Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Last week, I found out that this photograph recieved enough votes to place as second runner up in a photo contest. I was thrilled with this news, but even more thrilled that I had envisioned this and been competent enough to capture it and see it through its post processing to realize that vision. Although many of the photos in the competition were of the type that could be repeatedly shot until it was right, my idea for an entry was based on a one-shot opportunity. I arrived at my daughter's high school graduation early enough to insure that I would have a seat in close proximity to where I would need to be for this shot. During the ceremony, I fiddled constantly with camera settings trading ISO, aperture, and shutter speeds around until I felt I had a wide enough aperture and fast enough shutter speed to accomplish my goal. I wanted a perfectly crisp image, but not necessarily one that did not have any motion blur. I used a hotshoe mounted flash bounced into the ceiling behind me for additional light. As the ceremony wound down I positioned myself for this shot and was able to squeeze off three shots that captured the hats in the air. This one was the first of the three frames, and held the most hats aloft. I knew instantly when I viewed it on the LCD that it was an excellent photojournalistic type photograph.


I awoke the morning following graduation and immediately went to work on the image. My first step after minor adjustments and converting from the RAW file was to convert the image to black and white. I chose to use a LAB Mode conversion method which is by far my favorite method of conversion when working with portraits. It seems to offer the very delicate, crisp, smooth tones that I like in a good black and white photograph. The only ill effects of this type of conversion is that mid-tones are usually somewhat lost in the conversion, and it will magnify noise in a high ISO photograph. Since I was going for that richly toned photojournalistic look, I would need to take special care that I retained as much mid-tone contrast as possible. I achieved this by doing curves adjustment layers and masks in Photoshop to squeeze every drop of contrast that I could get out of several key areas in the photo. I had one layer totally devoted to pulling a shadow out that had gone inky dark between the feet of the young man at front left. This part of the photo isn't visible in the version I have posted here, but you can at least appreciate the trouble I was going through to achieve my end-goal. Another layer was entirely devoted to adjusting for contrast in the faces of the kids. The hats in the air were also treated to their own layer to adjust their sharpness and contrast. Once I had the tones I was looking for, I moved over to noise control. The well exposed foreground had very little noise, but the dark curtains on the back wall were another story. My solution here was to do two noise correction layers, one for the foreground and one for that back wall, to allow me to minimize the ill effects of noise removal in the important areas of the photograph and keep my image crisp. I then added a warm tint to the photograph to keep it from having that greenish grey cast that is present in many black and white photos. The final step was to sharpen the image using the high-pass sharpening method. I have found that this is an excellent way to sharpen the details in an image while having 100% control over sharpening the noise in an image.

The version here is one that I plan to present to our school board. They have only been in existence for one year and this was their very first graduating class. I hope that they can see and appreciate the sheer joy on each of the faces within the frame. So many dreams and ambitions together with relief are evident in every corner of this photograph. I think it speaks well to what the goals of the school board should set for itself. Congratulations to the class of 2008!

No comments: