April 21, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

                                  GOD RAYS IN MAINE, 1988

I return to my archives this week to discuss several images I captured as slides way back in 1988 on a trip to Maine, centered mostly on Acadia National Park. Once again I was shocked in two ways when viewing these slides by window light for probably the first time in this century. One is how hard it was to shoot Kodachrome, notorious for its beautiful color rendition, harsh contrast, and very dark shadows. I clearly was not very skilled at such an exacting media. The other conclusion I keep arriving at is that while my photography has certainly improved over the past few decades (!), these old images contain the germs of a "Rich" photograph. It just takes a little or a lot of coaxing in Lightroom to reveal the quality hidden in the slides. Believe me. it would only be boring for you and embarrassing  for me to show you the original slides. Often a little cropping and horizon straightening would suffice, but my problems with exposure required a lot of massaging just to render something that you could even look at before you could make a judgement on the composition of an image. While I hope that I have not lost that Kodachrome vibrancy, I can say that I wasn't half bad back then, now that you and I can actually see what I was after.

In this first shot I was attracted to the color and what photographers call the "God rays" in the sky, caused by the intervening clouds. This rendition is pretty true to the original slide. I lightened the water and the coastline only a bit, since I wanted to preserve the blues and really didn't care about any of the "human" details along the coast. The sky is almost exactly the original, since no matter how subtle I was in my efforts to dodge and burn,  the rays enhancements were instantly apparent. I used 21st century noise suppression to lower the noise quite a bit, and liberally removed dust spots and such from my scan.

                                                             ROCKS IN THE WATER

These next few images are closer to my usual attention to more intimate landscapes, where I tried to focus on smaller areas of the volcanic coastline, even more rocky than Oregon's. In general, the task was to reduce the contrast of the original slide. The waves had appeared to be blown out in the slide, but now show much more detail while retaining their dynamic movement. The clouds in the sky are back, and there is at least some detail in the dark coastline. If I was to make this larger I would work some more at actually darkening the coast to draw your eye away from the two houses; a larger rendition would also reveal more of the detail in the foreground, which actually appears pretty sharp.

                                                             ROCKS IN THE WATER, BLACK AND WHITE

The black and white version accomplishes some of this, but I actually prefer the color. It appears to have too much contrast and a little dull at the same time, which doesn't quite make sense. I think cropping down even further to just the middle ground or foreground might help.

                                                             CROP ONE : GET RID OF THE BACKGROUND

                                  CROP TWO : GET RID OF THE FOREGROUND


It is pretty amazing how different framing can change an image. It just goes to show that one of the most important things a photographer can do is to decide what to include in the frame, even decades later. You can decide, and certainly debate, a=on which framing works for you.


Here I think that I have achieved some intimacy with the rocks by cropping with abandon to eliminate most of the original boredom to the left of the cliff face and dealing with the wonky horizon line by just getting rid of it. In this image some judicious dodging and burning on the cliff face revealed a lot of detail without distorting the dramatic dark granite.


More rocky excellence above the coast. It is amazing to me how cracked a rock can get without collapsing completely, but that is the difference between human time and geologic time. I'm not sure which version I prefer, not so much because of the blue sea but that I like all the shades of brown over the shades of gray. There is subtly more detail in the black and white, especially in the foreground.

                                                                GRANITE IN BLACK AND WHITE

                                  I WOULDN'T RECOMMEND SWIMMING IN THE FOG

This image, like it or not, shows the power of digitalizing slides. The original slide is almost a monochromatic red, the result of experimenting with a red filter on slide film. Don't try this at home. The minimalism can now come through in black and white. I straightened the image by assuming that the deck was level, since the horizon line doesn't really survive my exposure or the fog. This is only the left side of the original slide, since crop after crop couldn't preserve much more negative space without eliminating too much deck or shoreline. So I just converted to a square.

            WHAT HORIZON LINE?

The final three images show the power of viewing the same scene over a few days. It is Maine, so I was never so nuts as to actually swim out to the floating dock. You can certainly decide which view of the lake you enjoy most, but at least you can see how the weather and the time of day can dramatically change the appearance of even such a minimal landscape.


Except for straightening the horizon and reducing the noise in all three images, these are pretty accurate renditions of the conditions on a quiet lake in Maine over thirty years ago. I imagine, and hope, that it looks pretty much the same today.

            END OF THE DAY

It was a lot of fun to show you some of Acadia, rescued from my old slides. I encourage you to travel to Maine if you ever get a chance. Have a lobster roll for me.