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Shortly after beginning my transition from film to digital (insofar as I have made one), I realized that on-site and in-camera editing often destroyed the best images from my shoots. There are exceptions – if I know exactly the shot I need and don’t yet have it; if I’m on so tight a deadline that speed is more important than the best possible quality; if my subject blinks or decides to contort themselves in the last 60th of a second – but I still forbid myself to delete photos from my camera. It is very difficult to correctly make final editing decision on the fly.

I’m sure much of the difficulty stems from the general psychological need for distance in making good judgments, but it occurs to me that there may be a physical/physiological component as well. It takes a long time for our eyes to adjust between one light condition and another, and if we are so immersed in a condition as to be capable of taking good pictures then we are probably not able to correctly judge how the colors and contrasts will look when an image is displayed in totally different conditions. No doubt most of this gap is made up by the visual/mental gymnastics required to take non-automatic photos at all – but so much of what makes a good photo is precisely that subtle, striking color/light contrast that it shouldn’t surprise us to see how digital, despite its promise, has failed to eliminate the traditional divide between shooting and editing.

Written by Nick

July 23, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Photography, Writing


with 2 comments

On Wednesday, Lizzie and I will fly to Birmingham, Alabama and begin a week-long road trip across the deep south with our longtime friend Margaret Eby.

After driving 15,000 miles last summer, even the normally intimidating 1,100 or so of this trip seems like a piece of cake. We will unfortunately miss the 50th anniversary celebration of To Kill a Mockingbird in Monroeville, Alabama, since it is a state and a half away from an event we’ll be attending in Clarksdale, Mississippi. But I am excited that our route (as planned) will inscribe an enormous cross on Mississippi – and about the fact that when it’s all over I will have visited forty-three out of America’s glorious fifty states.

A. Birmingham, Alabama: the town of Margaret’s youth and current summer residence.

B. Huntsville, Alabama: home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Depending on how our visit goes, it could be a test case for the continuation of the summer of science beyond our lab visits during the summer of 2009.

C. Tupelo, Mississippi: Elvis’s hometown.

D. Oxford, Mississippi: Faulkner’s hometown.

E. Clarksdale, Mississippi: we’ll be just in time to catch The Most Southern Weekend on Earth, a “two-day shindig of Southern music and spirits in the heart of the Mississippi Delta.” Clarksdale is also home to Morgan Freeman’s juke-joint and a great deal of blues history.

F. Holly Springs, Mississippi: the site of Graceland Too – a vast, personally curated house/museum dedicated to whom else but Elvis Presley.

G. Jackson, Mississippi: the present home of Margaret’s parents, we will use Jackson as a temporary base of operations for the rest of the trip. Eudora Welty’s house is also located here.

H. Vicksburg, Mississippi: really the only Civil War battlefield in the deep south – most of the fighting happened either further north in Tennessee or further east in Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia – Vicksburg was the site of Grant’s successful capture of the Mississippi River on July 4th, 1963.

I. New Orleans, Louisiana: no trip to the south would be complete without a stop in New Orleans.

I(a). Oil Spill, Gulf of Mexico: I’m definitely trying to get some photos of the Gulf spill – or, as the case might be, of BP’s attempts to stop people from getting photos of the Gulf spill.

J. Jackson, Mississippi (again): our last stop. Lizzie and I fly out of Jackson for Washington, DC on July 14th.

Stay tuned for photos!

Written by Nick

July 5, 2010 at 7:14 pm