Saturday, July 12, 2008



This is a shot of the Palmer Commons and the power plant at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I was out one Sunday morning walking around campus looking for interesting things to take pictures of. This particular area is just outside of the central campus area as you head up towards the dormatories and the medical center area. The thing that really caught my eye, and the thing that made me want to take a picture, was all the vertical lines from this vantage point.

Starting from the right side of the image you see the tall smoke stack from the power plant. In the same area, a little lower there are the posts for the street signs. There are the lines in the pavement marking the cross walk. On the roof of the power plant there are short colored pipes sticking up. The windows of the building (Palmer Commons) create more vertical lines and when you get to the left side, there are the light poles. However, it took a bit of post-processing to get the image back to the way that I saw it when I was there.

The image above is the 'as shot' version of the finished image. As you can see, many of the vertical lines bend inward. I took this shot with a wide angle lens which introduced some distortion into the image. If I would have had a tripod with a nodal point bracket, I probably could have taken a panorama of the same scene and ended up with less distortion, but I didn't have that option. The other thing to notice about the unprocessed image is that the colors are relatively flat. This also wasn't quite what my mind saw when I was there.

When I initially worked on processing the shot I focused on the color. I did some work with curves and hue/saturation to bring more color and contrast to the image. The curves also gave me a more intense sky. After working on the image for awhile I sort of gave up. I thought it looked ok, but not great. Recently, I was going through some older shots when I saw my original take on this image. I really liked the look of the color, but I didn't like the distortion. Since I last worked on this image, I've picked up a few more Photoshop tips and I decided to give them a try. In particular, I wanted to use the Transformation tools to see if I could correct for most of the distortion.

Like my previous blog entry, High Rise - High Key, my main tools were the Transform -> Distort and Transform - Scale. I started with the Distort which allowed me to straighten the smoke stack on the right and the light poles on the left. Making this change, however, caused the image to shrink from the top. I then used scale to bring the elements back up to where they should be. Once I corrected for distortion, I then proceeded to work on the color.

The color work consisted primarily of converting the image to LAB and strengthening the A and B channels. Once I had the basic look, I converted back to RGB and did some tweaking of the curves to increase contrast just a bit more. I was trying to get something just a little bit unreal in the sky. The clouds that morning were quite interesting and I wanted to accentuate the sky just a bit more.

Overall I'm pleased with how the image came out. There is probably more noise in the sky than I would like but I haven't gone back to see what I could do about it. There are some other minor things that I would like to improve as well, but on the whole I think it looks pretty nice

This image was taken with an Olympus E-500 DSLR with the 14-54mm lens. The image was shot at 14mm (ff eq 28mm) with an aperture setting of f/11 and an ISO of 100.

Comments and constructive criticisms welcome

Copyright © 2007 James W. Howe - All Rights Reserved

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