Monday, September 12, 2011

Threshing machines, balers and photo processing

click photo to enlarge
Today's photograph is taken at the other side of the threshing machine that features in yesterday's shot. You can see the smoke from the traction engine's funnel rising above the trailer of wheat that is being forked into the thresher. The green traction engine visible on the other side of the baler is powering a large wood saw. On the side of the baler someone has painted the date, 1946. I'm informed that the threshing machine and the baler are both of the same date, having been bought by the same person at the same time. I'd imagined, given the wooden spoked wheels of the thresher and the pneumatic tyres of the baler, that the threshing machine was older, but apparently that's not the case. Incidentally, the baler's plate says, "The Powell Baling Press" and the maker's name, "Powell and Co, St Helens".

After I posted yesterday's photograph I received an email from someone asking how I'd achieved the painterly effect of the image. He wondered if I'd applied a proprietary Photoshop action or somesuch. In fact, I simply did what I sometimes do with shots where I want this effect: I underexposed the original shot, Recovered the blown highlights, applied the Shadows and Highlights slider, then increased the Contrast. I then tweaked the final image with a little selective Dodging and Burning. The final result isn't too far away from what the camera captured, but the alteration of the balance of light and dark does give the shot something of the quality of a painting.

There are those who don't like this sort of thing, feeling that photography is about recording and that means accepting what the camera produces. My view is that using a camera for making records is fine, but the device is mainly about making pictures, and the dumb machine can rarely do that unaided. Firstly, it does not record what you saw: if you want a better record you have to process the camera's output to make it more closely approximate to what your eye/brain "sees". Secondly, a picture (as opposed to a record shot) usually requires pre- and post-exposure input to emphasise the qualities that the photographer needs to achieve his conception. In the past this involved lens, film, speed, and aperture selection before the shot and various printing processes afterwards - paper choice, dodging, burning, chemical choice etc. Very few of the significant photographers in the history of the craft/art made no use of such things and many chose their printers by name and instructed them specifically about how they wanted the print to look. That process, using a sensor and computer/printer continues today.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 32mm
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On