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

21 October 2016

Nothing lasts forever. But for many years there was an orchard along Highway 12 between Santa Rosa and Sonoma that resisted the senior community that surrounded it.

In the middle of the orchard you could see the white frame house of the owner. That was the scene: the blue Mayacamas mountains in the background, the green ground cover, the black branches of the trees, the white house.

We didn't think it polite to photograph the house even from the road, so we didn't. But we loved the trees. And one day we walked over to the orchard from our grandmother's house in the senior community to take a few photos.

It was April 4, 1999 to be exact. And we had a Nikon Coolpix 900 with us. Its CCD captured 900x1280-pixel images with remarkable color fidelity. It was Nikon's first foray into digital cameras.

Nikon Coolpix 900. Faithful color with a 900x1280-pixel image.

What the images you're looking at today are not 1999 images. They were captured in 1999 but they were processed earlier today in Lightroom CC using all its power to wring out as much as we could from those old JPEG captures.

Because they weren't Raw images, we had to make smaller changes to the sliders. Just a little clarity helped sharpen the images, which at this size don't have the detail we're used to seeing.

We prefer the color versions but we thought the ones made with the Aged preset weren't bad either and perhaps told the story a bit better.

That also required us to use Low (for the color version) and Standard sharpening on export because we weren't down-sizing the images nearly as much as we usually do (when we use High sharpening on export).

And we still had to straighten our horizons (we were always bad at that) and we needed the Dehaze slider for the last shot, which suffered a good bit of glare being shot into the sun.

But it's one of our favorite shots. It exhibits the personality of the orchard's owner in a way a portrait can't. And you can see in it why he never sold the property to the senior community.

It was eventually sold. Nothing lasts forever after all. And developed into a tract of $700,000 homes (which no doubt are selling for more now). We can remember driving by and seeing the branches piled into heaps for removal before the construction began. That was a sad day.

So we're glad we have the photos even if they are not up to even smartphone standards these days. And we were glad we could enhance them a bit with modern software.

Had we shot them with film, we would have scanned them and worked on the scans in Lightroom. That would have yielded better digital images, even for this 800-pixel slide show. We doubt scanning prints of that era would have delivered results as good as the digital captures, though.

As old captures, these images don't get the reverence reserved for images captured with the latest sensors. You can play with them. And we did.

We ran them through a few Lightroom presets to see what they looked like as black-and-whites and with muted color. First we made virtual copies and then we tagged them with color so we could easily separate them from the original color images. Then we tried different effects, undoing the last one if we preferred the previous one.

We prefer the color versions but we thought the ones made with the Aged preset weren't bad either and perhaps told the story a bit better.

You are looking at something that doesn't exist any more. Except as a fond memory of an independent soul who once upon a time tended an orchard in the Valley of the Moon.

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