March 29, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

                                                                  AN INTERPRETATION OF STEEL BRIDGE SPRING, 2010, IN 2024

This morning I looked back on three short walks I took in the Spring. As opposed to last week, when I cruised through Laurelhurst Park, I took these walks fourteen years ago, in the Spring of 2010. Through the two miracles that pixels never seem to die, and that I haven't managed to lose these files over the years, I was able to spend just a few minutes in order to show you how easy it is resurrect and improve your old photos.

                                                                  STEEL BRIDGE SPRING, 2010

I snapped this view of the Japanese Memorial Garden and the Steel Bridge as our Cherry Trees blossomed out many Springs ago. Last week at the Market repeated this scene as thousands came to view the spectacle. Unfortunately the usual Spring rains will have probably stripped most of the blossoms by this weekend. This image was lost in the archives not through any faults of its own - it had just lost out to "better" images over the years. There is nothing really wrong with the image; it took just a few moves to improve it in my mind - some of which can be characterized as even more anal than usual. I used the crop tool to move the left edge in just enough to remove that thin sliver of rock that was bothering me. I then straightened out the image a whole .02 degrees, which is of course ridiculous. Exposure and saturation modifications darkened the overall exposure while highlighting the trees, which were the whole point. The bridge was brought back to its true "colors" by lowering the black point to achieve true Steel Bridge black. There was nothing to gain in the sky, since it was as uniformly gray as usual. But the overall impression of the "after" image seems to justify my stopping to capture it more than a decade ago.

                                                                  HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD

Later that Spring I took a short walk in Portland's Hollywood District, which is delineated by the Hollywood Theater, a landmark movie palace whose architectural exuberance has few rivals in town. This image was again overshadowed by my efforts to include the iconic neon sign that's out of the picture, stage left. But I did respond to the overwhelming terra cotta carvings on this false facade above the marquee, which seem to extol an historic period that existed only in the architect's imagination. The overall effect can only be characterized as somewhat Oriental. The orange and green garlands of vegetation and the numerous decorated vase-like parapets are only rivaled by the row of nymphs who seem to have suddenly realized they had forgotten their blouses.

                                                                  ARCHITECTS ON SOME KIND OF DRUG

There was not much left to do here beyond the usual and necessary sharpening required by all digital captures. I opened up the shadows just a bit to reveal just a little detail in the overhangs, and very subtly increased the saturation of the greens and oranges of the decorations. I deepened the blue of the sky to what most people who aren't Portlander's might reasonably expect on such a nice day. I tried to "expand the canvas" to the right so as to include that last bit of cornice which was lost those many years ago, but my current expertise in Photoshop was found wanting; such an improvement awaits further education. I tried converting to black and white, but the subtle polychromy of the subject just revealed a bland gray rendition without much more detail, so I left it alone.


I walked past this lovingly preserved old truck in the Spring of 2010. Hopefully it still exists in someone's garage. The following variants show what you can quickly achieve on the computer years after the fact - and they are just scratching the surface on the different takes you can make of an old subject.

                                      CANDY APPLE RED

Without much ado I quickly focused on the subject at hand and immediately reached for my trusty 1:1 crop. Fortunately I just managed to get the important stuff, the vents and the "Custom" insignia, into the square crop. You might be forgiven for thinking that it's too crowded, but opening up the frame would again require that I expand the canvas and create some more pixels. Someday. More important was to lower the exposure enough to bring back the colors. In cases like this that will really enhance the color, since the actual colors are far too complex to saturate them individually. Lowering the black point also helped to delineate the joint in the body work at the hood. I will leave it to the next guy to go to the trouble of cloning out the pollen above the fender - let's get real!

                                      BLACK AND WHITE VERSION

I couldn't resist trying a black and white conversion, even though the image seemed to be all about color. I was pleased that the image now seemed even richer since I could further lower the black point without making everything too saturated. Black and white even got rid of the pollen! And before you declare the black and white "unrealistic", how do you know that the truck wasn't painted a rich black in the first place?

It's great to take a walk in the Springtime, even if the current weather is not cooperating. I encourage you all to take these walks back into your archives to see what you can find there.