Permutations, variations, revisions and transformations

 

After it finds its way from camera to computer, what’s next for a photo? Does it get tweaked just a little, does it go through a carefully thought-out series of changes, or does it unexpectedly morph into something quite different from the original image?Β  Normally I don’t stray too far from the look of the original image, but for the past week I’ve been playing with a particular photo that lends itself to experimentation. Those exercises led me to make similar changes I normally might not consider to two other photos of the same subject.

The weathered, twisted juniper tree standing alone on a bluff over alternating bands of water and islands is a real beauty.Β  I often see people taking pictures of the tree, and its wood has been carved and written on with markers dozens of times. People feel compelled to document both the tree, and their own presence on the scenic overlook. I would never deface a tree but I understand the attraction. It’s a striking sight – deeply rooted, twisted and reaching to the sky, with only a single branch remaining green. It seems that the older this tree gets, the more spectacular a sight it is. I can’t pass that spot without getting the camera out and making more photographs. In fact, you may recognize it from previous posts.

Here are three different photos of the tree that were processed to create a variety of looks. Jumping back and forth between Lightroom Classic, Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro, I tweaked and slid and clicked and experimented until I ran out of ideas. Then I came back and played some more. Here are the results.

 

1.

 

2.

 

3.

 

4.

 

5.

 

6.

 

7.

 

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8.

 

9.

 

10.

 

11.

 

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12.

 

13.

 

14.

 

15.

 

16.

 

17.

 

Here’s the tree from another angle, at sunset, with Burrows Island, Lopez Island and the Olympic Mountains in the distance.

 

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86 comments

  1. I like these different styles. I play with different filter / styles from time to time (although I have my favourite ones). It is so fascinating to see the amount of variations on one! picture and the effects can be so different. And your pictures are a very good template. The tree is really beautiful and a kind of artwork. And the photo you made is such a great clipping! I can imagine that you take a lot of pictures through the year – I would do it too πŸ™‚

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    • Much more could be done, I’m sure, especially with Photoshop, and using layers, etc. You’re right, the tree is an artwork in itself, it really is. It would be nice to photograph the tree through the year, but since it’s an evergreen, I think the main changes will be in the light, not the tree itself. I first saw the tree only a year and a half ago, and I think I’ve photographed it five times since then. I’d like to find more angles and ways to photograph it….I will! Thank you Almuth!

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      • It would be great to see it with different lights! Morning and evening light, shadows and so on. But who am I telling this – you know all about it πŸ™‚ I am looking forward to new pictures of this special tree!

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  2. Though my faves are 1,6,10,11,and 12 (is that too many faves?) I think they are all valid. I’ve always felt that once it’s not presented as documentation all is fair. I know there are many purists who disagree but I guess that’s why you can only hope to please some of the people….long as you please yourself too 😊

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    • Never too many, Howard! πŸ˜‰ You concentrated your favorites on one base image, and maybe the permutations of that one worked better. I agree, anything goes when you’re not intending an image to be documentary. It would be sad to say a particular rendition is “wrong” – I can’t imagine that. It’s easy to get into a rut of only working realistically though, and forgetting about that whole other world. I wanted to do something different.

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  3. Hi Lynn, This is a valuable and fun exercise. I’m so glad you showed us the gorgeous landscape shot of the tree– I was trying to decide which branches were featured. The versions that pop out for me are 1(traditional), 8 (appealing blues), 9 (the blue and gold work really well together), 11(has a cool infrared look), 12 (you went dark which looks great) and 17 (for its texture and contrasts.) I enjoyed your creative exercise very much. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Thank you so much, Jane. Winter’s a good time for something like this (subtext: It’s still cold!). I really appreciate your mentioning that the final shot was helpful – that’s why I included it. I am always frustrated when I can’t understand context, like in a lot of journalistic photography these days, where they get in so close you don’t know what the bigger picture is, and the story has no meaning. Yes, #1 is more traditional – I thought that might be a good place to start. πŸ˜‰ I liked the strong colors too, and the looks of #11 and #12. It’s fun to see what can be done, even without Photoshop.

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      • I really only use the 3 editing programs you mentioned. And now LR has mostly everything I need and so I don’t go to Nik, a longtime favorite, as much as I used to. I wish Photoshop was more intuitive to me. πŸ˜”

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  4. A wonderful exercise and creatively rendered. A real pleasure to see the differences on well composed images. Loved that you put in the context shot as well. Thank you.

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    • That one came at the end, when I felt I needed “one more” and wasn’t sure what direction to go in, so I went crazy, trying everything. It took a while to get to the “end” So it’s really good to know you liked that one! πŸ™‚ Thank you, Vicki.

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  5. Very good to see you experimenting around! And here are the results of the Dutch jury: Great: 1. The natural B&W; 5. The something completely different one; a minimal brushstroke painting; 7. the dark, grainy mood-one; 8. The blue one; going towards brushstrokes; 12. The moonlight one; 15. as nr. 5: 17. The dark focuses on the light and the form; well composed. and… :Terrible: 2. Too much white on dead black; 3. Too much of an effect; 9. Brrrrr. 16. Too vague in the center and too dark in the corners.. πŸ˜‰ Keep going; I like to see you on the loose! And very good to show the over all shot at the end. See you, Lynn!

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    • I’m glad Den Haag has weighed in, I feel better now! πŸ˜‰ And you have given what we call “constructive criticism” instead of just saying it’s all wonderful. I really appreciate that Harrie. For #1, #5, #7, #15 your responses are exactly what I intended, so that’s nice. I think #8 looks more like moonlight than #12 but of course it’s very subjective. I will defend #2 by saying I was going for a reverse silhouette. It’s interesting to know #3 feels to you like too much effect, but not #5 & #15. Sometimes an effect works, sometimes it doesn’t. #9 is cold…but maybe it’s warm, since there are warm colors there too. πŸ˜‰ #16 – yes, that one was a little crazy and maybe I played with it too much. I get what you’re saying. It’s nice being on the loose, isn’t it? Thank you again for going out on a limb (terrible pun, sorry!) and giving the good with the bad.

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      • Thanks Lynn for the appreciation; always a bit tricky to give constructive criticism; I’ve stept on some toes in the past with my Dutch ‘direct approach’ a couple of times… πŸ˜‰ Now that I know what your intentions were with #2, I think you did a good job; but it’s not my kind of image… so, I agree with you that things are always subjectieve. #5 and #15 are not effects to me, because I think you left the origional shot behind and created a new image, that can ‘stand on It’s own’.. in #3 the branch is still there, but a bit subordinate to the gradiΓ«nt.. May be, if I may, the PS backgrounds/gradients are too geometrical in comparison to the natural branches… you might try to use a more natural texture or pattern as a background… But who am I to judge your first new steps. I think it’s very brave to show your experiments to the world. Keep going and take your time to find a new way that suits you. β˜Ίβœ‹

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      • Since I don’t work this way as a rule, there are probably many things I could do differently but don’t know how to accomplish. (I only used LR, Color Efex and Silver Efex, no Photoshop, so maybe textured backgrounds aren’t possible, or at least aren’t something I know how to do in those programs). The gradients were sometimes not quite what I liked but at some point I said OK, enough work on this one. πŸ˜‰ And yes, #5 & #14 shouldn’t really be called effects. As for the direct Dutch approach….funny, they do talk about hat in all the guidebooks. I’m fine with it! πŸ™‚

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  6. Very fun, and interesting, too, just a coolness smorgasbord. I love the ghostly, bleached-bones look of #2, and the Martian sunset on #3. The graininess in #7 is appealing for some reason, even though it could be an ash-storm after a forest fire. #8, the theater backdrop for the scene in MacBeth, where he meets the witches on the heath. #10 looks like an illustration from a medical journal, β€œKids, these are your nerve endings exposed to rock’n’roll.” And #16 I just plain like, I’ll just wait quietly next to there, and take pictures when the faeries emerge! πŸ™‚

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  7. Ah the joys of digital editing. If you end up with more than one variant that you like, which do you post? I suppose the purists would have an opinion, but even the one they’d choose was subject to some editing algorithm. I think as long as you’re not trying to represent something clearly tweaked as “reality”, let ‘er rip.

    I don’t know if I have a favorite, they all have something different to offer.

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    • You post them all and keep going. πŸ˜‰ You and Howard are on the same page. But I wouldn’t discount the reality of these images, because there are a host of realities out there. It’s just that these are not the agreed-upon reality, right? πŸ˜‰

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    • Except I didn’t use Photoshop. πŸ˜‰ Just LR and Color Efex & Silver Efex, so no layers. I can’t imagine doing things like this with chemicals, having never done darkroom work. #8 looks like it could use a few stars and a moon, but I didn’t go that route. I’m glad you liked it, thank you!

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  8. Your photography is stunning! You’ve a great eye for detail. We spent six weeks in the PNW last year and fell head head over heals for the area. I’d be there now if I could pry my southern-born and raised husband away from Tennessee. I’ve gone down the rabbit hole reading back on your blog, and am looking forward to your future posts! –Marsi

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    • I do love detail. πŸ™‚ Thank you so much, Marsi, I’m glad you found your way here. Six weeks is a looong vacation, how nice! We moved here from NYC after about a week’s vacation in 2012. We were ready for a change and really loved the area, so we took the plunge, without jobs or family or friends, and it has all worked out. But I get it about born and raised, and the PNW is awfully different from Tennessee.
      Those rabbit holes! Thank you again!

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      • You’re welcome, praise well deserved! Yes, we were very fortunate to take four months off to travel out west last year (sort of a mid-career break after selling our house). Hopefully one day I can talk my husband into trading his beloved Smokies for the Cascades and Olympics!

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  9. Hey Lynn,
    its always interesting to play with such computer programs…like in former times with…creativ filters…to my opinion the first real picture is always the best, with a littel help by photoshop πŸ™‚ Nevertheless i like your interpretation in photos like Nr.5 or Nr.8, Nr .11 and Nr.17….but thats my own personal meaning …feel free to do your own thing..it will be good as always ! Best regards , JΓΌrgen

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    • Jurgen, nice to read your comment. Ultimately I think I feel the way you do, which is why I don’t do this often. But it was good to stretch the possibilities for a change. Funny, I think your choices may be my favorites as well. πŸ™‚ OK, now the Isely Brothers “It’s Your Thing” is in my head. πŸ™‚

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  10. Wow … you really got into experimenting. I looked through them a few times and #10 stands out for me … the unusual color I suppose. I usually try to get several different compositions too and you show how a single subject can have so many possibilities. Well done!

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    • It was fun to switch it up for a change, Denise. A lot more could be done with Photoshop; I confined myself to LR, Color Efex & Silver Efex. And with just those programs, I’m sure another person would get entirely different results, even with the same original image. You nailed it, saying how a single subject can have so many possibilities. Thanks Denise!

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  11. I commend you on a fine selection again, Lynn. I sense that there was a little fun involved in the creation of some of these images, and I’m all for that. I also think that experimentation is part of the creative process and some of the experiments may not be successful (at least for you). We each apply our own standards to any art form, especially those we ourselves are involved in and I think we appreciate the work others put into their art even more. While photography is used primarily as a medium to record a moment, it’s also a great tool for the expressive practitioner (as you have shown here). If I had to pick one image to illustrate my point it would be #5. Some may think this goes too far but I think you have created an image where only the bones of it existed in nature and brought to life by you. Well done.

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    • Let’s hope there’s always at least a little fun! This exercise is probably a good example of what your’e talking about – everyone has different ideas of what works for them, and when we accept that and we also know how much work goes into what we do, we can better appreciate the work of others, even if it’s not totally to our taste. I’m a great believer in photography being flexible enough to express all kinds of things, not just to record a moment. I’m so pleased you singled out #5 – that’s one of my favorites. Thank you Ken, for taking the time to write a thoughtful comment.

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      • When I was very young (all those years ago), I saw a Man Ray exhibit at the George Eastman House and it made a lasting impression on me. It was exciting, frustrating, inexplicable, silly, challenging and fun, all at the same time. It took my breath away then and it still does today. Experimenting is the foundation of photography. Don’t stop!

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  12. Oh what fun it is to play! Difficult to choose a ‘favorite’ because they all invoke a different mood. If forced to pick, I think it might be #3… it seems to really focus on the shape and the dance.

    Went back to read comments and I liked Robert Parker’s title for #3- “the Martian sunset on #3”! Probably explains why I liked it. πŸ˜‰

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    • Robert is always coming up with interesting associations. Whatever the reason, I’m happy that you enjoyed the post. It’s fun to do – just take those sliders all the way and see what happens! πŸ™‚

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    • For conveying a mood, #11 seems to work, doesn’t it? I’m glad you liked this, since it’s akin to the kind of thing you do so well. It was good for me to go out on a limb (groan!) and try something different. Thank you, Louis!

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  13. When 11 out of 17 are favorites, does “favorite” lose all meaning? Hope not.

    I like #1, 4 (spare yet powerful; would love to see it about 6′ x 6′ as the centerpiece of a large room — maybe though with a little more detail in the branch on the right), 5 (like brush painting), 6 (almost looks like it was taken out in space), 7 (for its shrouded mystery), 10 (has the feel of a botanical specimen shot in a museum), 11 (an alchemical transformation in which wood turns to glass), 12 (wonderful tonality), 15 (strong graphic sense), 16 (so feathery), and 17 (ancient wisdom).

    So how long did you spend on this before you ran out of ideas, Lynn πŸ™‚

    Working with the Nik collection always reminds me of Odysseus, who had himself bound to a mast lest he succumb to the song of the Sirens.

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    • Cool, 11 out of 17! This kind of work is closer to some of the work you do so well, so of course I’m very interested to hear what you have to say. Funny what you said about the branch on the right in #1. That drove me crazy, but can’t really be fixed – I should have used a smaller aperture. I tend to photograph fairly wide open, a by-product of living in a place that can get very dark, and loving shallow depth of field. At least that’s what I think. #5 is one of my favorites too, I’m glad you like it. I get a lot of your specific comments, but not #10. I love the idea of associating anciet wisdom with #17,. I read a good quote about ancient wisdom today – I have to send it to you.
      I’ll never run out of ideas – I just need to take breaks! πŸ˜‰ Then back to succumbing….
      Thanks are whirring their way to Springfield….

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      • I will really go to bed in a minute ;-), but I liked your art trip to LA and NYC – very interesting and inspiring – and I liked your rooftop-series very much!! What kind of variety. It could be interesting in a diashow too. And obviously you lived close to a canal or waterway too. I didn’t know about that (but what do I know about New York or anything else). You really offer other views on this special town – and I like that a lot. One of your posts I already knew with this interesting series of architecture. Like in Hamburg I love this mixture of old and new buildings. I love these small and old skyscrapers – if you can say so. I think all these modern buildings look more interesting through the old ones. And they are so nice and exciting!! And I saw the snow – wow! You need muscles when you live there, right πŸ™‚ A lot more to detect, but not tonight πŸ™‚ Thanks for these excursions! Good night πŸ™‚

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  14. Number 11 reminds me of the stainless steel tree sculpture at Crystal Bridges Museum. It’s a close tie for favorite between that and Number 6, which is just ‘natural’ enough to appeal to me, but creatively-enough rendered to cause a second and third look!

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  15. Love the photos! I use lightroom classic and NIK software also. Just recently discovered and bought Luminar. I find it to be pretty amazing. A combination of both Lightroom and NIK. Also allows you to brush in editing or add radial or graduated filters using every tool. Just though I would pass it along.

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