Monday, August 16, 2010

The Guy In Charge

It’s not my job to run the train, the whistle I can’t blow.

It’s not my job to tell how far the train is allowed to go.

It’s not my job to let off steam, nor even clang the bell,

But let the damned thing jump the tracks, and see who catches hell!

Such is the life of the Conductor of a train. We took a ride over to the Essex Steam Train over the weekend. We thought, having a fixed destination, we’d have a better chance of getting some shots. Too many times we toss the cameras in the car and start driving with the idea that we’ll come across “something”. More often than not we arrive back home empty handed. There are images to be had everywhere you go. Chances are you won’t spot them at 60 MPH, or 45, or 30. All you have to do is stop the car, get out and look around. Images are there. Anywhere there is. We’ve gone “Photowalking” with friends in town, within a 300’ stretch of sidewalk. We’ve gone on a two mile jaunt around the “big city” next door. On Thursday evening a few of us will be getting together near a movie theater/town hall. There’s nothing special about the area. It is one of the quintessential New England towns, so the possibilities area there. Some friends are getting together this week to run up to an Air Show in Massachusetts. I’m sure there will be many opportunities there. The trick is, opportunities are somewhere, anywhere and everywhere. One thing I’ve noticed by walking with friends is that interesting images come from every possible line of sight. It’s up to the photographer to “see” the possibility presented to him/her. There’s no magic formula to making a great image out of an ordinary scene, but if there was one I think it would involve getting small. A wide expanse of a street scene would probably have trash in the gutter, maybe some graffiti on the side of a building, clothes on a line in a backyard, all manner of distractions to ruin the shot. But, if you look at each of those “distractions” as individual images, every one of them could be a “work of art”. That’s “the eye” of the photographer as an artist. What’s all that got to do with today’s image? Hit the “read more” and find out.

Today’s image is an image of opportunity. I was sitting in the parlor car as the Conductor walked toward the back of the train, shooing people up the steps onto the train so the “journey” could begin. There’s a fairly sever crop on both sides because of the frame of the window I was shooting through. Being a “grab shot” I wasn’t really in control of the background. It was what it was. Today’s image never saw Adobe Photoshop CS5. Everything that was done was done in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.0. The Conductor’s face was in shadow due to the bill of the cap. The Adjustment Brush was used twice to lighten the face. Once for an overall lightening and again specifically for the eyes. I believe the “trick” to using the Adjustment Brush is to crank whatever you’re playing with all the way up or down the scale to be able to see what you’re doing. Since everything in Lightroom is non-destructive you can fine tune the adjustment you’re making after you have the area defined. The face of the Conductor was so blown out while I was defining it as to be unrecognizable. Once I knew everything I wanted was selected and everything I didn’t wasn’t, the tweaking of the settings was easy.

The same thing goes for the background. It was just a hodgepodge of disjointed objects. None of which would add to the interest of the image. Therefore it was just dropped out to “almost” black. There’s a couple of small swipes of light so the Conductor doesn’t look like he’s floating in a sea of pure black. The Conductor’s shirt was a crisp white. So much so that the details were lost. Toning it down to appear to be a light grey brought out the contours and folds, creating additional interest.

All in all we had a good, nostalgic time on a ride on a vintage rail car.


Kathy Marciante Photography said...

Wonderful portrait!! THe lighting is awesome!