Edit, Then Edit Again, And Then Again . . .

Ferry Operator on the Brahmaputra River

Ferry Operator

Photographs © George A. Jardine

When I’m traveling with a workshop group, I almost always have to download and edit each evening, and pick out some of my better photos to use during class discussions and presentations. And for better or for worse, those in-the-field picks generally end up in my final gallery that you see here on the blog.

And so I’m making my initial corrections on a laptop screen—which is way less than optimal, and at the same time I’m making those corrections while I’m tired and in a hurry. To make matters worse, I might be inclined to pump things up a bit more than normal to post on Facebook, or whatever. It’s only once I’m home that I have time to start rethinking some of those picks and corrections.

Once I’m sitting in front of a much better display, and with the time and patience to really look carefully at the entire shoot as a complete body of work, it’s time to begin finessing things. This is a shot that I loved from the beginning, but I had a really hard time cropping it because I didn’t want to end up with the boat operator right in the middle of the frame, horizontally.

The Majuli Ferry

There were certain elements on the right side of the frame that I felt I wanted to keep in the shot, and I guess I was probably using those elements as a justification for my original crop, which was cutting the bicycle in half, and putting the boat operator much farther to the left. Those compromises left a giant hole right in the middle of the composition, when the boat operator was really the center of interest. Nevertheless, that was the way I originally posted it on this blog. Now that I’ve looked at the photograph a few more times, and had time to really explore the processing, I feel this is a much better crop.

The pied kingfisher was another shot that I was not really sure about until I was home with time to really make a good correction of it.

Pied Kingfisher

This is an extreme crop—only about 1700 pixels across out of the 5D MKIII’s native 21MP (reduced here to 750 pixels across). And despite the fact that it was shot hand-held with a 2x converter at 400mm, it is a very sharp capture. But my original processing didn’t account for the fairly extreme chromatic aberration and fringing, which I have finally corrected here.

Most of Lightroom’s incredibly strong Lens Corrections are seldom used, frequently misunderstood, and generally not taught very well. But they’re not rocket science—they just take a little time and attention to detail, that simply spitting out to social media doesn’t require… or reward.

The idea of going back and looking hard at your edits and corrections over and over and over again, is one of the most difficult things to convey during the brief time you’re together in a workshop. It’s sort of like library organization—it really only starts to work for you once you’ve spent a bit of time on it. But in the end, it’s that extra effort that makes it all worthwhile.

Then… there’s content, which is an entirely different conversation. When I’m leading a workshop I always try to encourage the group to think about how they are going to tell the story of their experience with their pictures. Not an easy subject, but one that revolves around basic storytelling techniques, and making sure you are getting the small detail shots, along with the obvious, larger landscape (establishing) shots. Basically I try to encourage the students to shoot everything, because when you’re back home piecing it all together, you’ll find it’s those little detail shots that really help you recreate the texture of the place.

Tea Picker

Here’s an example. Near the end of the India workshop, we boarded a slightly larger ferry with a crossing on the Kamalabari – Neamati line. That particular day was much hotter than our first ferry ride, and everything just seemed washed out to me. I couldn’t see pictures anywhere. But as we were crossing, a guy walked around the boat and handed everyone a pass. I stuffed mine into a pocket thinking I might keep it with my travel stubs and other memorabilia once home.

Ferry Pass

I kept this crumpled paper around on my desk for a few weeks while I was editing pictures, and finally found a way to photograph it and get it into the final gallery. Many of the photos have been updated with better processing, a few have been removed, and this one final detail shot helps me remember that crossing of the Brahmaputra.

The updated gallery can be seen here.

For those of you who are prepared for a real travel adventure, we still have a few seats available for this extraordinary photo workshop coming up again in late November 2015. Click here for details, and remember to get your India visa right away!

Posted in Essays, Thoughts & Photos, Workshops.