Today I shoot a 5DMKII at a whopping 21.1 Megapixels. Right after I switched from film to Digital, I bought a Canon 20D with (a whopping at that time) 8.2 MP. Now this newest camera has much better image quality and dynamic range than than older camera. But do you know what?
I can’t just walk back to this spot on Lake Superior and find exactly this fog and exactly these clouds and this amazing sunrise. True, I can bide my time and perhaps come close. But, will I ever duplicate this capture on my newer fancier camera? Probably not. I was new to digital capture when I took this image. I played with HDR but still wasn’t sold on the technique. Thankfully, I had already converted to the church of Raw else this discussion would be moot. Let’s take a walk through time from software-past to today.
Let’s pretend this is my original Raw straight out of the 20D. Basically I stripped off Lightroom preprocessing to arrive at this image as I might have seen it on the back of my camera (crop excepted and if I hadn’t been looking at a JPEG preview). Given the circumstances, I have to pat myself on the back for a pretty darn good exposure considering this was a snap shot I made while the tripod-mounted 5D did the money shot. I loved this shot and still do.
Lightroom 1’s default processing brought me to this image and for a long time, this was the default version. It was the best my software capabilities and Raw processing skills could give me. Much better than my pseudo-Raw and it made a pretty print too.
Lightroom 2 came along with its eventual local adjustment tools and I found that I could push the native Process Version 2003 a little harder. Same Raw image, better technique, better tools and a better finished product. Had I been of the ‘it’s blown, you blew it’ school, I might have blithely discarded this image. I didn’t. It hung around, waiting for new software to breath fresh life into its dormant pixels.
Lightroom 3 debuted with a new Process Version called PV2010. The controls were becoming more sophisticated. The ability to ‘save’ images was improving and my skill at using the tools improved also. Along the way, my artistic sensibilities changed too. I had a different vision for this image now. The new tools allowed me to make it so.
When Adobe announced their public beta for Lightroom Version 4 with its new process version PV2012, I was salivating. This image was always in my mind as I played with the new sliders and better control. Nothing exemplifies the improvements in the software like watching the blob of the sun shrink into a compact disk while watching the rest of the image come alive.
Four versions of software and a wealth of image processing experience later, I have an image to match the memory of its capture. It is still an 8.2 MP (less crop) image but the 12×24 print looks very nice on my wall. Now, truly this is not an apples:apples comparison as I took different artistic paths along the way to each version. Happily I saved those snapshots of where I’d been so that I could retrace not only the software’s evolution but my artistic growth as well.
How many images are there, languishing on your hard drives, burned to CD’s, stored offline that could be resurrected, reworked and reintroduced to the world? New software tools and experience gained make many marginal images recoverable-nay, rough, Raw masterpieces waiting for your attention and love.
Rikk Flohr © 2012