“Reality” Is Just a Level Adjustment

BNSF Tracks in Cape Girardeau 04-11-2014I’m pretty much a photo purist. I don’t set up photos and I try to manipulate the image only enough that the finished product matches what my eye and mind saw when I pushed the button. On one of my walks from the river at dusk, I saw the light reflecting off the BSNF train tracks between the floodwall and Water Street.

It’s pretty similar to a shot I took in 2009, but that didn’t stop me from shooting it again.

That’s pretty much what my eye recorded, except that my eye saw the reflections on the rails as more red.

So, is THIS real?

BNSF Tracks in Cape Girardeau 04-11-2014One of the first things I do when I open a frame in Photoshop is decide if it needs cropping. The second step is to adjust the levels of the highlights, shadows and midtones. The program has a feature so you can adjust it by a graph rather than with your eye. You just keep moving a slider until the highlights or shadows block up, then you look at the picture and see if you want to tweak it. Generally you do.

In this case, I blindly moved the highlight slider to what should have been the “optimal” point and let go of the button. As you can see, the photo is radically different: the red reflections are gone, the sky has turned a brighter blue and the mural on the floodwall has become more prominent.

Neither iteration of the photo captures exactly what I was looking for, but it goes to show how a few twitches of your finger on a mouse can serve up two radically different views of the same subject.

2 Replies to ““Reality” Is Just a Level Adjustment”

  1. The second version looks like a daylight shot with the lights on. The first one captures much more of a evening mood.

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