This is the first of a new series of Before and After blogs I will be doing, showcasing the straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) images vs the final edited and post-processed versions. I’ve always been mesmerized by Before and After images, especially since I started paying more attention to pet photography and realized that many of the beautiful, dreamy photo illustrations I have seen of pet dogs on Instagram and social media are actually the result of a lot of work behind the computer. The reality is, a lot of the beautiful images you see have been carefully tweaked in post processing, some more so than others of course. Photography is inherently a creative process; the very act of choosing what to include and not include as you compose a scene, the settings you select on your camera, and what film to use or the defaults picked to covert your RAW images in Lightroom are all aspects that alter a photograph’s representation of reality.
I have always advocated for truth in photography, and will forever completely disclose any and all edits and manipulations and tricks used to create any photograph if asked. Not only is honesty important, but I feel that the public and other photographers can learn a lot about what goes into creating an impactful image. Typically, photographers (myself included) won’t reveal every and all details used to create an image in the caption or every time the image is shared or shown, because that simply isn’t realistic, but the goal of my Before and After blog posts is to shed a little more light on the post-capture creative work that goes into creating a final image.
To start, I am going to share this recently snapped photo of a fall foliage scene in New Hampshire. As you can see, there are some pretty trees but my camera didn’t do a good job of capturing the subtleties of the colors of this scene.
In the edited version, I brought out some of the color and texture in the sky, increased the contrast and saturation of the image slightly, and cropped the view further, to emphasize the colorful trees on the distant mountain and de-emphasize the green foliage surrounding the edges of the frame. I’ve also added a slight vignette by darkening the outer edges of the image; I do this frequently with wide landscapes and images with a clear animal or human subject as it helps prevent the eyes from wandering and pulls them into the image.
None of the edits I made were particularly drastic and I didn’t end up adding or removing anything from the original image, but the overall impact of these changes is significant. The straight out of camera version is one that doesn’t encourage a second look, while the edited version encourages eyes to linger.
One of the reasons I chose to share this image is because it is not very dramatic or exciting. Truthfully, if I had gotten out to shoot more this autumn this might not even be an image I would end up sharing. Yet, it shows the big difference even a little editing can make.
I’m slowly adding photographs to my website from recovered images I received back from my friend E.J. Peiker after I made the mistake of accidentally formatting my memory card while leading the AMC Fall Photography weekend at the beginning of the month. I’m really happy with some of the shots I got, even despite not getting the best weather that weekend.
This photograph from Artist’s Bluff was taken while scouting the day before the workshop began. I ran into my friend Jim Salge on the mountain and we got the slightest hint of color before the clouds thickened and all light from the sun disappeared. I’ll admit I got a little fanciful with the processing of this one, but I think it captures the beauty of this location more than the muted RAW file. Just imagine what a spectacular sunset would look like from this spot.
This is a location that Jim clued me in on after we shot at Artist’s Bluff, and I checked it out the next morning. It was one of the last scouting photographs I took before my participants arrived.
This is the path that leads to the pond above, and this photograph was taken on the very last day of the workshop. It had rained the entire day before and the trees were glistening with sparkly rain drops. This was a cropped handheld grab shot, as the participants were not taken very much by this spot and in a rush to get breakfast, check out of the Highland Center lodge, and move on to our next location.
On my way back from the White Mountains, I stopped in the Lakes Region to see how color was progressing. Things still looked pretty green there, but I managed to get this whimsical shot along one of the dirt roads leading to the shoreline of Squam Lake.
These are some of the images that jumped out at me most and I got around to processing first. I’ve been super busy (last week I picked up a rescue dog to foster for a bit and he’s kept me occupied), but have some others that I’m sure I’ll get around to editing, processing, and posting eventually. Stay tuned!
For me, one of the hardest parts of leading a workshop is the fear that I will disappoint my clients. Typically, I know very little about my participants until the moment I meet them and it is impossible to predict the diverse range of abilities, photographic and otherwise, belonging to those who sign up for any given workshop. Catering an experience to meet the needs of participants is challenging without knowing in advance what those needs are, so even the best planned workshops of mine are always largely improvised. Itineraries always change, and lessons and locations often get decided upon last minute. I’ve always gotten very positive feedback from the workshops I lead, so I’m not really sure why that fear of failure lurks still, but its definitely there.
One of my worries going into the AMC Fall Photography Weekend was that I really had no idea what the fall foliage was up to. I live about 2 1/2 hours south of the White Mountains and due to other commitments I had not had any opportunities to visit the area since a climbing event three weeks prior. Because of my new job and lack of accumulated vacation time, I couldn’t get up to the Whites any sooner to check out the foliage, so I ended up with just one day to scout – one day to figure out enough spots for three days of shooting in a variety of possible weather conditions I could not accurately predict.
So Thursday was all about scouting. Or at least it was supposed to be, but of course things are never really that simple.
While working on my programs the night before, my laptop screen went dead. Normally this would be annoying and mildly inconvenient because I use an external monitor at home, but two nights before a workshop and three hours from home is far less than ideal time to have a major component needed to deliver your instructional materials die. Because I didn’t have a backup monitor or computer with me, I spent a chunk of Thursday morning scavenging the Highland Center for an external monitor and then heading into North Conway midday to pick up extra adapters to connect the monitor and projector to my MacBook. To rub a little salt in the wound, I also managed to spill a bottle of water in my car and soak a couple of my guidebooks, one of which, ironically, was the White Mountains Waterfalls guidebook.
Equipment casualties aside, Thursday was a great day. I drove down 302 and Bear Notch Road, downtown and along the Kanc, and up I-93 and Route 3. I stopped at dozens of places, including rest stops I had never visited before and places that had many memories attached to them. Unlike most other times I explored the area, I was alone and had the freedom to explore as I pleased but also a clear mission: to hit as many potential spots as possible in a day. I usually visited a spot only briefly – long enough to assess the foliage, accessibility, and under what conditions the light and photography would be best – before moving on. I trotted along trails and snapped iPhone shots of everything.
My first visit to New Hampshire was in February 2009, and on that trip I saw Mount Washington and the White Mountains for the first time. Since then, I relocated to the state and have done my fair share of hiking, camping, climbing, and exploring in these magnificent mountains. My connection to this land is very tangible – I remember my first visits to many places and I remember the people who introduced them to me. Revisiting familiar places while scouting became a trip down memory lane. I fondly recalled bringing my mom to The Basin, camping with Camp Dudley’s Boys Camping Society at Covered Bridge Campground, hiking up the Hancocks with my friend Brett and his dog Pemi who was named after the Pemigewasset Wilderness, and stopping at highway pull-offs with various groups of friends, from the folks at Brooklyn Outfitters who brought me up Mount Washington in the winter for the first time to my friend Lisa from New Jersey, one of only three people from that area that have come to visit me since I moved to New Hampshire four years ago, to my ice climbing buddies.
Many of the places I visited were recommendations from my friend Jerry Monkman, a fantastic photographer based out of Portsmouth, NH. Jerry’s images partially inspired me to move to New Hampshire, and at this point he is a good friend of mine – I know his family, pets included, and we spent all of last summer working on a documentary together. Jerry has authored numerous books about photography and exploration in New England, several of which were published by the Appalachian Mountain Club, and he even used to lead the AMC Photo Weekends. That was until last year, when a cancer diagnosis left him too ill to do so, and Jerry kindly suggested to the AMC that I take his place. Thanks to Jerry, I have had many amazing photo opportunities since relocating here. So it was only fitting that, as I scoured the land in search of photo spots to take my group, Jerry should be the one guiding me.
The last place I stopped on Thursday was a location called Artist’s Bluff, which overlooks the highway intersections at Franconia Notch and provides a great view of Echo Lake and the surrounding mountains. I found my way to the top, taking the long route, and snapped a few photos as the sky grew dark with clouds. Thinking there would be no sunset and I was going to miss dinner if I didn’t make it back to the Highland Center by six, I turned and headed down the mountain only to run into another photographer on his way up – my friend Jim Salge! He chided me on heading down before sunset, and I immediately turned around and hiked back up to the bluff with him, where we waited together for color that never came.
Here’s where the story gets really cool – my very first visit to New Hampshire, back in 2009, was largely because of the efforts of Jim. At the time, I was dating another photographer and the NH trip was a Christmas present. My boyfriend had stumbled across Jim online and sent him an email, and Jim ended up giving him a ton of advice as to where we could go and shoot. Our whole vacation itinerary was based on the recommendations of Jim Salge! I never met Jim on that trip, but later, when I moved to NH back in 2010, we went on an overnight hut trip in the Whites and have been friends ever since. Even cooler, Jim is a New Jersey native like me. He moved to NH after college at Rutgers University to work as a meteorologist in the Mount Washington Observatory, and loved it and stayed. His story is not too dissimilar from mine, so you can imagine how awesome it was to run into him on the mountain.
After shooting, we headed back to the Highland Center, where Jim filled me in on a couple other spots near Crawford Notch where I could bring my group. Jim was headed in another direction – he’s the blogger behind Yankee Magazine’s Fall Foliage Reports, so he has a lot of ground to cover and a short window in which to capture and assess foliage throughout the region. I ended up scouting the two locations the following morning – just hours before my participants arrived – and they ended up being some of the most popular spots on our trip.
So in just 24 hours of scouting, I was reminded of how wonderful the photography community we have here in New England is. In no other place have I met photographers so consistently kind, open, and friendly, and willing to share awesome locations with others. Territoriality doesn’t seem all that common here and that’s kind of nice. In New England, photography, like many other aspects of our culture, is a collaborative process not a competitive one. Thanks to friends like Jerry and Jim, I have become even more familiar with the land I love, and every time I visit the places they have shown me I am reminded of our friendship in a beautiful way.
This is Part 2 of a multi-post series on my Appalachian Mountain Club Fall Photography Weekend workshop. Read Part 1 here and stay tuned for the next post in this series, coming soon! (Click here for the third and final installment.)
I am excited to announce that I will be leading a winter photography workshop with the Appalachian Mountain Club in the White Mountains this winter! This three day workshop based out of the AMC’s Highland Center will explore the beauty of New Hampshire’s White Mountains in all their winter glory. Lodging is included and the dates are Feb 28-March 2. For more information and to register, please visit the AMC’s website.
I’ve been on the road since April 10th, spending time in Florida, South Carolina, and now Tennessee. I’ve been doing a mix of my own photography, workshops, events, and scouting and it’s been a fun trip so far.
My days have mostly consisted of not enough sleep, but in between shooting and working, I’ve had time to process a couple shots. Most of this road trip is focused on shooting in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, a place I’ve wanted to visit in springtime for at least five years. I actually haven’t gotten too many quintessential shots from here yet, but I’ll be in the Smokies until Tuesday, so there is still time and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can create something really special before it’s time to leave.
In the meantime, I’ve also been trying to promote a documentary project by my friend Jerry Monkman called The Power of Place. This 30 minute film will focus on the impacts of the Northern Pass, a proposed power transmission line that will cut through 180 miles of New Hampshire and impact some of the state’s most iconic landscapes, including the White Mountain National Forest and Appalachian Trail. Jerry has launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising the funds needed to successfully produce the film, and if successful, I’ll be assisting him – he’s even given me the title of Associate Producer. Jerry is using Kickstarter, a popular crowdfunding platform, to gain support for his project. To learn more about The Power of Place and the Northern Pass, visit Jerry’s website. Please also consider donating to this project – we can’t complete it without your help. You can make a pledge on The Power of Place Kickstarter page.