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On Image Post-Processing for Enhancement
Category: Photography
by Admin on Monday, July 7th, 2008 at 01:49:00

There exists a fairly vocal group of people who would tell us that a picture should be an exact representation of what you would see, as a human, had you only been there to see it. At least, as best as can be managed; that's the goal. I find this to be only one very limited way to look at the world with tools of higher resolution and capability than my own. My own approach is... other.

Imagine for a moment that you hold a stereo microphone out in front of you with the respective gains set in order to record, as closely as possible, just what you would have heard.

When the recording is done, you have a representation of audio events, perhaps of interest, perhaps not. It's very human-scale; Hopefully something of interest did happen. If it did, you'll have that recording of just what you would have heard. A historical record of typical human perspective, one might describe it as. By no means worthless. With content, it is fair to say, just as expected. Because that was the goal.

If, however, you put that same stereo microphone down into wild brush and turn the gain way, way up, far past the point where it equates to what you would hear... now you hear the crickets stepping from place to place, not just calling; you hear every leaf rustle in the most gentle of breezes... you hear the stealthy footprints of a cat as it stalks a mouse, and you hear the mouse panting as it passes the mics, tiny, crackling footsteps creeping from side to side across the stereo field...

Is this an invalid, "impure" preparation or treatment of a recording? I don't think it is. I think it is transcendent. A way to view the fine details of things that are normally below our ability to perceive. It opens new doors, doors we don't normally open, but which are always there, nonetheless. The power to do this is technological; we have tools of unprecedented sensitivity and resolution at our fingers, and this is, at least to me, a very interesting way to use them.

So... if we push the saturation of a scene so that which appeared as only grey takes on the warm colors we could not see... so that which seemed to be simply white points of stars take on the bright colors of the elements burning within, an amplified sense of the raw, dying emissions of the very atoms stoking the fusion fires; so that the gentle blush of a lover's breast becomes fire in our eyes... who are these people to tell us that such an approach is "impure"?

Personally, I'll thank the purists to keep their low-gain, minimalist, squinty-eyed limitations to themselves, thanks. They're entirely welcome to them. I truly hope they enjoy themselves.

Yes, I processed this extensively 🙂
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