Saturday, January 7, 2012

"Touching" or "Retouching?"


1971 - Outside Denver, Colorado.  Shot this from the car while my dad was driving.  I've always been enraptured by clouds.  Clouds and also silhouetted leafless trees against an evening sky.  I used to waste a lot of film on those kinds of shots.  Now I waste a lot of meg.

This particular shot caught my attention because of the contrast differential between the sky on the left and the dark storm clouds on the right.  And, I liked the silhouettes along the bottom which nicely support the shot.

Problem was, in the original there were four phone lines snaking across the clouds right in the middle.  I always hesitated posting that picture because it ruined the mood - "Just ignore those phone lines and focus on the concept of the shot - what was intended - the majesty behind the imperfection...."  Yeah, right.

Well, I've tried fixing shots but never found a program that did it easily and cheaply - until now.  Recently I've received a MacBook Air.  After years of working mostly on Windows, I've been playing around with iPhoto.  And there's this cool little "Retouch" button in the Edit section.

Now I remember "retouch" from my days as a professional darkroom technician at Drewry Photocolor in Burbank in my twenties, when I did all the black and white custom enlargements for a couple of years.  Eventually, I got so good I could spend all day exposing light on photo paper that I could enlarge 175 pictures, then throw them all in the developer at the end of the day, one after another, and every single image would come up perfectly and stop at the right exposure without having to whip it out of the developer into the "stop."  (It used to drive my boss crazy 'cause his job was to dry all those prints that popped out just before closing! - Of course, that's why I did it....)

So, I thought "retouch" - hmmmmm...  I wonder if the technology has gotten that good.  I clicked the button.  I adjust my "retouch brush" size.  I whipped it along one of the phone lines and voila! - the damned thing vanished, like was never even there!  Amazing!

In short order, all four lines were gone and the photo fulfills its true potential.  But it made me think - does that same kind of retouching go on in life as well?  Of course it does.  In our memories we keep alive the parts we want and let the rest of the picture fade away until important parts of what things were really like - what really happened, are missing as if they never existed.

And so, all that we think is true, all we base our current decisions upon, has been purified, altered - in short, retouched.  So, I'm keeping the original photo around so that I never forget the truth of the matter, even though I'm likely to only show around the perfected version to those who (aside from this post) will never know.

And I suppose that would be a good approach in life as well - to purify what I project, but never lose track of the reality of the situation in my own head.

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