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Friday Slide Show: Along Grand View Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

4 August 2017

Grand View runs just east and slightly below the Market St. raceway that winds along the bottom of Twin Peaks in San Francisco. It's at the top of a very steep hill that is difficult to walk down and impossible to climb without steps.

So the views, as you might imagine, are glorious. But it wasn't the views that intrigued us earlier in the week when we came back to the bunker that way.

It was the flora.

A city is part wild and part civilized and always being rebuilt. Decay yields to renovation. Age invites decay. Nothing is ever the same. And the more it changes, the more familiar it seems.

We had carried a very light and compact Micro Four Thirds camera and its 14-42mm kit lens strung over our shoulder for miles without the slightest desire to push the Power button.

Then we turned back, near the end of Grand View and saw downtown through the narrow street, obscured by utility wires. The view made us stop for a moment to take in both the chaos and the grandeur.

So we pushed the Power button, lined up the shot and took it.

We knew at the time, we'd have to straighten out the collapsing verticals with the Upright tool in Lightroom. And most of these shots (you'd be surprised) profited from a similar edit. Even a few that did not seem to have converging verticals to begin with.

Nothing is ever the same. And the more it changes, the more familiar it seems.

We kept the camera out. Wild growths were spilling over the concrete walls onto the sidewalk. Looking uphill into the sun, they came alive with color.

As we neared the end of the street, the plantings became more formal. Small symmetrical gardens precisely laid out, meticulously maintained. You can't tell from these shots taken at fast shutter speeds, but the wind was blowing ferociously at the end of the street.

It was a bright day in the middle of the afternoon and we were shooting into the sun, a recipe for high contrast. So the other edit we relied on for these shots was another surprise. We had to reverse our usual S-curve.

We start these edits with a preset or two that applies a slight but typical S-curve that darkens the shadows and brightens the highlights. For the higher contrast images here, we instead darkened the blinding concrete highlights and lightened the darkened backgrounds.

All that work was rendered useless by our typical sRGB color profile export, though. So we switched to ProPhoto RGB, hoping your browser (like ours) knows what to do with it. Big difference.

When we scour the Web each day for the items we present to you in our Around The Horn column, we see a lot of energy devoted to subjects that, we confess, simply did not enter our mind as we worked on these images.

It's almost as if the prevailing message is that you do not have in your possession what you need to enjoy the art of photography. So never mind shooting, you should be shopping.

Consequently, we never develop the skills we need to notice an image, capture it and refine it. We aren't shooting, we're shopping. We find image editing laborious because we don't shoot Raw. We just want to snap and share, like we do with our smartphone.

On this particular day, though, we stopped to look at the flora. And that's when the fun began.

We walked toward the sun which lit up the flora on the street as if it were in neon. We made our captures in the 12-bit channels of this camera's Raw file so we'd have room to edit the high-contrast images. We used Lightroom CC to do that, applying our preferred settings as a starting point with a preset and then adjusting Curves as well as the Basic sliders. And we used the Upright tool quite a bit. But if we hadn't exported them with a more articulate color profile, you'd never know.

It was an interesting excursion, you might say, like Grand View itself.

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