2017 in Review – Part 1
[Caution for those on data-restricted cellular accounts – BAIL OUT NOW. Don’t let this page continue to load, since it contains a hearty gob of photos.]
I thought I would present here a kind of photo summary of many of the places I visited this year. Not all are represented, especially this section on the commute toward Illinois, when truck stops and rest stops were the norm in order to minimize travel time. This year’s trip eastward was unusual in that I first stalled for time waiting for the Overland Expo West in Flagstaff. Apart from locations, no explanations are provided in the photos – I don’t want to rehash what I’ve already written. You may be able to get an explanation by entering the location in this site’s search box at the upper right, but the purpose of this photo presentation is sometimes “pretty pictures”, sometimes a simple reveal of what campsites were like, and now and then, memorable moments.
Please note that you can click on any one of these photos to see its detail in a larger format.
The photos in this post are not new to this blog, but in a way, they are. First, I’ve always left my photos pretty much alone on this blog, just for the sake of realism. Here in this post, they have not been left alone, because many of them have details in shadows that tend to be lost in digital captures. Digital sensors, like film, have only so much range that they can capture between light and dark. Beyond a certain brightness level, things simply wash out, and past a certain level of darkness, all you get is murky black. Your eyes don’t have any problem with seeing all the nuances toward each end because they continually readjust, which the camera sensor can’t do during a single capture.
What it can do is take several shots of the same subject at different levels of exposure. You can set the camera to take 3 or 5 shots at different exposure levels, and then use HDR (High Dynamic Range) software on your computer to merge the “best” parts of them together. The blown-out whites are replaced by the same areas from underexposures, and the details lost to insufficient light are restored from an overexposed shot in the group. My old Pentax DSLR and now even some smartphones can do this merging themselves, onboard, and then present just one photo showing the results. True HDR work is best captured on a tripod, so that there are no differences other than exposure between all the images.
I didn’t do any of that for these shots, since I’ve always shot handheld all year, using only single captures. But for this post, I wanted better than I had. So I churned many of the images through “Aurora HDR 2018” which is pretty much what you’d expect from the name. It’s unusual in that it has the capability to wing it from just one photo and produce considerably better than what it started with. Mind you, with no other input photos to work off of, the results are comparatively rude & crude, but they are still usable as long as you stay at the “realistic” end of processing choices. The other drawback of starting with just one exposure is that the end result is likely to contain an abundance of noise, which is a swath of grainy, off-color texture that wasn’t in the original shot. Such artifacts make photos look pretty rough and awful. But, if you have something similar to Dfine 2 by Nik (since purchased and offered free by Google), most levels of noise are easily and quickly smoothed out. Real photographers spend much time tweaking their images to get a saleable, wow photo. I don’t have fame or income waiting for me at the other end, so I don’t have the needed time or patience to expend. I find both irony and humor in that, since I used to be inordinately patient. Both programs can run standalone or install into the Aperture photo editing program (now replaced by Photos, which I don’t use) as plug-ins, and I think both are capable of batch processing, but I simply kick each photo into one and then the other, letting them do their thing. Too many photos need a unique little tweak to stick with fully automatic operation. The results are below. All that said, you won’t find any hero shots here – the goal was simply to bring out shadows while preserving as much realism as I could.