Sunday, April 27, 2008

[The Wisdom of a Distracted Mind] Night time is pretty dark.

Tonight is one of those somewhat rare nights where getting to sleep seems about as easy as winning a gold medal in the Olympic decathlon. Things hurt, I'm just not capable of keeping my eyes shut long enough to drift off to any place which isn't filled with cold, dull consciousness. And, since lying in bed not sleeping is one of the most boring things imaginable, I figured I'd get up, make some tea (caffeine free), and putter around on the world wide weird for a while.

On the plus side, it looks like the issue that was keeping the posts on the Blogger blog from finding their way to my AOL Journal has been remedied (knock on wood). I think that because these posts are mailed through a gmail account, and seeing as how gmail is a notorious hive for spammers and other malicious ilk, AOL was probably preventing their access to my blog thinking that they were an endless stream of offers for free Rolex watches, penis enlargement pills, something called "V1@&7a" and naughty pictures of Estelle Getty or Abe Vigoda.

Nonetheless, it's working now, so everything should be fine... for a while... Until those damned squirrels return to gnaw upon whatever wires contain the work parts that make the internets go.

Aside from that, I'm still getting a lot of really nice and unexpected compliments for the pictures I've been posting. That's quite a surprise. I mean, I really don't know what the hell I'm doing here. I just see things I like and push the button, and aside from the tilt-shifted and HDR photos, there really isn't all that much post-processing work involved in the things I've been posting.

In fact, when it comes to quick and dirty editing during those times where I don't really feel like dorking around for an hour or so on a picture (which is most times, in case you're curious), what you see in that picture on the right are the two things I only pay attention to, and one of them, the histogram (the upper box), I can do nothing other than gawk at.

The bottom one, however, is actually a pretty simple, yet powerful little tool. And, I think a lot of photo-editing programs have a utility for altering the levels, and no one ever uses it.

First, 99.9% of the time, I don't pay attention to anything other than those three little triangles beneath that little collection of jagged mountainous gibberish. Sometimes, I'll change the channel to alter specific colors, but that is a pretty rare thing. In fact, I'm thinking politicians and insurance agents tell the truth more often than I change that channel thing. And, those two triangles on the bottom? Never touched them. I have no idea what the eye-droppers are for either. And, those numbers? Not a clue. But, I do tell myself that someday I will get around to playing around with them.

About the only things I understand are the words "OK" and "Cancel" and those three little triangles.

Now, to further prove that I'm even lazier than humanly imaginable, I tend to only deal with the two extreme triangles and completely ignore the middle one.

To begin, reading the histogram is actually pretty easy. The horizontal represents the spectrum of dark to light (left to right, respectively), and the vertical represents the amount of that light, dark or whatever shade in between (some folks say that a "good" picture will have information all across that whole spectrum, and I think those people are idiots). So, if you've got a big tall pile of stuff on the left end of your histogram, chances are, you probably should have used a flash, or you really should stop taking pictures with the lens cap on.

Anyway, as you can see at the far right of the histogram in the level window, there's kind of a gap between the magic triangle. So, for whatever reason, I move that right triangle to the other side of the gap (in this picture, I would probably move it to the cliff-face of that mountainous spike).

I don't like gaps at the ends of my histograms... They bother me. They agitate the triangles, and I prefer happy triangles.

Now, this makes things slightly brighter since, by moving that triangle, you're moving that whole mountain even further toward the extreme end of white.

So, to compensate, I move the left triangle in a bit to bring a little more darkness to the shot. If it looks good, I'll keep it. If not, I'll back off those sliders a bit by moving them back toward the ends a bit at a time until I find a range that looks good to me (yes. There have been times where I simply wound up rightback where I started. And, there have been times were I've only moved one or the other of the sliders. And, even worse, for kicks, there have been times where I've moved them until all three were piled up in the center just to see what it looked like. Trust me; it wasn't pretty).

Nonetheless, play around with the Level Adjustment feature if you have the capability in your photo-editing software. You don't need to move things much to get some great results, and it helps for lightening up underexposed photos, and it helps for taking the harshness out of some overexposed shots. Hey! Even play around with the middle one if you'd like.

The important thing to remember is that if you are happy with how your pictures look right out of the camera, that's really all that matters (usually I am). However, sometimes, especially with the luxury of digital photography, we can take some pretty nasty pictures which we think aren't worth saving or wish they could be saved. So, if you do stumble across one of those sorts of pictures, you might want to give this technique a shot before pitching it. Just remember to move the triangles in small increments at a time. Moving them too much will, of course, anger the triangles. And, I can not be held be held responsible should you find yourself dealing with angry triangles.

Good luck!



Posted By Dan to The Wisdom of a Distracted Mind at 4/28/2008 01:44:00 AM

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