I read various blogs and engage with other photographers quite a bit. On a recent tweet exchange with my friend Rey from Cuba I had told him to send me some raw files from various scenes from different regions and Rey happily obliged. I really didn’t specify to much until I saw the first .nef file. Yes, Rey is a faithful Nikonian and Nikon gear runs deep within his veins. Then I saw this first image, some ruins and I loved the composition it totally blew me away. I immediately recognized that its potential had not been reached. Like many us, Rey has a multitude of files he simply has not gotten around to process. I won’t speculate as to the reason why Rey hadn’t gotten around to touching these files but I can only imagine life itself sometimes doesn’t give us enough time along with our other responsibilities of adulthood but I can totally relate when I peruse my own Lightroom files[Don’t forget to read the morale of the post below].
First of all, I think its quite apparent that the composition is simply delightful. The road ahead as the suns sets, the beautiful ruins probably dating back 400 years, the textures, it all needed a makeover in order to come alive. So right into Lightroom it goes and I started from a preset and started tweaking from there, adding some brushes and boom I finally arrived at this.
I rather like it and so did Rey, he communicated to me that the new image got a dimensional makeover which it didn’t have. I’m hoping he chimes in on the comments with some background information on how he saw these shots.
Subsequent to this first processing job, I immediately tweeted Rey to please send me something that would qualify as street photography as I wanted something else and again Rey obliged. Gotta love this intercultural photography exchanges! Here’s the original frame and it was again apparent to me that the composition was great but the frame was missing some tender loving care.
I debated whether to process this image in black and white first after a few exposure corrections but immediately I knew it need to be in color. Cuba is a country riddled with scenes and scenes some of us have never seen before and I didn’t want to leave it to the viewers imagination. Here’s my version of this image.
Again, I’m happy Rey loved them and I think the morale of the story here is to never throw away your files. You never know what will happen with a little time on your side. Another thing that blew away was the astounding amount of details that can be extracted from a Nikon D300S. Processing these files was simply delightful, I felt like I was drawing and had a great brush and canvas.
If you have not visited Rey’s blog Desde Mi Habana make sure to have a look. Rey’s site is filled with wonderful idyllic scenes from Cuba from all genres. Thanks Rey for being such a sport.
Above is our conversation and I wanted to expand on a few points because my initial tweet generated the discussion between Wouter and myself. Photography, the actual act of photographing, is undoubtedly a seperate process from the art of actually post processing ones images. As John Sexton once said:
For me the printing process is part of the magic of photography. It’s that magic that can be exciting, disappointing, rewarding and frustrating all in the same few moments in the darkroom.
You see I too agree with my friend Wouter. Moment, composition, and lighting are all important but its my humble opinion that you can’t really separate it from another aspect – the actual printing or post processing. What good is to have a wonderful exposure if it lacks on the print or processing quality. Some may argue that it needs very little but its my contention that even great exposure benefit tremendously from post processing. Just look around but if you must just look at photography images from just about any photographer, what we see, is the glorified printed or post processed version. So that discard post processing as not “photography” is a tricky path to follow.
A little known fact is that even the greats but we’ll focus on one, Cartier-Bresson, didn’t print any of his images. Yes, the iconic images we’re use to seeing all over the web, photography books, posters, and more. It turns out HCB et al. delegated such a task to a master printer. Someone that could extract all the image had to offer in the most creative and representative manner in accordance with the artist’s vision. His name, Voja Mitrovic, a Yugoslavian master printer who dedicated his life to printing the masterpieces of many world renowned photographers. To quote a paragraph from a post published on the great site “The Online Photographer” titled Voja Mitrovic, Printer to the Greats (Part I). [Part II here]
A large number of the signed prints of H.C.-B. on any wall in the world printed from 1967–1997 were made by Voja—this fact is little known. He also printed at various times for many of the world’s other master photographers: Sebastio Salgado, Werner Bischof, René Burri, Marc Riboud, Robert Doisneau, Edouard Boubat, Man Ray, Atget, Helmut Newton, Raymond Depardon, Bruno Barbey, Jean Gaumy, Frederic Brenner, Max Vadukul, and Peter Lindbergh to name a few. I have had the great fortune that Voja has been my printer for the past twenty years.
So to conclude, by saying “its not photography” I beg differ, its just as important as the actual process of capturing the images. I don’t think we can separate the two, photography & post processing, because what would these pillars have done without their Mr. Mitrovic. Certainly there were other great printers but I think its clear that these giants trusted the hands and also the vision of set forth by Mr. Mitrovic work to such a degree that they delegated such an important part of the creative process.