Seeing What Could Be – Part II

Out of my tool box comes my first tool, a Sigma dp0 with 14 mm ultra wide angle lens. The dp0 has amazing resolution and minimal keystoning (perspective distortion) for an ultra wide angle lens. I know that I will lose some of the image when I make perspective adjustments so I have to capture a slightly larger image than my final frame. I make sure the vertical graphic elements of my final image, if extended to the top and bottom of the frame, intersect the horizontal border not the side border. Otherwise they will be lost after perspective correction. Visualizing my frame, I stand at the entry gate where first impressions are made, adjust my exposure for full depth of field and wait until the human element enters the scene. As one person in front of me walks toward the fountain I get the sense that he is about to make an offering to the Oracle. I snap the picture as he approaches it with his body perfectly aligned with its vertical eminence.

Back in the digital darkroom it is time to transform what the camera captured into what I envisioned. First thing is to extract as much of the information from the raw file as possible so I adjust the highlights and shadows for maximum detail, adjust sharpness, and add structure. I adjust the color to assure there is enough color to enhance at a future point but leave the image fairly flat. Next I adjust the perspective as if I had shot the picture with a large format camera to compensate for the distortion that is created when the film plane is not parallel to the vertical planes. I lose some of the image as the corners are stretched in different directions but ultimately I get vertical lines parallel with the border. Finally I enlarge the image to print size, adjust the saturation and contrast to add punch, and add structure and sharpness to compensate for the loss of detail in the enlargement. At this point, the image is ready for print as an architectural photograph, but it doesn’t yet speak to me about the experience, the perception of what is really happening in this courtyard.

The first aspect of changing the mood of this image is to add a sky to complete the closure of the open space. The white sky leaves the space void and unbalanced. So I go back into my archives and find a shot of sky with clouds. I look for something where the light is coming out from behind a rain cloud late in the day to create a foreboding mood. I punch up the structure and contrast, adjust the hue and saturation for a dramatic night sky, and paste it into the white sky. With a night sky, I start applying filters to increase textures, darken and tint the image, and fine tune the saturation/hue of each color. The stage is set for the for the story to be told.

In the final stage, creativity is unleashed to tell the story. The image is distorted to create a sense that things are melting. An energy field is added around the fountain orb transforming it into an oracle with life energy. The sky is transformed into a cosmic battle of good and evil. Questions about life and death emerge from the oracle and the granite marker in the foreground. A transgendered human stands in awe before the Oracle of Knowledge as the universe starts coming apart. Amongst all the turmoil there is a peace, a calmness, that emanates from the Oracle and fills the garden.

Somehow I feel this describes the experience people have in this place. It is a place for contemplation. It is a place for students to find peace in their complex lives as they transition from child to adult. It is a purgatory, a place for purification while waiting for the gates of opportunity to open. This is how I see what could be and create something everyone can see.