Improvements? What 2 years brings to the table

As I was lazing about today, going through my library of ever increasing pictures (currently at 130 GBs), I started to wonder, “Are there any noticeable improvements in the quality of my pictures throughout these past few years?”. If you’re a faithful follower of this blog (circa 2012), then you should’ve known that I’ve revisited Penang last month where I stayed for 1 night as a stopover before soldering on to Langkawi. This gave me an opportunity to walk about and snap some interesting shots (when I say some, I meant in excess of 300 shots, but only 5 were published but more on this later) for a comparison between the past and the present me, both in age and experience. The gears that I’ve used for these shots are still unchanged, that is my trusty Nikon D7000 and Nikon 50mm f/1.8D. However, I did replace one thing in my photography suite, Adobe Lightroom 5. Previously I edited all my RAW shots with Aperture 3 and while it was adequately powerful, I found more sense in Lightroom for it’s Graduated ND filter and the more preferable file syncing methods in comparison to Apertures’ tedious need of Importing the file within the software itself. It’s a minor flaw but over time, and as the file size grew, it made lesser and lesser sense.

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Penang (August 2012)
Penang in a Shot (October 2014)
Penang in a Shot (October 2014)

Between these two shots, there’s a clear difference between them. The first preferred a pale, washed out vignetted look with a more yellow colour signature while the latter uses a truer to life white balance, but with exaggerated vibrance and contrast. The first shot also seems very grainy and lack in detail while also being drastically underexposed. Although, this is not to say that the second shot is all to mesmerizing either, but nevertheless, it’s a definite observable improvement over the first.

Penang (August 2012)
Penang (August 2012)
A Monochromatic Morning (October 2014)
A Monochromatic Morning (October 2014)

Black and white pictures always seem so easy to pull out, but they never are. The me from 2 years past would’ve simply drag the saturation slider all the way back and bump up the contrast, BOOM! A black and white shot! But that’s nowhere near how it’s done altogether. In Lightroom, at the Luminance and Saturation adjustment, there’s also a black and white adjustment, where you could mix the levels of the hue to create a better black and white shot, and that’s what I’ve done in the second shot. For the first shot, the clouds were rather blown out, while the sea and buildings underexposed. It is also obvious that a lot of the black were crushed as a result of this low exposure high contrast combo. The trees and boats on the bottom third are barely visible and again, there’s visible grain in the image. It’s also ever so slightly vignetted, maybe I was in a period of vignette and grain, and such was Picasso with his famous Blue Period. Furthermore, I would imagine this shot would’ve been better executed in colour instead. In the second picture however, things – at least in my mind – are a whole lot better. While there are some dark and crushed blacks, the details are better and so is the overall exposure, but still nothing too special. However, I would’ve liked it better if the framing was done with a wider angled lens (50mm FX on a DX is nowhere near wide).

Ships (August 2012)
Ships (August 2012)
Anchored
Anchored (October 2014)

Before I compare the shots above, I would like to give a minor disclaimer, as I know these shots aren’t too similar to each other as compared to the previous comparisons, but it’ll have to make do, as I don’t have other alternative or similar shots. I wouldn’t really comment on both these photos because; (a) the same problem persists from the first shots in comparison to the others, where it appears grainy, yellowed and washed out and (b) I’m not too particularly happy with the second shot either. There’s some weird highlighting effect going on at the front of the ship, just above it’s name and that seriously bothers me. However, that being said, the second shot shows a definite improvement, both in framing and editing.

Well, I think that’s enough of rambling from me, for now. For something that’s called WordPress, my blog does seem to have a particular lack in words, so this article should bring the Zen back into this blog. Oh and before I forgot, the reason I said that I took over 300 shots per day but only publishing 5 is that I’m very critical with myself. I’m pretty sure if some of you scroll through my library, you’ll find something that catches your eyes but I think most of my shots are just plain boring. Also, since I shoot in Manual, some shots tend to have the same framing but with varied exposure levels, for safety reasons. Learnt that the hard way. On one occasion all my pictures came out severely underexposed because I relied too much on the camera’s display, and not the histogram for my exposure, what a waste of shutter count! I really should stop rambling now. Thanks for taking the time to read my poorly written article; I hope it contributed something in encouraging beginner photographers in pursuing their dream. I know that I’m not nearly as good as the most of you, but still, as long as there’s an improvement, I should be proud and try to be better. Oh and one final thing, I would love to see more comments and criticism in this blog as that would really help me in identifying the chink in my armor.

Thanks for reading!

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