How did you make that image? #61

Image Processing Software –

What a difference 6 years makes

A look at two versions of the same image

One processed in 2005 & one today

Opera Alley, Old Town Manassas, Virginia

Heavy Rain, Night – Great Photo Op Weather

In daylight, or even a dry night – very ordinary

IMO this shows why the best images are made close to home – local knowledge & being able to pick the right time

Technical – Nikon D70, Tokina 12-24 4.0 @12mm, 25 sec, f/11, EV=+2, ISO200, WB=Cloudy, multi-segment metering, aperture priority, RAW capture, tripod, circular polarizer, rain cover for camera

  • Tough keeping the lens face dry
  • Dark & dreary – note the twenty-five (25) sec. exposure time
  • 12mm – widest lens I own to capture side to side, front near to far; bought this lens with exactly this scene and the old Manassas RR station a block away in mind because when I tried them with an 18mm it needed wider
  • Start bursts around lights were from the capture – not Photoshop
  • How would the typical photographer make this image today? You’re right – with HDR. Ugh! Often a crutch for handicapped shooters. 😉
  • If I did this today, I’d play with the metering. Something odd led to that +2EV setting?? Not smart enough at the time to understand or experiment – but smart enough to check the histogram. 😉


  • Alley at an angle; I did NOT want it running down the center
  • In picking sides, the 1st window made the right side the winner
  • Alley is the subject FIRST and a leading line 2nd
  • Vertical was the better orientation – do both always
  • Windows & lights serve as leading lines
  • Tack sharp from front to back; lots for the eye to examine
  • Gate was closed; I opened it part way to invite the viewer into the scene
  • Converging lines provide the needed sense of depth


1.Photoshop Elements/Adobe Camera RAW for RAW conversion

2.Tonal & color contrast adjustments in Color Efex Pro 4 using my custom designed recipe for basic image post processing

Step-by-step detailed illustration in this post

3. Silver Efex Pro 2 – B&W conversion

4. Combined 2 & 3 in PS via luminosity blending (better detail)

This is an image made about 6 years ago when I was just starting to get serious….

It did well in competition in 2005, but I wanted to see how it would look in 2011 based on my current “vision” and, more so, how the improved editing software available to me now would aid with that vision.

IMO the original version, shown later, was relatively flat & lifeless. I wanted to see/show more detail. (The image has been in the closet for 6 years – how soon we forget ;-))

Here’s the 4-step sequence listed above.

  1. After RAW conversion
  2. After applying the recipe of step 2 above
  3. After conversion B&W in Silver Efex Pro 2
  4. Combining 2 & 3 using PS’s Luminosity blending mode

Progressively more tonal contrast & detail from 1-4.

My “vision” for this image is quite different from that of six years ago.

The captured color is more vivid than reality & has a red cast (check the sky). Between what I consider to be bad color or B&W, I’d go for the B&W. Today’s image is a compromise.

This is a reason why I save negatives (RAW files) of all of my images –

New software allows changes and/or improvements not possible when the image was first captured

Silver Efex Pro 2 is a game changer (plus my learning about the possibilities of Luminosity blending); good B&W conversion was beyond me in ’05 (even though I won B&W print of the year – and color – that year ; not this image though ;-))

And here’s the 2005 version alongside today’s. Click to enlarge.

  • Note the similarity between 2005 & step #1 of the four step illustration above (apart from the red color cast which I fixed in ’05).
  • 2005’s version is just a hair beyond today’s RAW conversion
  • When competing, “make it look exactly like the capture” (whatever the hell that meant?), was drummed into my head repeatedly with the strong suggestion to do otherwise was cheating. (Sorry, Joe; I’ve moved on.)
  • The 2011 version, even if possible via the 2005 software, is not something that I would have entered.

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