A Critical Eye

original Neesa

original Neesa

twilight Neesa

twilight Neesa

There was a time when I would have been happy with the top photo and uploaded it right away, but that time has come and gone. Now I look at my photos differently, and look for things to improve on. Part of developing a critical eye is learning what Photoshop can do, but also learning what it can’t. You can’t perform miracles with it, but you can do wonderful things.

That said, I don’t want to take photos with the idea of fixing them after, because — let’s face it — Photoshopping is onerous work. From a purely creative standpoint it’s exciting, but the work itself is nothing short of painstaking, even with shortcuts such as actions (basically macros, or a series of tasks/commands played back/automated). There are people who shoot only in RAW format, but I’m not one of them — that kind of workflow would mean I’d sleep even less than I do now.

If I had a choice between pre- and post-processing, I’ll take photography any day. But cameras, no matter how sophisticated and expensive, will NEVER ever match the ability of a human eye to focus, find the perfect exposure, white balance, or replicate colour. That’s where Photoshop comes in.

I used to be completely intimidated by Photoshop, and David would tell me to just fiddle around with it — levels, curves, masking, etc. — and I would get the hang of it. But honestly, I had no idea where to begin. I would watch him in utter confusion at what he was doing, because he was doing it so fast.

I remember after David’s death feeling like a child who became orphaned: just as I was beginning a steep learning curve in aviation and photography and design applications and local history and politics and everything he had begun to teach and share with me… David was suddenly gone and I was immediately faced with being alone in a house with a basement of tools I didn’t know how to use, an airplane I couldn’t fly, manuals that made no sense to me, a garage full of various mystery parts. I had no idea how to continue learning, or where to start rebuilding again. It was like a massive bomb exploded and I was standing in clouds of dust and rubble.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I sifted through my full-but-eerily-silent house and tried to organise things, make sense of things, figure out things on my own. You thought this post was about Photoshop — and it is, but like everything of the past two and a half years, it is about work in progress, learning how to re-envision (revision), reinvent, find a creative solution where there seems to be none on the horizon. It is about training your eyes to find order in chaos, notice things previously unnoticed.

A lot of life is about perception, and all of that takes place in the brain. Where at one point I couldn’t see what on earth I would do differently to the top photo, in the last few years my eyes began to change and I saw something closer to the bottom photo. It’s not a radical change, but I’d call it an improvement. Sometimes that’s all we need to keep going.

I haven’t done the prudent thing and watched any Photoshop tutorials, but I’m finally fiddling around with what David suggested. And I know of ways to make Photo #2 look more dramatic, but I’m OK with it as it is. A critical eye can see what can be fixed and knows how to fix it.

And so it goes. I just hope, because astigmatism is also slowly taking over my eyesight, that I can learn faster than it will take for age to claim my eyes entirely. We shall… see.