Photo Corners

A   S C R A P B O O K   O F   S O L U T I O N S   F O R   T H E   P H O T O G R A P H E R

Enhancing the enjoyment of taking pictures with news that matters, features that entertain and images that delight. Published frequently.

Friday Slide Show: The Bistro Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

8 July 2016

Once every few months we take a long walk to the sunny side of Twin Peaks to escape the wind and the fog on the ocean side. Our reward is a bowl of steamed mussels and some pommes frites with a glass of Entre Deux Mers at a little bistro.

The patio is a popular place but we invariably take a table inside. The cool long room reminds us of escaping, as a child, the summer heat in Grandma's cellar.

It was always cool down there. The floor uneven. A stone wheel for sharpening knives at the door. The cantina where Grandpa made wine from grapes trucked in from the Napa valley and the aromatic barrels he stored it in.

That's all gone now, of course.

But in the bistro as we wait for our mussels, the white wine sparkling in a carafe of crackled glass, that cellar is vivid again.


So vivid, we thought we could capture it with our camera. So we tried.

The rules were simple. Stay in our seat. Do not photograph our table (that isn't what set our fancy flying). Try to frame something about the place that brings that all back.

We liked, for example, the light hitting the painting that showed the brush strokes but obscured the image. Childhood is like that, after all.

We should have realized that straight shots of the bistro would be reminiscent of the bistro, not the cellar.

We liked the light hitting the banquette, a table set for four but not in use. In the cellar all sorts of tools were arranged but not in use.

We liked the four mugs on the window sill. The cellar had windows and Grandpa had nailed bottle caps into the frame of one as a decoration.

We liked the wine rack, of course. And the small barrel by our table. Wine was made in that cellar. And grappa.

And we liked the bright sun on the patio, which reminded us of Grandma's garden outside the short wooden door of the cellar.

It was so long ago we can't really believe we have any accurate memory of it. But when you love a place, you never let go of it.


We should have realized that straight shots of the bistro would be reminiscent of the bistro, not the cellar. Which meant that we'd have to evoke our memories with post processing those literal captures.

But we started by optimizing the Raw captures. They were shot at ISO 1600, so we applied a little noise reduction.

We had to use Lightroom's Upright tool in Guided mode to straighten the shot through the doorway. Verticals were one thing, horizontals another in that image.

Then we dealt with the problem of making them less literal.

We made virtual copies of the set of images so we could easily step backwards. Making non-destructive edits is fine, but there are moments along the way you'd like to freeze to return to if things go awry. A virtual copy works fine for that.

First we went to black and white using one of Lightroom's presets. When we found one we liked, we took a break for the day. We weren't, we realized, satisfied.

The problem was that the color in the original captures was itself evocative. We just needed to mute it, not eliminate it.

So we set the color balance to Daylight and knocked the Saturation down to -50. That suggested the liveliness of the patio and the almost sepia subtlety of the dining room. Perfect.

As you can tell from the shape of the images, we didn't feel any loyalty to the 3:2 aspect ratio of the camera's frame. But as we cropped the images, we felt they needed a bit more focus than just the crop. So we added a post-crop vignette.

That did the trick.

BackBack to Photo Corners