Can You Teach An Old Photographer New Tricks?

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The patron saint of photography has blessed me twice during the past several weeks.  First, there was the discovery of five or six packages of photographs that I do not remember taking or ever seeing.  Most of the pictures were shots of my then teenage children and the girls, Dakota and Arizona, red Doberman Pinschers.  There were also maybe a dozen neat Christmas photos of my old farmhouse lit up for the holidays.  What was different about them was that they were shot around sunset.  Every other time I have shot Christmas lights; I waited until it was very dark out, why I now question the wisdom of.  I will post several of these this coming December.

I always knew about those packages of pictures, because even though I have many thousand photos, slides and negatives, thanks to being the neat freak/perfectionist/obsessive compulsive person I have grown to be, I know where all of them are.  These photos, located in one of four boxes that contain every picture that does not make the cut for album placement, and negatives were right beside several concerts worth of pictures of the Chris Duarte Group, for which I was searching and were all in same photo/negative folder they came back from the store in, neatly arranged though not alphabetical.  I grabbed them all because there was also one folder marked Farm 360 Degrees that I wanted to look at.  Those were shot probably that same Christmas season, while either hanging or taking down lights on the roof of the farmhouse.  A 360-degree panoramic view of a life I no longer live.  These too, will one day be posted.

Why I never bothered looking through those folders of photographs is that one of my obsessive-compulsive traits was to go through a new package of pictures separating the good from all the rest.  The good would almost immediately be placed in a photo album; the rest along with the negatives would go back into the package, marked as to what they are.  My thinking was that the sooner photos are placed in an album, the fewer the fingerprints.  Every time I would see these photos marked Kids and Girls, I never thought anything about them because if there were any good, they would already be in an album.  These photos were a gift!  The development date on the back of the photos indicates that they were taken at the height of the lowest point in my life, during much turmoil, in the mist of a severe mid-life crisis in which nearly everything was lost, in which one life ended and another begun.

While looking for something to turn a color photograph into an old-looking black & white, a photographic epiphany was experienced last week after discovering Picasa, a free software program I downloaded.  I have yet to get the desired results I was hoping for with Picasa regarding black & white photos, but that’s not to say it doesn’t, as there are many more features that I have yet to experiment.  However, what it did to my color photographs was truly amazing.  The first thing I found was that it would frame and mat a photo, one that I could then post online.  Being color-blind, this is always a problem for me, but I thought lets see what I can do, then get my neighbor, my eyes whenever I need to order mats for actual frames, to grade my effort.  Picasa provided a color rainbow to choose from by pointing the mouse at the desired color.  Then, probably by accident, I noticed that if I pointed the mouse at the flower in the photo, the mat changed colors to match.  WOW!!!

This however, was not all that impressed me with Picasa.  It also has a feature called Boost that does just that, it boosts the colors in the photograph on a sliding scale from a little to a lot.  With just some tweaking of fill lighting, highlights and shadows, and maybe just a touch of color temperature adjustment and Picasa takes an average looking photograph and turns it into a work of art.  Flowers #321A is the original scan of my 4×6 print, with some tweaking as well using only the scanner software.  Flowers #321F is the finished project via Picasa.  Can you teach an old photographer new tricks?  Thankfully, yes!

If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too much or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment.  Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!

Steven H. Spring

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