Jun 15 2013

Peterhof – The Story Behind the Image

2013-5-10 Peterhof Trees 1 - Final 5-24-2013

I was recently in Saint Petersburg, Russia visiting Peterhof Palace, which is Peter the Great’s summer home.

While walking around the grounds I saw this line of trees that caught my attention. They were still bare from winter and had been neatly trimmed to look like giant lollipops. They caught my fancy and I took about an hour to photograph them from every conceivable angle and composition…except one.

As I was leaving I took one shot on my iPhone to email family and to put in our scrapbook. This iPhone shot was different from the other images I took with my Canon, it was a wide angle shot of all the trees.

When I got home and reviewed the images, I was disappointed because there wasn’t a single one that I liked.  But then I remembered the iPhone image…

Peterhof Color

This is the original iPhone color shot and as you can see, the trees are just a small part of the image. I never imagined that an iPhone image, and one with the subject this small, could ever be made into a decent image.   But just for the fun of it, I opened it in Photoshop and processed it.  

Peterhof BW

First I converted to a 16 bit image and into black and white.

Peterhof BW Adjusted

Then using curves, I adjusted the image to appear as a silhouette.

Peterhof BW Adjusted Cropped

I cropped it into a pano.

Peterhof BW Adjusted Cropped People

And removed the people from the scene (it just felt better without them).

2013-5-10 Peterhof Trees 1 - Final 5-24-2013

Finally I burned down the sky for this resulting simple image.


Because the image was created with a relatively low resolution iPhone, I was worried how it would look when printed.  But because it looked good on the screen, I made a 15 inch wide test print and it looked great! I was very impressed with how good an iPhone image could look at this size.  

Here are a few thoughts I had about this experience:

It reinforced my belief that you don’t need the best equipment to create great images.  Sure, we’d all prefer to have the best equipment, but there are other ingredients that are much more important.

When you find a great shot, shoot every conceivable angle, composition and exposure. I know some people that believe you should take your time, carefully consider the composition and then take only one shot…but I personally don’t want to travel halfway around the world only to discover that my one shot missed the mark! My approach is to take many shots and reduce the chance of coming home empty handed.

Vision works best when it directs the shot and the processing.  However in this case my vision missed the shot but was able to make up for it later during processing.  Vision, no matter when it occurs, is a good thing.

While I’m not planning on pursuing iPhoneography, I sure am grateful that I had this one iPhone shot!

Jan 25 2013

Death Valley – Week 1



Here is a very short time-lapse video showing me at work at the Devil’s Golf Course.

I know that a lot of you will ask: Color?

It’s just an iPhone snap, but hopefully more serious (and less colorful) work will emerge after I get home and process my images.