April 15, 2015 — Windy Hill, Woodside, California
I was going to post something else today, but a look at an Instagram post by Óli Haukur inspired me to show this instead.
Oli made the point that most photography instructors stress low ISO settings for low noise and therefore “best” image quality. Image quality these days seems to be based solely on low noise and extreme sharpness. His opinion is that, based on these criteria, many images come out so clean as to look computer-generated. The words I use are “plastic” and “clinical.”
I think that’s fine if that’s what you really want. I don’t usually want it. Usually when I’m working on images, I’m careful not to use too much noise reduction for that exact reason. I intentionally leave a bit of noise in the picture and I often selectively soften parts of my pictures.
In light of that, it doesn’t seem so ironic that as a photographer, many of my influences are painters. Mark Rothko is one, as many of you know. But Georges Seurat is another. He is considered to be the father of pointillism — the use of small dots of pure color to create a picture.
This view of the distant ocean horizon was shot long after sunset, hand-held. The ISO was 5000. It looked pretty blah right out of the camera, but in the contrast between ocean and sky I saw a potential for something more abstract and Impressionist. To that end, I cranked up the vibrance and saturation to make the colors bolder than bold and turned the noise reduction off completely. Then to really bring it home I used “too much” unsharp mask the increase the noise.
And there you go. An homage to two painters at once. It wouldn’t have worked without the noise. Ask Georges.
(Nikon D750; Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Zoom. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 3.2. Final editing in Adobe Photoshop.)