Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Reality Vs. Fiction

Though there hasn't been much time for model railroading in the last year or so, I'm still involved. An oft heard comment is 'there's a prototype for everything', by which modelers mean that no matter how odd a model looks, somewhere in the world, there is somewhere that does it that way in the real world. While this may be true, it's also true that while it may be justifed by being a copy of something real, if it doesn't look real, it doesn't work well in a model railway. The same is true in photography. It's quite possible to capture an image which even though unaltered, doesn't look real. This is one reason why editing images is vital.

Real is a brightness range in the hundreds of thousands to one while a matte print may be 50 to one and a glossy print a bit better than that but still miles from the real world. You could simply compress the brightness ratio to fit the print, but often the result is very dull and flat looking, the life sucked out of it, especially if there isn't a lot of bright colour.

Looking through the latest 'View Camera', the author was discussing the complex unsharp masking needed to tame the contrast in colour slide film in order to make good ilfochrome prints. A local photographer, Keith Logan, does incredible work with a 4X5 including bird photography. He too goes to great lengths with masking to convert reality into something that works in a print.

Some of this taming happens behind the scene and starting in the camera so that digital photographers don't face the same struggles as slide film users, yet there remains a sense of unreality about unaltered images straight from the camera. Auto adjustment filters like Akvis Enhancer help to some degree, but being 'dumb', they need some assistance so that while some shadows are left dark, others which wouldn't have been dark to the eye, are opened up for printing.

All this of course presumes that what you wanted in the image is 'reality'. In the two workflows that I showed recently, Athabasca Falls and then the Fruit Bowl, reality was what we wanted.

Using the fruit bowl example (I'm at the office so can't show it so you will have to flip back in blog entries to find it), you will note that in the end version there is a white spot on the lower apple. When looked at at high magnification, this looks like a perfectly good reflection, yet at normal viewing scale, it looks more like a dust spot or flaw in the apple.

I'm going to use some cloning and dodging to extend this small 'spot' into a real sized reflection. Of course it won't be real, but it will look it while the real reflection doesn't look real.

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