Paul and I got together for some photos up at Fords Pond one morning last week – nothing serious, just ambled around the side of the pond, shooting some landscapes and even a few wildlife shots of a Mute Swan that put in an appearance. I didn’t think much of the shots after I finished editing them. They were good – in fact I was quite pleased with a couple of them, and had planned on sharing them here. But a few days later Paul emailed me and included a few of his images from the morning. I did a bit of a double-take at how different they looked from my own, and that got me thinking.
We’ve seen it before, Paul and I shooting the same scene and ending up with fairly different images. But since this came together so well, I wanted to make sure that we both shared our images at the same time, to call attention to way this works. His post went live at the same time as mine, and you can (and should) check it out here: Foggy morning at Fords – Paul’s perspective.
Here’s (roughly) what went through my mind when we arrived that morning: the light was still coming up, the sun behind the trees to the east. Most of the shore was in shadow, but there was light on the fall hill. There was quite a bit of fog over the pond, especially farther out where the sun was able to reach it. That combination made for a good bit of “glow,” and I wanted to be sure to capture it and especially it’s warmth against the cooler shadows. The boats made a natural foreground element, both to anchor the composition and add an element of interest. The fact that they’re reflective and stand out well against the shadowy grass is ideal.
From a technical standpoint, I’m shooting the E-M5 + 14-42mm lens, with the polarizer, at f/5.6, ISO 200, and 1/80-1/100 in manual mode. I set the white balance to Cloudy, which is pretty much my standard setting for morning and evening work, as it favors warm tones over cool. In post, I made some adjustments in ACR to increase the brightness and contrast somewhat, as well as the clarity and maybe a single point increase of the blacks. Both got a very slight bit of split toning, adding golds to the highlights and blues to the shadows, at very subtle amounts. Then in Photoshop I gave each a slight touch of curves, in Luminosity blending mode, and saved them.
A third shot, from about ten minutes later, maintains the same settings save for a slightly longer exposure time (1/60), and got the same processing as the others. The effect is a brighter shot overall, and especially in the foreground. The fog is bright to the point of almost being blown out, but not quite. (I actually think this last image looks very different from the others, but again, part of that is due to the passage of time; 10 minutes is responsible for a pretty significant increase in overall lighting.)
By contrast, Paul took a very different approach to his shots: to me, they seem both darker and cooler. From my perspective, he focused on the lack of light, working with the darkness of the shadows in the scene, as opposed to my approach, which focused on the highlights in the fog. He chose a more muted color pallet and an overall lower level of contrast, both in the photos and in his processing of them. Knowing Paul as I do, I realize this an element of his personal style – he prefers less contrast than I do, and tends towards a different color range.
I’ll let him explain his workings in more depth, since it’s always best to hear this sort of thing straight from the artist.
Just a final point I want to make sure I emphasize: I am NOT advocating that my approach is better, or vice-versa. Rather, I want to highlight the artistic elements over all the technical, and especially the way that we all, as artists/photographers/people see the world around us differently. It’s not just an academic exercise to think that others perceive reality differently from how we do; it’s a truth, and all the evidence you need is right here. Two people at the same place, at the same time, with comparable tools, yet two very different outcomes.
It really is amazing.