died that night. Four, in fact. There were horrible cracking noises, much gnashing of teeth, moaning, slurping… and a good bit of drawn butter. Susan and I had gone to the southwest side of the island to Thurston’s Lobster Pound, one of the best in the area. We were all over those lobsters like crazed squirrels on a feeder. (If you’re unfamiliar with a lobster pound, it’s a restaurant directly on the docks at the waterfront, where lobster boats unload their daily catch. The bugs go into holding tanks near the cash register, and you can choose, name, and give last rites to your dinner before it gets hauled off to the steamer. You can’t get a fresher Maine lobster.)

We finished dinner and went back to our campsite at Somes Sound, then decided to go out onto the camp’s dock to catch the setting sun. This dock was a challenge in the best of circumstances. Made of aluminum sections, it extended about 80 yards over the water, but as you walked it, it wobbled back and forth pretty badly. By the time I got to the end, I figured it would be best to flop on my belly and get low for stability. There was no way to stabilize a tripod there, and besides, I wanted a perspective as low as possible to the water.

That taught me another lesson: Never roll around on your belly after filling it with a bunch of lobster.  Being in a bit of discomfort, I set the camera to bracket and fired off a quick, handheld set of three.

Most of the photographers here routinely take bracket sets of 5, 7, 9, and 11 or 13 is not unheard of. When the chorus of indignant howls came up from the group, I told them, “Suck it up! Go back to your roots.”  We all pretty much started our exploration of HDR with minimal sets of three, so I thought it would be a good exercise to revisit that idea. As it turned out, the three frames provided plenty of dynamic range to keep these pros happy, and in my opinion, they all did a fantastic job, expressing their individuality on a fairly classic situation.

Following are the versions from myself, Mike “TheaterWiz” CriswellJim DenhamScott FrederickMark GarbowskiJacques “FotoFreq” GudéMark Gvazdinskas, and Bob Lussier. Each photographer represented here has a body of work that speaks volumes to their talents. Please be sure to visit their sites by clicking the links associated with each name.


Inland Sailor by Rob Hanson :


Inland Sailor by Mike “Theaterwiz” Criswell :

Inland Sailor by Mike 'Theaterwiz' Criswell


“Thanks for the cool brackets Rob, I really like the scene, they actually came together quite nice, and a nice steady hand I might add.

“I ran all three brackets through Photomatix, although it faulted out and asked where the other 6 to 9 brackets were at, after I got past that hurdle I went through some normal fixes, then decided I wanted to do something a bit different with the processing, at least different for me. I used OnOne Perfect Effects and only perfect effects. I had about 3 different versions and finally decided on this one. Although I do not remember the exact effects I used, I know a few were from the landscape presets and I added a cloud texture as well. I was having so much fun with the different effects and how to use them I was happier creating that taking notes. After I was finished with OnOne I chose a different crop, to narrow the field of vision a bit, I liked the result. Thanks again Rob!”


Inland Sailor by Jim Denham :

Inland Sailor by Jim Denham


“What a beautiful scene Rob has presented for us. A gorgeous sunset over a calm inland bay. Fantastic Rob – thanks for sharing!

“In the normal banter that takes place amongst this group, a few folks were giving Rob a hard time for supplying an image with only 3 brackets and, in response, Rob said, “Suck it up; go back to your roots,” and that’s what I did. No presets, only some layering in Elements and final touches in Aperture. I loved the sky and wanted to darken it up a bit to bring out the colors. Also loved the rocky shore to camera left and wanted to make sure it stayed illuminated and sharp. I thoroughly enjoyed this set Rob, thanks for taking care of us this round!”


Inland Sailor by Scott Frederick :

Inland Sailor by Scott Frederick


“This was a great set to work on by Rob Hanson for two reasons.  I don’t get a lot of chances to shoot scenes like this and our collaboration group has a tendency to edit grungier brackets, so this was a refreshing change! I had two runs at this image.  The first pass through Photomatix without the de-ghosting option enabled allowed some ghosting of the trees in the water to bug me a little.  So back through Photomatix to take care of that!  Also Rob shot this scene handheld with 3 brackets at 2EV spacing and I must admit, I was very happy with the results that these brackets 3 brackets gave me while tone-mapping.  Next was off to Photoshop CS5 for some lens correction to fix the distortion and CA, a little noise reduction with Nik’s Dfine and some sharpening with Nik’s RAW Pre-Sharpener.  Next I fired up onOne’s Perfect Effect 3 and applied a few filters before bringing the images back to CS5 to apply some Un-Sharp Mask to the boats, trees and rocks!  As always, I finished the image off in Aperture 3 with subtle contrast and brightness adjustments, curves and levels and some saturation adjustments!  Thank you Rob for hosting this round and providing this fun set to work with!”


Inland Sailor by Mark Garbowski :

Inland Sailor by Mark Garbowski


“Never apologize in this group. That’s the lesson from this round. Rob made excuses as he posted the image for us to work with this week, because it only had 3 brackets, and we greedy folks are used to a minimum of 5 and as many as 11. So of course we all teased him before we even looked at them. And of course there was no need for any excuses.

“I loved working on these. I first made a version that enhanced the original golden hour look, and did that mostly in Nik Color Efex 4. Then I created a blue version in the latest update of OnOne’s Perfect Suite. While still in that powerful new suite, I pulled the golden version in as a layer and blended them using the masks and layer feature in the suite. The end result is I flipped the image from golden hour to blue hour. My final move was to crop out most of the sky and foreground, emphasizing the elements of interest in the horizon and creating a bit of a panoramic feel.”


Inland Sailor by Jacques “Fotofreq” Gudé :

Inland Sailor by Jacques "Fotofreq" Gudé


“At first, when I saw this set of brackets, I thought to myself: Oh, No! A landscape shot!  I’m not a landscape dude.  How the heck am I gonna do this?  So, I left them there on my desktop, not sure what I wanted to do to with them.  Fast forward to about a week later, and I was in a Google Hangout with my boys, Rob Hanson and Bob Lussier, I believe a day or two before Thanksgiving.  Heck, I’d completely forgotten about these brackets, when Rob asked something along the lines of: “So, when are you two going to get those brackets done.  No rush, but I wanted to post them RIGHT NOW!”  Ok, so maybe not that moment, but he wanted them soon.  Turns out Bob and I were holding up the crew.  It’s done when it’s done, right?

“A couple days later (Black Friday), while most of America (probably exaggerating here, but not much) were out shopping, I found myself a nice “quite” corner in a Starbucks near my hotel and went to work.  I ran the brackets through Photomatix and HATED what I was getting there.  Dang!! What to do?  I know!  DRI (aka Dynamic Range Increase)!  Or at least I think that’s what they call it when you merge (or blend) your brackets together manually.  I’d done this once before, and loved the result.  So I opened all the brackets up in Photoshop CS 5 and went to work, painting in here and painting out there until I had a nice canvas to play with.  I was already digging what I saw and the tunes I was working with (First Hans Zimmer’s Last Samurai soundtrack, and then his Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s Ends soundtrack.) were REALLY inspiring me.  I used various blend modes to get particular looks I wanted as I my drawing hand danced around my Wacom table: here a brush stroke, there a stroke, everywhere a stroke, stroke).  A little dodge here, a little burn there, and I even learned a few new techniques in Photoshop along the way; that happens when you are after a particular look somewhere on your canvas and are not sure how to go about creating said effect, which is ALWAYS good.  Finally, and I was done, and I was digging what I saw.”


Inland Sailor by Mark Gvazdinskas :

Inland Sailor by Mark Gvazdinskas


“What a fun set of brackets, Rob! One of my favorite things to do when new brackets are dropped is to blindly put them into Photomatix and drool at the possibilities.

“I put on my “Kiss the Cook” apron and deep fried the heck out of this one.  The second I loaded the brackets I noticed the clouds and the reflection. I hated to take out the amazing detail in those gorgeous clouds but felt this was the perfect opportunity to do some practice in OnOne’s Perfect Effects. In order to give this a long exposure feel I first did a full strength radial blur layer. I then added a glow to the sky and water to give that glassy appearance. I always like the warmth I get out of my 10 stop and wanted to create a feel like that so went a little crazy with the colors here. I was going to do a sharpening layer for the boats as Photomatix always seems to take a bit of that tact-sharp feel out of the image, but decided to leave them be giving somewhat of a blurred effect as if the shutter was open for 30+ seconds and the boats would be rocking. Finally I added a pretty heavy vignette. All editing done within Perfect Effects and Layers. This software is just something else.

“All in all an absolute blast to work on this gorgeous set. Thanks for the opportunity to destroy your pretty shot, Rob!”


Inland Sailor by Bob Lussier :

Inland Sailor by Bob Lussier


“Thanks to Mr. Hanson for providing a great set of brackets to work with. And, from one of my favorite places to shoot Acadia National Park, Mt Desert Island, Maine.  I have probably driven past this little harbor dozens of times over the years but, unlike Rob never had the vision to stop and shoot it! So thanks for looking out for me, Rob!

“I used this opportunity to play around a bit with onOne’s new Perfect Photo Suite. I figured, since it was Rob’s image I would potentially be screwing up, I had nothing to lose! After running the three brackets through Photomatix, I pulled them into the Photo Suite. I ran the “Daily Vitamin” filter on it, which boosted the local contrast and punched up the colors a bit with emphasis on the blues in the sky. I then went to the “Glow” tab and added some “Deep Forest.” I really love how the shore, boats and treelike are mirrored in this image, so I wanted to bring back some of the contrast. I added one more layer in onOne and painted in some “lighten” tonal adjustment on the boats, dock, house and some of the rocks on the left shoreline.

Thanks again, Rob!”



Thanks for your entries, gentlemen. See you for the next round.


Toad’s Penultimate Shot   6 comments


The brightest mirror is the one that reflects our own worthiness.  Who among us could keep from looking?

Without question, Scott Johnson (Toad Hollow Photography) is that mirror for many of us in the photo community. Or, rather, he was. As most of you reading this will know, Scott was presented with an opportunity too good to pass up, and he’s putting his photography aspirations on hold so that he can concentrate on his new endeavors. The outpouring of sentiment and affection for Scott after his announcement was both incredible and expected, and while we all understand and will support him in his new venture, we’ll miss him terribly.


No one seems to doubt that Scotty was the most energetic supporter of photographers on the social media sites today. His enthusiasm and energy were the likes of which we might not see again until his return. He collected the best of the web each week for Light Stalking, viewed and commented on countless photos each day, and served as a friend to everyone he met online. As if he had any time left after that, he still managed to put out a daily blog of photos and text highlighting his gorgeous corner of the world.

All that is incredible in its own right, of course, but I think the thing that set Scotty apart from the rest is that he was brilliant in affirming our own efforts in photography.

Face it: Often when we go to publish an image, we’ve been looking at it so long that we don’t know if it’s any good. After posting, sometimes all you hear is crickets. (At least that’s been the case for me.) Without fail, Scott would come along and write – in his unique and enthusiastic way – about the positive aspects of the image. He would then go on to re-Tweet, re-share, and otherwise promote the virtues of whatever you had done.

This is affirmation. It’s validation. It’s an acknowledgement that we’ve been seen. It’s a reflection of our own efforts as seen through the eyes of another. In that, ‘Toad’ provided what we all sometimes need – confirmation that we’re doing the right thing, and that our hard efforts have not been wasted. And nobody did it better than Scotty.  (To see more about why I feel this reflection is important in social media venues, later you could read my older post “Reflections: Narcissus.”)

So, needless to say, we’ll all not only miss Scott’s images and stories, but we’ll miss his very presence. There’s likely not one among us who doesn’t look forward to his return, someday, but in the meantime, we wish him nothing but success and happiness in his adventure.


In recent weeks, Scotty and I had been bandying about the idea of doing a ‘mini-HDR collaboration’ using one of his bracket sets (where one person provides brackets and multiple people process them according to their tastes.) My initial plan was to use Scott’s images for a new video tutorial I’m working on. I had begun to wonder why it took a while for him to get the brackets to me. Now I know… he was busy setting up his new venture.

While I’m still working on the video, I probably won’t be using Scott’s image for two reasons: First, as it turns out, there wasn’t really anything to improve upon in his version! Second, I think I’d prefer to simply post his image here alongside my own version, letting this stand as Toad’s Penultimate Shot, the last before his return to the photo community where he is so beloved. (Okay, so I stretched the meaning of ‘penultimate’ just a bit 🙂 )

If you feel so inclined, please join me in wishing Toad and Mrs. Toad all the success in the world! Feel free to comment below… I’m sure Scott will both read and appreciate it. It’s a great time to reflect back a little of what Toad Hollow Photography has so graciously given us.

Godspeed, Scott. You’re one of a kind.


Scott’s image and processing:

Image by Scott Johnson - Processing by Scott Johnson


And my version:

Image by Scott Johnson - Processing by Rob Hanson


PS: Now that I’ve seen our ‘mini-HDR collaboration’ shots side-by-side in the preview of this post… I like his version much better. It’s more ‘natural.’  Well done, Scotty!

“Inner Beauty” – An HDR Collaboration Project   20 comments


Once again, the HDR Collaboration team came up with a nice variety of results given a single set of brackets! Players this week are Mike “Theaterwiz” Criswell, Jim Denham, Mark Garbowski, Jacques Gudé, Scott Frederick, Bob Lussier, and myself, Rob Hanson.

If this is your first time seeing the collaboration project, a few of us get together online and share one photographer’s HDR bracket set, applying our own vision, aesthetic and punishment to the pixels. Whoever provides the set collates the results in a blog post. Sometimes the processing is pretty straightforward, while at other times there are specific challenges involved. This week is one of those times, as I tried my best to throw a few curve balls into the mix.  Looking at the results, I find it fascinating that everyone seemed to take a distinctly different approach in handling the challenges, and that’s the beauty of the collaboration project: In one place, you get to see a number of different perspectives and interpretations of the same scene.

This photo set of an old Chevy was taken while on a day cruise through Walnut Cove, NC.  My head snapped around as I saw a number of old cars and trucks parked in an oak grove just off the road. Turning back into what looked like a small, private road servicing a few houses, I looked for someone to ask permission to shoot. Failing that, I started firing away at various scenes in this great location, hoping that no one would object. (Other subjects from this site can be seen in Dodge This!, Peelings, Nothing More Than Peelings…, and Found On Road Dead, Literally.) When I thought about it later, it was probably not an issue. Whoever owned the collection put it out by the road so that others could enjoy it.

This is what the Chevy looked like from the outside. Don’t ask me what the buzz-saw attachment is about — I don’t know, but I want one for my Prius!

An old Chevy truck with a buzz saw attachment sits in the woods near Walnut Cove, North Carolina

Inner Beauty -- Outer Danger


Moving to the driver’s window, I set the tripod as close as possible and fired off eleven exposures with the Promote Control, using a Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 lens at 28mm, f/6.3. Setting the focus point was difficult given the circumstances, so I honed in on the Chevrolet logo on the dashboard. This presented one processing challenge: Dealing with the out-of-focus window frame and steering wheel. It was also one of my first shots of the day, and I hadn’t noticed that I neglected to set the white balance from a custom indoor setting I had been using back to Auto!  All the original RAW files came out with a distinctively cold, blue cast, and this is what I gave to the team. As you’ll see, some of the boys made interesting choices with respect to these two conditions.

Please be sure to visit the blog sites for my friends… just click on their names and their blog sites will open in a new window or browser tab. They are a highly talented group of photographers, and I’m delighted to know them and share in this project. When you visit the sites, the very best way to stay in tune with them and our future projects is to subscribe to the blogs, so I’d like to encourage you to do so. You can also click on each picture to open it in a new window or browser tab.

Without further ado, here is “Inner Beauty” as seen through the eyes of seven photographers, along with each contributor’s notes about their processing choices. Please Enjoy!


Mike “Theaterwiz” Criswell says:

“Thanks for the great Rusty and Crusty brackets Rob, I enjoyed processing them. I wanted to do something really wild with this set but work and things slammed me this week, so I had to go for more traditional processing. Thanks for the heads up on the WB, that was a quick fix. I wanted to Highlight the steering wheel and dashboard, and all those juicy, rusty,cobweb covered details. I chose to crop this a bit and eliminate the rear view mirror and place the wheel and dash in a more favorable spot, at least as I saw it. I used my normal processing tools of NIK, OnOne, Photomatix and Topaz, bits and pieces of each. Thanks again for the brackets Rob.”

"Inner Beauty" by Mike 'Theaterwiz' Criswell


Jim Denham says: “Another cool set of brackets to manipulate this round – thanks Rob! Rob gave us the heads up on the white balance early on for this image, so that was the first order of business. After taking care of that, merging and tone mapping, the main thing I wanted to highlight in the image was the surface rust on the inside of the vehicle. I especially liked the radio sticking up in the front seat – reminded me of old days! Used the Spicify preset in Topaz Adjust to bring out that rusty color, then also applied the Portrait Smooth preset on the windows to take a bit of the clarity out and make them a bit more real with the age of the windows. It’s a cool shot for sure! Thanks Rob!”

"Inner Beauty" by Jim Denham


Mark Garbowski says: “It’s been a while since Rob supplied the image, so this was a treat. The white balance was way off, but the fix was easier than I feared. There didn’t seem to be a clean white or grey point to sample, but the rusted chrome “Chevrolet” strip on the dash actually sufficed and Aperture nailed the correction. I also wanted to soften the out of focus window frame in the foreground without changing Rob’s original focal plane. Apart from those issues, I wanted saturation on the wood veneer, and detail on all of the other interior elements. I tried to keep everything else minimalist and realistic.”

"Inner Beauty" by Mark Garbowski


Jacques Gudé says: “Man! It’s been awhile since I had so much fun working a set of brackets.  Thanks, Rob!  I love anything old and forgotten, and I LOVE trucks, tractors, and just about anything else on wheels.  As I have in the past, I really gave myself permission to go wild with this one.  My idea was to make this shot look like it was shot under a full moon, with the outside cold and scary, while the inside was lit by the warm glow of an old bulb flickering in the ceiling of the cabin. Once I wet through my routine of applying some of my favorite Nik Software filters, and my special sauce, I spent a few minutes burning in a couple of shadow areas to highlight some of the key elements of the dash, the steering wheel and the radio in the center console.  I was pretty dang pleased with how this one came out.  Your tastes may vary! ;-)”

"Inner Beauty" by Jacques Gudé


Scott Frederick says: “Thanks to Rob Hanson for supplying these great brackets.  I tend to shoot wide so It’s nice to work on some closeups!  I like the way he composed this shot through the window.  I just wanted to do a clean simple edit and make the colors muted.  I had a blast working on the set.”

"Inner Beauty" by Scott Frederick


Bob Lussier says: “Thanks to Rob for sharing his ride with us this week! I hope your moonshine deliveries weren’t late because you took the time to shoot your truck! Seriously, there is nothing like the Inner Beauty of an old car, and this one is classic. The challenge was the fact that the brackets were shot at the wrong white balance setting. I chose to mitigate that rather than embrace it. I warmed things up a bit after tonemapping. I also noticed the focus was sharper on dashboard, leaving the steering wheel slightly soft. That fact, I decided to embrace. I applied an Orton effect to help give the image a soft glow overall. Hope you like it!”

"Inner Beauty" by Bob Lussier


Rob Hanson says: “One of the reasons that I submitted this particular set is that doing so gives me an idea of how other photographers address distracting elements in an image. I was not disappointed, as I think the solutions and the distinctly different feel of each version shows how many roads there are to a great picture. The crew did very well on this go-around!

“After setting a new White Balance, I ran the set through various programs to see which would work best. As usual, I wound up using an amalgam of output from Photomatix Pro, HDR Express, and Photoshop’s Merge to HDR Pro. Each program has its particular strengths. From there, I found that the background foliage and trees provided too much of the same tonal range found in the cab — all brown — so I included some of the blue cast found in the originals, although I toned it down in terms of cast color and exposure. This helps to show that the truck is sitting in the woods, and at the same time, I think the bluish color works well with the tan and rust tones of the truck, and creates a spooky mood outdoors.

“Beyond that, work was done to draw one’s attention to the emblem and dashboard, the radio, and the door panel while minimizing the distraction of the other elements. I generally use Nik Color Efex Pro filters and Photoshop CS5 adjustment layers. A good dose of Nik’s Tonal Contrast and sharpening on those key elements helped to bring out the “ick” factor. I finished it off with a slight crop.”

"Inner Beauty" by Rob Hanson

Thanks for playing, everyone!  It’s always great fun, and very informative.


I Will Survive | A Grunge Collaboration   10 comments

There have been a few collaboration projects between photographers lately, usually revolving around HDR processing. I always find myself looking forward to the results, as they can serve to inform not only those readers who see the finals, but the contributors as well. Today, I think, we serve up another good example of this, along with a couple of surprises.

For those new to the idea: A few of us got together online and agreed to participate in the project. For each round, one person in the group provides a set of bracketed images, then each photographer applies their vision and processing skills to the set. The final image from each contributor, along with processing notes and other insights, are compiled and hosted on the blog site of whoever provided the set.

This week, it was my turn to provide the brackets for a project we call a “Grunge Collaboration.” Round 1 is here. Although the brackets can start with almost any character — a sunny landscape, even — in this collaboration we’re going for a gritty, grungy look in our results. Participants are James Brandon, Jerry Denham, Jim Denham, Jesse Pafundi, Chris Nitz, and myself, Rob Hanson. (But wait … that’s not all!)

This set of brackets came from my happenstance visit to Legend Hill Enterprises near Fredericksburg, Texas last April. Legend Hill is a buy-sell-trade business, according to signage on a large trailer near the road. Once you drive onto the property, you find yourself surrounded by literally hundreds of old, rusted pieces of farm equipment in various stages of decay, spread over many acres. After getting permission to shoot there, Susan trailed me in the truck while I stopped every few feet to click off more sets, acting like the proverbial kid in a candy store.

With a slight chin nod to Gloria Gaynor, I titled this set “I Will Survive.” It seemed fitting to me, as this formerly glorious beast was sitting amongst other pieces that had not been quite so lucky. It just needed a little quality love.

One note: When these projects first started, we posted the images without any narrative. Sometimes it’s good to let images stand on their own without commentary. It rather quickly becomes obvious that everyone approaches post-processing from a different perspective, and while that’s a beautiful thing, we’re left with only that one conclusion: Everyone has a different vision.

This week I’ve asked each contributor to share information about what they ‘see’ in the image, how it affected them, what they were thinking, and how that vision led to the choices they made in post-processing. It seems to me that we can all benefit by finding out more about this thought process as we consider each image, sort of like peeking into the mind of the photographer.

I hope this approach helps others, and if any readers have ideas on how this sort of project could be even more useful, please drop a comment and let us know. We’d love to hear your ideas. If you could ask a contributor any question, what would that question be?

We also have a special guest contributor joining us this week!  Read on to find out who jumped in, and to see his cut at the project. As he’s one of the true grunge meisters, I really admire his processing work and on a personal level I value his friendship, so I couldn’t resist asking him to join in this week’s fun. After all, he “just loves him some tractor.” I must’ve sensed that.  🙂

Here is the original 0EV bracket that we had to work with:

Original 0EV bracket for the I Will Survive grunge collaboration project

0EV bracket for "I Will Survive"

And here are the final images for this project…

From James Brandon:

James Brandon's version of "I Will Survive", part of the grunge collaboration project

James Brandon's version of "I Will Survive"

“Big thanks to Rob Hanson for a great set of brackets to work with for this week’s collaboration!

“In some of these HDR shots, I feel that you can get lost in the image when everything from foreground to background is in focus. Thatʼs fine in some cases, but in this image I wanted to get rid of any possible focus on the background (the trees, the other tractors, the junk, etc). I used textures, vignetting, and onOne FocalPoint to create some confusion around the corners of the images to draw the focus to the tractor.

“Sure, the tractor is the obvious subject here, but the subconscious can still be led astray. I also opted for a slightly cooled down white balance. The reason being that images like this donʼt exactly make me feel all warm and cozy :-). A junk yard with old tractors signifies the end of the road for these things, and I just didnʼt feel like a warm color balance and bright cloudy sky did that justice.”

From Jerry Denham:

Jerry Denham's version of "I Will Survive"

Jerry Denham's version of "I Will Survive"

“I was very intrigued by the brackets. I really liked the number of options that were available to concentrate on. I was originally focused on the two headlights but then I was very drawn to the scars and scrapes on the center of the tractor.  I tried to do what I could to try and make both areas stand out together, but wasn’t successful. Being a grunge collaboration, I concentrated on the scars and scrapes.  I really tried to bring out the red color of that portion of the tractor.  I used Picasa to do some soft focus enhancements to try and direct a little more attention to those scars and scrapes.  Had a great time with this.”

From Jim Denham:

Jim Denham's version of "I Will Survive"

Jim Denham's version of "I Will Survive

“Love tractors, and this one’s got some serious grit to it! I wanted to bring out the rusty color and texture, so I used two Topaz presets – Exposure Color Stretch and Clarify – selectively, along with a high pass sharpen. The surrounding setting was eating up the tractor, so applied a selective focus and reduced the saturation to make the tractor pop out at ya!”

From Rob Hanson:

Rob Hanson's version of "I Will Survive"

Rob Hanson's version of "I Will Survive"

“I took some liberties. 🙂

“First, I found that things just felt better if I flipped the image, and in my view it seemed to change the composition substantially. When I first worked with this new orientation, it seemed that the tractor was pulling a curved line of wreckage through the junkyard. Perhaps this has something to do with how westerners read from left to right, but I now see a clear vector starting from the willow tree, moving left along the line of junk, to the leftmost tractor grille, and then along through the subject, sort of like a rusty conga line. I don’t know, it just works for me, and whenever I flipped back to the original orientation that feeling was lost. With the discovery of that circular vector, and wanting to place this guy in his rightful place, I chose not to ‘hide’ the background junk, as it now seems an integral part of my theme.

“In keeping with the grunge motif, I wanted a decidedly post-apocalyptic feel without making the overall composition too dark. By creating a gloomy, atmospheric backdrop in the clouds and tree line I feel that the composition gained more depth, differentiating the lighter foreground from the dark background. Desaturating the image helped contribute to the gloaming. For the subject, I wanted to retain all of that rusty, gritty texture, and seeing a face in the trapezoidal front panel that reminded me of “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, I selected this area for a bit of extra treatment to call out that detail.

“This little guy has hope, thinking that he has prevailed over all the other poor, unfortunate wrecks. His proud stance; his vivid colors; his clear, baby blue eyes peering hopefully into the darkness all suggest that he’s a survivor of the junkyard apocalypse. Let’s not spoil his day by telling him it’s over.”

From Chris Nitz:

Chris Nitz's version of "I Will Survive"

Chris Nitz's version of "I Will Survive"

“I sat on these brackets for a few days before processing them. The tractor had my attention, but I had no idea what I wanted to do with it. It was rusty, broken down, and no longer working hard for the farmer who once owned it. This once vital piece of equipment now sits in a field left to rot.

“It did not hit me where I wanted to go with this image until I was merging the brackets into an HDR image. When I did this, there were several areas of detraction from the tractor. It was not until I moved this into a black and white photo that everything fell into place. At this point, the decay and rot called out to me. It screamed light leaks, noise, and textures. The black and white conversion help in drawing the eye back to the tractor. Everything else is there to help with the decrepit feeling.

Thanks to Rob for providing this fun set of brackets to play with.”

From Jesse Pafundi:

Jesse Padundi's version of "I Will Survive"

Jesse Padundi's version of "I Will Survive"

“When I see scenes like this, I usually look for something specific that really shows how time has taken it’s toll on the subject. In a case like this, overgrown grass taking its grip on the tractor is a tell tale sign how just how long it has been sitting here. I knew I wanted to maintain focus there.

“Now to the coolest part. I have a tendency to see inanimate objects as alive. My imagination tends to run wild from time to time, so I immediately noticed how this poor tractor seemed to be crying out for help. The lights as desperate eyes. The front opening as a gaping mouth pleading to be used. You see it now, don’t you? Yes, you do. Well, there’s my vision in a nutshell.”

From our Special Guest Contributor (Can you guess who?)

“Hey folks; Jacques “the Fotofreq” Gudé, here!  Oh, how I love me some Tractor!!  So, when Rob asked me If I’d be interested in being surprise guest processor on his awesome site, I jumped at the chance.  Thanks Rob!

“Once I had Rob’s brackets to work with, I knew I wanted to focus attention on the front end of the tractor, including the massive, cool engine.  So I post-processed and looked at my results; I was not happy!  But I sent it to Rob anyway, and asked for some critique.  Man, am I glad I did that, because I could see he was finding some of the same weaknesses in my work that I was.  Well, that just will not do!  After all, I’ve got a reputation, right?  So, back to the drawing board.

“THIS TIME, I decided I was going for the look you get when you lighting an object under a full moon.  I also wanted to give the shot a 3D look, which I did by dodging and burning depth into the various components of the tractor using my Wacom tablet.  The moral of the story is, if you don’t like your work when you’re done with it, it’s probably not up to par.  Thanks, Rob, for the honest and very helpful critique!”


Thanks, everyone, for a great collaboration project!

Please be sure to visit the web sites for each contributor. You’ll find some fabulous images and insights there on a regular basis. All links above open in a new browser tab or window, so have at it.


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