OBX 2020 – Other Things

Dune Pattern Pano — Currituck Banks Reserve, NC © jj raia

On the morning of fog, after the image of the log in the previous post was taken, I ventured among the dunes to find patterns in the sand. And some of the patterns I found, quite a distance from the log and surf, had all the tell tale signs that the ripples were created by the movement of the surf. Since these areas were much higher than the ocean, they could only be created during a major storm, since a normal high tide would have never reached these areas behind the front dunes. So I wandered around several areas finding some interesting patterns along with some elements that portrayed the various life stages there. These are things that take hold of you, and keep you searching for the next thing to put before the lens. And it becomes very difficult to break away from the search, to pack up the gear for the hike back.

The image above was discovered along the top edges of a dune and photographing the long stretch of ripples required a three frame panorama. That choice was motivated by the desire to keep as much detail as possible in the final image with every grain of sand in perfect sharpness. I could have used the 17mm end of the wide-angle zoom, but that would have resulted in a severe crop of both the top and bottom of the frame, effectively throwing away about two-thirds of the pixels! So the difference would have been somewhere in the neighborhood of 12mp vs. 80mp. Which do you think would print better?

Before and After
Original Histogram
Altered Histogram

Weeks after I completed this post, I went through the files of all the images I took of the dune patterns and found I was not completely satisfied with the image above (which was included in the post), and decided to try to make it better using the simple technique of lowering the Exposure and increasing the Whites in Lightroom that seemed to work well with a few other images. Moving the slider to the right reveals the original after all the initial post processing, and all the way left reveals the Altered image. The Histogram on the right illustrates the the simple changes made (minus-50 Exposure; Plus-53 Whites), but it is important to see the difference in the graph itself. The Altered graph shows a wider spread, indicating greater tonal range in the altered image easily seen in the two images themselves, but especially evident in the withered grass. The original is flatter, with less color contrast and luminosity; the changes create a more three-dimensional image even though it is a flat plane. The difference also indicates that when, in your gut, there is still some dissatisfaction with the result, leave it alone for a while, go back to it, and then try to make it better. Sometimes the image can be improved even though you thought it was completed.

After the long hike back to the car, parked at the Currituck Estuarine Forest, I wandered along the boardwalk and trails and found some autumn asters in bloom that were either never noticed, or past their prime, last year. There were only a few spots where they were, but they proved very difficult to arrange them inside the frame in a way that did not look like just a jumbled mess. There were so many elements competing for attention, along with issues of varying focus distances, and shutter speed considerations to “freeze” the leaves, it took quite a while to compose the shot. As it was, after post processing and still unhappy with the framing, it was cropped into a square, which still proved unsatisfactory, and was itself cropped again into the vertical below.

Autumn Asters — Currituck Estuarine Forest, NC © jj raia

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