I’m making this post to show two of my favorite products at work: NIK image-enhancement software and John Hartman QuickMats custom digital mats.
The perfectly awful original, shown above, is from a bunch of typical stupid seagull pictures that everyone seems compelled to take when they are by the ocean — in this case the west coast of Ireland. Shot with my trusty Canon 5-D, I was about to delete it when I noticed the gull with his mouth open. Apparently he's screaming at the other guys to get out of his way. I decided to crop in on just him . . . then I saw what was in the distance.
I played around with some NIK filters (Color Efex Pro) to add vibrancy and color to the image, used a touch of Nik Sharpener Pro on the bird, then I cropped it to straighten the horizon line. I then created a Hartman mat around it and hung it in my bedroom along with a group of favorite images I'd made in Ireland. I enjoyed it so much — because it really gives me that "land's end" feeling I get whenever I visit the the coast of Ireland — that I decided to enter it in competition. I was thrilled that it received a Merit last month at the national judging. I hung two others, both of which I used filters to enhance, but with those images I had something to work with in the first place — not just a throw-away (almost) snapshot that was hiding a treasure.
My conversion to digital did not come quickly or easily: I've observed the implosion of way too many studios placed under the stress of trying to implement a brand new workflow overnight. Letting go of my beloved Mamiya RZ67 and my fixed-tripod world has been tough. But what really made me embrace the digital world is recognizing that in my film world, I nearly always felt somewhat letdown when I saw the proofs of an image that had thrilled me when I snapped the shutter. But with digital, I can take that same image and bring out the the actual emotion I was feeling because of what I was beholding. Now, every time I look at "Homeward Bound," I am transported to that magic place that Ireland has become to me, and I am filled with the emotions I have for the exquisite land, fascinating places, and marvelous people I've experienced there. Wow! What a gift digital has given to me.