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What's in an edit?

Jesse Coombs, Brahmaputra River, India.

Nikon D700, Nikon 75-150 Series "E" @ 75mm 1/60 f/3.5 ISO 3200

   Among the modern photo enthusiast editing photographs is often a hot topic. The digital darkroom is a powerful place, but too much use is often frowned upon. I find that interesting considering that hours spent in a darkroom working over one image was not frowned upon, but considered part of the process. The final image is the goal, and if it takes a lot of time and fine tuning to make that goal realized, I'm ok with that. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and although I am not a fan of obviously over saturated or images with the color extensively tweaked, some are. Different strokes for different folks.

The original image.

     During expeditions waiting for good light is not the mode of operations. What you get to work with is rarely ideal, and in this case almost dismal as reflected by the low shutter speed, wide open aperture and high iso. I'd loaned my D200 and 50mm 1.8 to another member of the expedition. Believe me, I was wishing for the 50mm 1.8.  Even with these light limitations normally I wouldn't do too much more than a light exposure adjustment to make sure it's correct, and maybe a slight touch of saturation.
    Just some levels adjustment to get the exposure dead on. I didn't like more saturation on it.

  But what is the image about? To me, this image is about Jesse framed by the oval of  the bridge, and the length of the bridge in the background. (nearly a kilometer long) Guess what? The world doesn't come in 2x3 ratios. Cropping is ok sometimes, the mountains in the background are just distracting. On top of that, the GoPro is more annoying than normal, and normally they are very annoying. In this image it's obnoxious. With the mountains cropped out and GoPro removed, things were looking a lot better. I threw in a little color correction, and noise reduction after noise showed up from the mean combination of ISO 3200 + 1.75 exposure adjustment.

   In a rare circumstance for me, I spent some time on this one, around half an hour. Still nothing like people used to spend in the darkroom or some still spend, but for me, a lot more than normal :)

The reward is getting the original image I saw in my head:

  Stripped down to just Jesse and the bridge the image has more impact. Retrospectively I of course wish we'd arrived about thirty minutes earlier when shooting conditions would have been better. I also wish I'd just sequenced him walking through the arch, so his leg position would be better. On top of that I'd much prefer it if he wasn't carrying the watershed and had his paddle in hand, but we aren't posing photographs here!