Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Potential

Potential.....the possible as apposed to the actual....capable of being or becoming.

As a photographer, there are any number of things that capture my attention and give me reason to pause.  Now understand, I'm writing from the perspective of someone who goes out into the urban and natural landscapes LOOKING  for opportunities to shoot.  I don't create still life settings, or do wedding shoots or any of that sort of thing.  I prefer a more "candid" nature to the images I produce.  I suppose you could say, I'm always looking for the potential of a scene.  What opportunity waits in what I can or have captured? I posted this image several days ago on my Flickr site and thought it might be a good one to show the before and after of to better examine this idea of potential.  

As most of you are probably very familiar with now, photo opportunities are more times than not fraught with difficulties.  This one was no exception.  I took it several weeks ago while on my way to shoot the interior of an artist's studio whom I'd met.  This old scooter had been in the same place each time I'd been in the area and every time I saw it I'd think to myself, "You should get a picture of it sometime."  Well, here was my chance...I had my camera...capture the thing.  It proved to be more difficult than I first thought.  The street is actually quite narrow with cars passing mere inches from the street side.  The sidewalk side is not much better....narrow, crowded, and loads of glaring light pouring in from over the buildings on the other side as the afternoon sun sank lower in the sky.   I kept searching for a good angle to capture the scooter with out being killed in the street or banged into by some passerby  on the sidewalk....and this was the best I could come up with......

Not exactly what you would call a "stellar" image is it?....with the post in the way and the raised curb in the front.  The other thing I found quite annoying in the image once I got it home, was how un-related the scooter seemed to it's surroundings.  The scooter was from one generation while the buildings and cars were obviously from another.  How can I get the two to "generations" to work together and somehow salvage my efforts?  

It was at this point I noticed the passing black vehicle and it's blurred condition caused from its movement.  What if I treat the whole of the background in the same way?  Blur the buildings and vehicles as "passing by" while the scooter remained undisturbed.  So, after cropping the image to remove the post and un-needed space in front of the scooter, I duplicated the image and then treated it with a "motion blur" filter in PS, masking out the effect on the scooter its self.  

That helped, but there was still a problem.....the strong "red" of the scooter as it was being blasted with reflected light from the windows of the building behind me made it too contrasted to the surroundings.  So, I used an "aged" black and white filter from Tiffen Dfx and sucked out 75% of the color from the original image.  This now brought the foreground and background into the same tone.  At this point, I began to texture the shot to reflect the same age worn appeal the scooter reflected.  

One more side note....texturing a shot can have a color intensifying effect on an image.  Even with most of the color being stripped away, I still had to run the post textured image through the same black and white aged filter to drop the color level back down to a more faded and appropriate level. 

Looking for solutions to the problems we face as photographers is frustrating and exhilarating at the same time.  But working out those solutions is what helps us to better photographers.  Working on this shot I discovered in a fresh way, there is a lot of hidden potential in the shots we take if we are willing to take the time to discover them.  I wonder how many I have thrown away before giving them a chance to reveal themselves. 


  1. It's great to read your thought- and technical- processes. Your unique artistic vision is truly inspiring.

  2. So helpful seeing the before and after! Thank you . . .

  3. came over from flickr love your work.

  4. I really like the ending image you came up with, John. Really nice work and thought process.