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Friday Slide Show: After Hours Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

25 July 2014

There's a little village in the middle of the neighborhood, a business district, where we have dinner every now and then. Walking home in the dark, we peer into the windows of the concerns that have closed for the day. Why not, we thought, make a photo essay of them?

After Hours. Nothing pressing.

After Hours is not to be taken too literally. There's more than one neighborhood represented, not everything is closed and the sequence is not as you would find it on the street. But that's artistic license for you.

Some of our choices were different for this project. We'll discuss just those here.

First, we shot everything with a manually-focused 35mm Nikkor, which gave us a 50mm crop. That captured what you would notice looking in as you walked by. And manual focus, though it was difficult in the dark, let us pick what in the scene to emphasize. At the beauty shop, for example, we focused on the image in a mirror.

The windows were an optical issue, let's just say. We shot through windows for nearly everything after all. And many of them were dirty or smudged or fogged. Less than ideal. But the optical imperfection is part of the charm of the project.

Not to excuse our choice of focus, At f2.8, as wide as our 35mm lens goes, we had a pretty shallow depth of field with a subject that began about a foot in front of us and carried through the length of a room. Not a good match.

In that situation, you might focus just short of where you want to focus but there was often just air there. The diner is a good example. It's one reason we want to try this again, now that we've seen what can happen.

Of course the lighting itself was not flattering. Sometimes it was an overhead fluorescent. Sometimes just a light in the back. We didn't try to set a neutral white balance throughout but we did reign in the more disturbing excesses (like green fluorescents).

We shot at ISO 800, wide open at handheld shutter speeds from 1/15 to 1/60 second. Next time we'll try ISO 1600 and see about stopping down a bit.

Each of these that made the final cut invite you in, despite the "Closed" signs. It's the color. The window display. The promise of treasure or pleasure.

We did feel some need to unify them visually, though.

We might have made them all monotone as black-and-whites or sepias but that would have stripped them of their color, which is the main attraction, after all.

We thought of aging them (who has a village in their town any more?) using a preset or Exposure 6 (as in last night's image). Few of the images look 21st century, after all. But that seemed a bit heavy-handed, when we thought about it.

Instead, we decided to add a vignette to them. There are two standard presets in Lightroom to make this easy: Vignette and Vignette 2. We tried them both. The more subtle Vignette was pleasing but Vignette 2 more obviously unified them. A sort of spotlight effect, as you can see in the comparison below.

We went through several exports of the set before we were happy with it. Some edits that looked great in the Develop module stood out like a sore thumb when the set was viewed in a slide show.

We could have cut out a few more but this isn't an exercise in flattery. It's an educational exercise. We have learned as much from the less successful shots as the ones we like.

Because it isn't always immediately apparent what you're looking at, the captions matter here too. We used generic store identifications rather than company names, although a few business names were unavoidable.

After all, we didn't want to appear to be recommending one place over another. In fact, the only thing we can recommend without reservation is to go shopping when the stores are closed. You'll save a lot of money and never have to return anything.

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