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bilal swati
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Revisiting Sites and Past Work with a New Perspective
In the field when I revisit sites I've been to before I'll sometimes see something new about the scene, perhaps different weather or a different season which I'd like to have in my portfolio.  Often, however, I find myself dismissing a site I've been to before... been there, done that... no need to fill up disk drives with redundant, near-duplicates of previous captures. 

Lately though I've been re-capturing some shots I took only 3-4 years ago.  My latest camera, the Canon 5D Mark III, has more than double the resolution of the Canon 40D I was shooting with in 2008, it has more dynamic range, and less noise, particularly in underexposed areas.  Buying a more expensive camera won't improve your attention tot he most important aspects of photography such as composition, but there are some potential benefits to being able to shoot in lower light, capture a greater range of light with more subtle color transitions, and being able to print in larger sizes.

The other problem with my 2008 images was the processing approach I embraced back then. HDR was becoming a popular fad, and it could produce catchy images which could get attention with other photographers and some image buyers.  There was a major downside though, one described well in Tom Till's recent article "Digital Pitfalls: A Cautionary Tale" in Outdoor Photographer Magazine:
"My conclusion, a few months later, is that I had wandered down a dangerous path. My innocent desires to imitate the colors of Velvia, to make a lifeless RAW file more interesting and to fix contrast problems with HDR were clearly failures, and I began to look at what I had done in a new light. As I viewed some images, I often said to myself, "What was I thinking?" I began to compare myself to an addict who had become enthralled with digital color and couldn't be satisfied until I had sometimes grossly overdone things. Just realizing this and seeing the beautiful subtle colors I had buried was enough to help me come to terms with my problem. "

I could really identify with that when I read it in 2012.  I had already come to the same conclusion about my own work.  Too often I was revisiting old work I had produced using HDR techniques and concluded "What was I thinking?"  Of course the next logical question is, "And why didn't I notice this before?"  Tom's article offered one possible explanation: "A friend of mine mentioned a syndrome familiar to painters where, after years of looking at colors, an artist can become desensitized to them."  Musicians can lose their hearing from being exposed to loud noise, can our ability to assess the state of our photography become affected by overexposure to exaggerated color?

Fortunately there was a path out of my madness.  Photoshop seemed like a similar trap, designed to help graphic artists manipulate and combine color images. The newer Adobe Lightroom software however was designed from the ground up to efficiently process photographs, with more of a focus on fine tuning adjustments than heavy-handed manipulations.

None of this is to say that there's anything inherently wrong with HDR, I do still use it some small percentage of the time, and I've gone out of my way to explain why there are some valid uses for it in articles on my blog.  I simply pay attention to not letting it become an addiction to flashy results.  It can be a useful tool, but I don't want HDR to dominate my approach, affect my judgement, or limit my audience.  

So back to the original topic of revisiting places, when I do return to places now, it's with a camera with greater dynamic range and a more successful workflow, with less of a need to use extreme post-processing to produce useful results.   

Here's a link to +Tom Till's article:
Digital Pitfalls: A Cautionary Tale
http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/how-to/shooting/digital-pitfalls-a-cautionary-tale.html

Here's another Outdoor Photographer Magazine article on the subject by Bill Hatcher:
Keeping It Real, Or Calling It Art
http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/columns/photo-adventure/keeping-it-real-or-calling-it-art.html

Here are some of my own musings on post-processing using HDR:
http://www.jeffsullivanphotography.com/blog/?s=HDR&submit=Search
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