Before digital systems I'd usually have two cameras around my neck, one Velvia, one HP5. Now I have one body and a brain. Working from RAW RGB files delivers unprecedented opportunities to create the images we originally saw. The key is knowing how you saw the image. A skill Ansel Adams called 'previsualisation', a skill which is sometimes lost in this world of megapixels, megazooms and fix it on the computer. About the most obvious visual change is monochrome conversions; but you need the right source image. Previously these conversions were rather complex bits of darkroom work, I know, I did plenty. Aperture makes the whole thing quicker, more precise and less stinky. Perhaps less fun though.
|sb010164 Scrollwork chair back and shadow(colour)|
This old iron chair sits with it's companion and a table outside Cocoa, the most magical chocolate shop around. As I walked past the midday sun a couple of fairly straight shots of the set outside the shop came out first. Closer to temptation(I really like chocolate) the curves of the chair back and it's shadow caught my eye.
The fact is that despite the lovely contrast of the weathered metal chair and duck egg blue wall I really saw this rather Edwardian image as a toned monochrome one. The key being the contrast between the two patterns and the wall. Had I still had those two cameras I'd have been reaching for the HP5. Here I just let the [motordrive] burst mode run two near identical images and put a note in my Moleskine. I've just cleaned up the colour version, and added a little exposure vignetting to hold in the edges. Just about every hand printer used to do this with pale areas that extend to the frame edges.
|sb010165 Scrollwork chair back and shadow(mono)|
The mono version? Well Aperture comes with some very good presets. Helpfully these preview as you scroll down them. My current personal favourites are 'infra red' and 'sepia high contrast'. These presets though are just starting points; the differences between hand printing and machine printing are in the tweaks. My previsualistaion had a selenium toned effect, I've actually gone for a sepia. After applying the preset 'sepia high contrast' I've upped the contrast further, reduced the blue and green channels and upped the red. Exposure has been dropped by 0.3 stops and image brightness reduced by 0.1. I've then done the usual tweaks to definition and and vibrancy. As a final touch I increased the sepia intensity and added a slightly more vignetting than in the colour version to hold the edges. It matches what I previsualised really rather well, slightly worn early 20th century, full of light and slightly whimsical.
In a wet darkroom this would all have taken a couple of days to get to a final print. Here it took half an hour to get the paper coming out of my printer.
The key point is though, I saw this as a monochrome image from the start. I didn't take a poor colour image and try to rescue it with post processing. That never works, poor images remain that, whatever we do to them.