Adam Perfect

Rainy Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and allowing time for images to settle

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24.0mm, 1/125s, f/8.0, ISO 320

As London begins receiving a months rain in the next two days, here’s an image from a rainy Yellowstone all the way back in 2009. 

I re-found this image a couple of days ago while browsing through old photos in Lightroom and thought it looked really interesting. A quick bit of processing on the raw file and I’m very happy with the results, though I may need to return to it later and re-assess.

I often find the images I pick as selects straight after a shoot can be quite different to those I’ll choose if I wait to distance myself from the immediate feelings and memories of being there. Both approaches can be useful.

Reviewing images as soon as you get home (or within a day or two)—while everything’s still fresh in memory—is great for picking out the images that came with an emotional resonance while you were photographing. It’s a good time to select them and at least write some notes on what you felt and how you saw things at the time, before the memory fades. 

Leaving some time after you’ve taken a set of images helps give you some distance from your own feelings at the scene and allows you to appraise the photographs more on their own merits: as someone who wasn’t there with you might approach them. You obviously still have memories and that’s helpful in choosing how to process, but a bit of time for things to settle can give your a fresher perspective on the images themselves.

As it happens, I just watched Adam Karnacz's latest video with Charlie Waite, where Charlie demonstrates taking a Polaroid test shot on his Hasselblad and then turning away from the scene to review the Polaroid—to clear your mind and just focus on what the camera captured. It’s the same approach, although applied somewhat more immediately.

Anyway… 

I remember vaguely liking this image when I first took and reviewed it 10(!) years ago, but never really did anything with it. 

This day in Yellowstone was really great and I had gone back a couple of years ago and done a little ‘Yellowstone redux’ re-processing of the better images from the trip. Amongst my favourite conditions to photograph are just after a rainstorm has passed: the moisture brings out vivid depth and colour from the landscape and as the clouds clear you often get conditions like these: lovely high-contrast scenes with some moody clouds still in the background while sunlight begins to light and warm up areas of foreground. 

Yet I still ignored this photograph.

And then, a couple of days ago, I was browsing this set again and something clicked for me. I saw potential I just hadn’t seen before. I cropped into 4:5, removing the slip of path that was visible at the bottom of the frame and some of the grey sky up top, which is fine in this small amount but was a bit too much of a distracting monochrome block against all the detail of the rest of the image.

I pulled the blacks up while retaining the high contrast of the scene and pulled the exposure down a bit in the sky to bring out those moody clouds that had just burst and dropped a ton of rain on us moments earlier.

I’m very happy with the result, and suddenly this is one of my favourite images that trip 10 years ago. What do you think?

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