The values of a storm

... a photo essay in black, white, green and gray

by Don Norris

Here's an experiment for those Mirror fans who are into digital photography. It becomes a matter of editing, using any of the better digital editing programs such as Corel, PhotoPaint or Adobe Photoshop Elements. I use the latter, mostly.

The situation was the tornado-like rain storm that hit our corner of the country on July 11, blowing down trees, causing extensive power outages, flooding the streets and scaring the daylights out of us. Rain and huge pellets of hail hammered at Melrose for about four hours, on and off, in mid-afternoon. It was exciting to watch, and damage here seemed to be minimal.

I used a Nikon D70 for this sequence. I knew before I started that the pictures were not going to be masterpieces, for I was shooting through windows that were streaked with rivulets of rain. But what the heck, maybe I could learn something.

Focusing becomes a problem, so I used the "mountain-scene" mode which eliminates precise focusing and makes the most of my depth-of-field. In other words, the sensors ignored the window glass and focused on infinity, as best it could. Which, of course, closed the diaphragm down but slowed the shutter to ridiculous speeds. But the system worked, for my purposes.

The picture I use for this essay is unedited, except for cropping and removing a corner of the door frame. Here is the original, without editing:

Notice that it came out rather flat, since there was a very narrow range of light in the storm. Yet the picture is still interesting in its forms and narrow tones. Of course when I took it, the trees, branches and leaves were thrashing madly in a 60-mile wind that changed direction constantly. And I shot through the wet pane of a storm door.

Bang! What a difference when I subjected the photo to Photoshop Elements -- and hit "Enhance/AutoAdjust" to see what would happen. Color has been enhanced, light values were extended tremendously, and I surmise that there was some sharpening. For a reference, there is a gray woodshed at the left.

Back to the original frame and now using "Levels", I added only a small amount of change to the values. A little more dark and a little more light. Linger a minute to let your eyes and mind adjust to the still-narrow values.

Again, stronger values of dark and light are added, and the yellow-greens of the forsythia bushes jump out. Stay with this picture a minute.

And finally, we run the values way up -- not fully, but for a stronger effect. The color now jumps out, that subtle gray of the fog almost disappears, and you can imagine that a little sunlight is trying to break through.

None of these photos is wrong, although I'm sure you all have a favorite. But it depends on what mood I -- the author -- want to present in the finished story. And since THIS IS the story, I'll leave them just they way they are, and let you decide.

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