working backwards for christmas

wing 1
wing 1 by Tim Caynes

if I’m ever asked how I did something, I can never remember. I mean, specifically to techniques used in photo processing, not like how did I end up with a face like that, etc.

I do have a little set of preferences that I’ve built up over the last 10 years or so which are just photoshop basics, like masking, blending and tweaking shadows and highlights, which I tend to use to some degree or other in everything I do. but not usually the same way twice. the post-processing environment is such a huge beast that if I ever understood or had even fiddled with all of it I would probably implode or something. no, I usually do a couple of simple things and move on.

having said that, of course, I can spend about 7 hours blending 2 layers in a way that I didn’t do it yesterday. it depends entirely in the photo I’m working with and my short-term memory being a bit vague and whether I actually wrote down what I did last time. which I didn’t.

so when I do get a specific request of ‘how did you do that’, it’s a question of how long ago I did it, and whether I can work it out by going backwards. to make it a little bit easier, I never flatten photoshop files, which means, of course, that I’ve got about 27 high dynamic range renditions of cathedral ceilings at about 1gb a piece that are really useful as reference items, but really terrible as disk space savers. but, if I do go back to an old photoshop file and look into the layers, I can often work out what I did. meaning, I can work out what I did, like I multiplied layer 3 with layer 2 at 67% opacity and I did something to it that involved a bit if exposure correction and a layer mask but oh dear it looks like I also did some kind of calculation with produced an alpha channel with a pasted into the mix to see what would happen and I’ve forgotten quite what that was. you see, I can work it out up to a point, but…

but back to a request. I’ve been asked if I can’t dissect the shot of a wing I took a while back when landing at Denver airport, which I threw into the post-processing mangle at some point after I got back to the UK and then uploaded to flickr. I think I might be able to work some of it out. the rest I’ll just make up. but we’ll see what comes out…

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