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Dusk, Blackwater Pond

Blackwater Pond, Cape Cod National Seashore

Blackwater Pond in the Cape Cod National Seashore, seen here at dusk last October, is rendered using computer manipulation of the digital file.  There was a time, and I can define that time more precisely: before my vision was altered with the series of retina operations, when I would seldom use obvious manipulation on my photos.  Oh, I was frequently tempted, but never had a clear reason to do so.

Now, a full year after the first operation and only a few months into adjusting to the new vision, I find manipulating photos to be the best way to communicate what I see.  I started this Mental Seeds blog so that I could explore these personal photos and gain better understanding of digital manipulation.  So now, what I see, either actually or in my mind’s eye, is often in need of some post production enhancement and expression.  The new vision has liberated me from strict realism in my photography and given me permission to learn these tools and apply them to my art.

Notice I have not used the word PhotoShop.  Like the word Google, Photoshop is so well understood it has become a verb.  We google for something on the internet, we photoshop our images.   But there are other ways to manipulate photographs without using Photoshop.  Even camera phones have apps to enhance photos.  The painterly affect used on Dusk, Blackwater Pond was achieved with a series Topaz filters.

To be sure, I used the Topaz filters as plug-ins to Photoshop but they can be used with other programs such as iPhoto.  The concept here is using whatever tools are available to make the picture look like I want it.  I love having the excuse of new vision to learn these tools.  Without going into all the specifics, I used the controls within two Topaz filters (Simplify3 and Adjust5) to bring out the watercolor impression after I used Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw to correct the original image.  The affect is best seen on a full size print, but clicking on the photo will bring up a slightly larger view.

Either way, the original was pretty dull in the camera, even though I “saw” the  pastel sky colors reflected in the water:

I was pretty disappointed how the camera interpreted what I saw in the waning light and didn’t even think to work on this photo until I decided to learn the Topaz tools.  The graphic composition was strong but had little of the feeling of that soft gloaming evening sky.  The tools brought back the color, and the watercolor effect simplifies the scene and allows it to glow.

As long as I am working on my art photos from that shoot I’ll show another one.  No filters needed on this view of native shrubs growing alongside the pond.  Realism is the message.

Native Shrub Tapestry by Cape Cod Pond

I have always seen flat, tapestry patterns in nature.  I haven’t shown very many but now have the opportunity and excuse to explore the fine art side of my photography.  Whether or not my vision is forcing me to see new compositions, I can’t yet judge.  Certainly I am building on how I have learned to see and some of these new photos I may very well have seen anyway.  But I am sure I wouldn’t be showing them.

Next up: 2012.  I hope to approach a gallery in the new year and get these things shown properly, large and on paper.

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