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Monday, 13 October 2008


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Interesting - I much prefer the modified version. The thousands of older snapshot I've seen have embedded some sense of what photos "ought" to look like in my brain, which definitely includes a certain color palette. The bright, realistic colors of digital images often seems to be lacking (although almost all my photography is digital).

I think that's also why black and white photos feel more like "real" photos to many people. We've seen so many black and white photos that there's a sense that the monochrome palette is some how intrinsic to a good photo.


I think I prefer the 70's version Mike. The other one looks over saturated by comparison. But apart from that, I like the image. Looks like lazy days when there is nothing wrong with the world - just don't turn on the radio or buy a newspaper!

The funny thing is that when I saw the photo billed as a "snapshot" I wondered what you would be commenting about because to me it just looks like a normal snapshot. Just like the hundreds of other ones my family has scattered around in various shoe boxes in various homes. In my brain the term "snapshot" is so completely linked to the look of those old faded Kodacolor prints that they are what is "normal". The new-fangled brightly colored (or, perhaps, accurately colored) prints always look a bit weird to me. Only after I think about it for awhile do I realize why. A similar thing happened to me in the 80s when CD recordings first came out. I couldn't figure out why they sounded kind of weird and then I realized that they didn't have any scratches.

Ephemeral nostalgia, Dear Mike ?

Beetle Cat. Sweeeeeet!

That's weird, Mike. The "old" photograph looked more normal to me. It's the "normal" photograph that reminded me of an old photo.

I like the modified version much better than the original one. It has a certain "heft" to it which is missing from the original. Just curious as to what steps you took in Photoshop to achieve this look.

"Just curious as to what steps you took in Photoshop to achieve this look."

I'd be happy to tell you...if I knew. I just mess around with stuff until it looks the way I want it to. I don't record, don't bother to try to remember, the steps. I never try to replicate what I've done before. Even if I were to start over with this very file, I would take it from the top--I always do, whether in the darkroom or Photoshop. Habit, I guess.

Mike J.


Did you start with a RAW file? The more I work with them, the more I realize they are not made for public consumption. You can call them the "negative" but I think they are best thought of as less than a film negative. A film negative has its own curve and its own characteristics, and is almost a complete photograph in its own right. A raw file seems to have none of that. It's flat and bland.

Sometimes it needs just a little tweeking to look like something, sometimes a lot. But it's really rare that it looks good right out of the camera. I think that's a disadvantage of digital photography. Shooting with film, many of your decisions are made for you before you press the shutter. With digital you have so many more options. And I'm realizing, that in photography, as in other things, too many options can be hell.

If you started with a jpeg, ignore this. But then, why are you shooting jpegs?


The modified version looks like the typical colors I would get here on the southern Canadian west coast.
The original looks like colors I would get in the Bahamas.
The modified one somehow looks more natural to me.

When I look at the "original" I think "Florida Keys." When I look at your interpretation, I think "Northwoods/Great Lakes".

After reading this post, I thought that I, too, seem to be greatly influenced by old snapshots in my preferences for color in photographs.

But after reading comments above about saturation, black and white, and "heft", I wonder if it isn't also that vivid colors, when they are not skillfully selected or attenuated, can distract us from the fine details, textures, compositional forms and other things about a photograph that might make it more appealing.

Paul McE.,
I always start with a raw file, at least since I bought my first DSLR.

Mike J.

That look is why I still shoot film. Keeps my PC time free too look at more important stuff like this site and whattheduck.

"Just curious as to what steps you took in Photoshop to achieve this look."

Start by making that blue sail neutral greyish white, reduce saturation and you're almost there..... pretty much what you might do with a lot of digital captures really.

Yes, I know the sail IS blue because it's reflecting the water which is reflecting the sky but often we have to go against the pure science of colour to make photos believable - our eyes vary their colour perception according to light source, subject and experience so which colour interpretation of a scene is really the true one??

Cheers, Robin

Ah cat boats. I'm gonna let the cat out of the bag. As one who has done a fair amount of sailing off Cape Cod I have to make the comment that cat boat owners can be snoots. Boaters tend to wave. Sailboat owners really tend to wave. Cat boat owners only wave to each other and quickly turn they're heads when the see a fiberglass boat. When I got better at sailing and found my boat to be faster than theirs and I would keep waving as I passed them by. LOL Sorry about the rant but you brought back memories.

These catboat owners wave!

Mike J.

The first time I saw this, the first photo looked perfectly normal and I was trying to figure out if my monitor calibration was way off. Then I scrolled down to the "original digital" version. Wow! So this is how amped up colors have become post_Velvia and post-DSLR. "For shame!" I sanctimoniously said to myself.

About half an hour later, I came back to the screen; the second photo was still visible. It looked different now...kind of normal. I scrolled up, and ewww, dull as ditchwater!

Funny how relative color perception is. By the way, the comment about Northern skies and light vs. Bermuda light is spot on.

I have been doing the same thing with my digital photos lately when I have them sitting tantalizingly in front of me on my laptop. I love the faded color scheme more and more these days. I think that even after several comparisons, the manipulated image is the better one. The contrast is greater between the darkest darks and lightest lights, although the range of other colors is still visible, its nicely muted conveying how tranquil the boaters look and feel. Personally, I love it.

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