Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age

To Mess or Not to Mess? That is the Question…..Photographically Speaking.


I may have indigestion later…….. I just ate my hat…….. Ok, it was an imaginary hat, but there is imaginary indigestion, no? An imaginary hat as in the statement, “I think photos should be natural and not tampered with, and I’ll eat my hat if I ever do that!” You get it, no? In other words, I was a photography purist and I am converted.

I blame the Guanches. It was on a thundery-looking afternoon I went with RunawayBrit to see the pretty, little town of Candelaria. We’d been enveloped by chilling mists most of the day in the Teide National Park and descending the northern coast of the island,  I’d abandoned plans, and turned south, but when we reached Candelaria, the clouds had risen so that they hovered, thick and menacing above, but least we could see stuff! So we changed plans again, and stopped there.  My photos of those imposing statues of Guanche kings were disappointing when I came to look at them on the screen, though…..which is when I began to mess with them, and this was the result.

And in the time it takes to click a couple of times, there I was – hooked! In my defense I state that I always said that what I wanted my photos to do was convey a message, and the truth is that the camera doesn’t see what the eye sees, let alone what the heart sees. And for me Pelicar towering into the stormy sky was threatening the Spanish invaders, and preparing to fight to the death, and enhancing the photo conveyed that message. Or am I trying to justify my conversion?

I went out to capture the sunrise a couple of weeks later. Now, I know – I’m lucky to live somewhere where scenes like the one below are, well, quite common, really, which means that by my standards the photos weren’t that special, yet when I “messed” with one of them and put it on Facebook I got more comments than usual. Vindication? Well, no, because now I was feeling the guilt. Were my photos more  “some tart with too much make-up” than “a natural beauty?” I wasn’t at all comfortable with the messing.

Still feeling the guilt, visiting Icod de los Vinos on a very dull day (dull as in overcast skies that is….which is not to say overcast in the UK sense, but that the sky was an utter white-out, and the sun hidden), I snapped the dragon tree because it was in full flower, a noteworthy event, I couldn’t wait for the possibility of a blue sky. More disappointing photos, but would they look ok if I messed with them? What do you think?

Hmmm. Maybe? I began choosing random photos from my files.

Am I a total convert? Well, probably, so much so that I’m making a whole, new page just for photographs, ones, that is, that a more than just snapshots to illustrate text.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally happy with any of the above photos, and I know I’m still experimenting. Wishing I’d had the extra money for the third part of that photographic course I did a couple of years back, which dealt with this sort of thing – perhaps I would have had a different perspective a while back. I only use Picasa right now, there just isn’t money for anything I actually have to pay for, and I appreciate that with a more sophisticated program I would get better results, and I assume that if I was using something more advanced I would, yes, be a convert…….so excuse me while I go look for the imaginary Rennies.

Author: IslandMomma

Aging with passion; travelling with curiosity; exploring islandlife, and trying to keep fit and healthy.

26 thoughts on “To Mess or Not to Mess? That is the Question…..Photographically Speaking.

  1. It’s a really important of any creative photography. Before digital we spent hours in the darkroom with smelly toxic chemicals, creating masks, dodging and burning, altering colour balances, and lots more.
    Now with programs like photoshop we can do all that in the bright daylight and what’s more if we are not happy with the results it’s possible to start again.
    For a more sophisticated program than picassa, (which is not very good!), look at Gimp. It’s free and has lots of useful adjustments.
    Also, cheaper than Photoshop is Adobe Lightroom, has a lot of the funtionality of PS without the high cost.
    Keep playing!

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to comment like that, Phil. I really appreciate it.

      Actually, it was when I went to the Don McCullin exhibition that the light began to dawn. There was a picture of one of his pictures, with notes pinned all over it, about enhancing it, and that hit me like a ton of bricks, and blew away some of my preconceptions about the photo being 100% in the taking of it. It was, like, “Well, if Don McCullin did it, then it must be ok!”

      Pre-digital, when I used to dream about taking photos (it was always too expensive for me) I used to imagine what it must be like to be in a dark room – but I’m sure it must be much nicer, sitting here by the open window :=)

      And thanks for the tip about Gimp. I’ve heard of it, and I will download it without further delay. I knew Picasa was rubbish, but I was worried about overloading my cheap laptop. At least now I have a spare so I can experiment a bit!

  2. So glad you have finally come round – of course, it´s not for every photograph, but it has its place. And I love that very last throw away line…………

  3. We are all on this earth to play a little. Have fun Linda! My instinct is to say if it improves the photograph and gives it an inner depth, then go for it. It’s all about what you are trying to say isn’t it? I like to play with mixed media. Isn’t photoshoppin much the same? Cropping and clour changing can extract stuff you never knew was there til you try.

  4. I know what you mean, I struggle with this myself. I tend only to crop or adjust the brightness on most photos. Recently though when I find a photo which didn’t come out quite the way I planned I’m less inclined to bin it and more inclined to start applying some effects. I don’t want to make it look like I took a better photograph, but to create something completely different and quite obviously messed-around with. If I could attach a picture here I’d show you what I mean!

  5. You said:

    “In my defense I state that I always said that what I wanted my photos to do was convey a message, and the truth is that the camera doesn’t see what the eye sees, let alone what the heart sees.”

    That is the crux of the matter for me. Unless you take several shots exposing the picture for the brightest and dullest areas, then the camera does not see what the eye can see. I’ll brighten highlights or darken the shadows slightly to more accurately display what I remember the image was to my eye.

    Occasionally I’ll add effects to produce a ‘picture’ – a piece of art – that is not meant to be an accurate representation like a photograph. This may be to create an image that portrays as you say, “what the heart sees”

  6. Yep HDR can really make a photo come alive, especially when you’re dealing with a scene partly in bright light and partly in shade. I have no doubt I’ll experiment with that when I get a tripod…..still saving! End of the day, it’s about communication, isn’t it, about feeling that you have something you want to share, and the photo you end up with is the image you want to share with others to make them feel the same way, or to understand how others feel.

  7. Welcome to the world of digital post processing, but I have to warn you, it can be addicting! 🙂

  8. I’m happy with picasa, it’s quite sufficient for cropping, adjusting shadow and brightness, adding textures, removing blemishes, also adding frames if you must, and creating collages; it does not have the sophistication of Photoshop (no curves, no eraser) and you have less control over what you are doing, but it’s fine for my own unprofessional purposes, and you can attenuate the horrible HDR feature and the lomo effect.

    • Wow. You see I thought you used something much more complicated, because you know how much I love your work! I’m in the happy position of having two computers right now (no, didn’t win the lottery they are both really cr*ppy!) so I can try Gimp on the other one and see how it they compare :=) I used the HDR on the photo of the dragon tree, what do you think?

  9. I´ve only just started using Picasa and I´m delighted with the results, though I take on board the comments made in your comments from people who know better than I do. It IS strangely compulsive playing around with the images though 🙂

    Perhaps I´d also better have a look at Gimp.

  10. They all came out really well! Congrats!

  11. Thank you. I’m glad you liked them. I love some of them & others not too sure, but all interesting stuff in the doing of them!

  12. I definitely agree with you. And your photos came out quite nicely. I used to try limiting myself to SOOC as well, but now routinely adjust brightness, contrast, etc. I try not to go overboard with post processing. Bit of laziness there too. 🙂

  13. I’m sure it’s not laziness! It certainly doesn’t feel as creative, though, does it, sitting at a computer, compared to crouching on wet grass to get the right shot or something? My idea remains to convey what I see, which is normally (but not always!) the beauty around us.

  14. Interesting comments here Linda. You mentioned Don McCullin and my first thought was well, here’s an intense guy who has a political agenda and that’s what moves him. Find out what moves one is a good starting point I think. My father was a professional landscape photographer who also had a love affair with steam trains and his work was posthumously published recently by a train buff. But his heart was in the British countryside and that is reflected in his work. His love of it. If one has a passion and one can apture it in a photograph and then play with it but not so to lose the original concept then you’re on the right rack I guess. My father spent his life either outdoors walking and “shooting” or huddled in the darkroom enlarging and cropping. He was one of the last passionate black and white photographers but colour was on the horizon when he died and he loved it. I don’t know what he would think now of digital. He would love the lenses we have now but then they were pretty good in those days.! I guess what I’m saying is do to your original picture whatever moves your boat and it will be truthful, to you!

  15. Thank you for those kind words! Your father sounds like quite a guy. I’ll bet he would have embraced digital as a new adventure :=)

  16. He was someone special Linda and I miss him still, every day. This is a link you may like to check out BTW. Lovely lady, lives up in Puerto. We met through Tenerife Forum and meet up occasionally..
    She is also a great photographer and loves to help out and teach! Username is canarybird. Currently on vacation in Canada.

  17. As a landscape photographer who teaches hundreds of folks photography let me start by saying your photos are pretty darn good. And, those photo editing programs can often help to bring out their beauty even more. Be gentle and patient with yourself as you learn and play with Picasa. There’s nothing wrong at al with using it to make small adjustments to your images just the same way Ansel Adams did to almost every photo he took and worked on in the darkroom. And, yep there are more ‘powerful’ programs out there but just enjoy taking time to learn to use the one you have now. You might be surprised by how much you can do.

    • I can’t tell you how knocked out I was to see your comment – and honored! I came across your blog recently, and I love your work! In fact, I still have the tab open to remind me to go to explore some more. So your opinion is very, very valued. Thank you so much for taking the time, and especially for your encouragement. Knowing that even Ansel Adams “messed” with photos is so heartening!

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