Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Story of A Photograph: The Closed Road

The Closed Road - Fish Camp, California
There's a story behind every photograph. Some stories are better than others. Some stories are a bit strange. Let me tell you the story of The Closed Road above.

It's a photograph that shouldn't have happened and almost didn't happen. My family and I were returning from a weekend trip to Yosemite National Park. It's a five hour drive from Yosemite Valley to our house, and we began driving back home in the late-afternoon.

Somewhere near Fish Camp, which is in the middle of nowhere just outside of the park, my five-year-old son said, "I've got to go!"

"You need to hold it," I replied. "We'll be in town soon."

He began to squirm. He started to turn red and had a serious face. "I can't hold it any longer!"

We quickly pulled off the highway and onto some unmarked dirt road. As soon as the truck came to a stop my son and I both jumped out and ran for some nearby trees. We made it, but just barely.

As I was waiting for my son to finish, I began looking around. I noticed that the evening light was nice and that the scene was interesting--there was some mystery to the site. Where did this road go and why was it closed? Who used it? And why was I standing here looking at it?

I pulled out my cell phone, a Nokia Lumia 1020, from my pocket and captured this exposure. As soon as I opened the shutter my son was finished and I noticed that we were both surrounded by mosquitoes. We ran back to the truck to escape the mosquitoes and to finish our journey home.

I post-processed this image using Alien Skin Exposure 7 software. The out-of-camera JPEG wasn't that far off from how I wanted the photograph to look, but it did need some adjustments.

The first thing that I did was apply one of the Polaroid presets to give it a vintage feeling. I made a number of small adjustments to the preset to customize it for this image, including brightness, contrast, color saturation, hue, sharpness, grain and curves. None of these were major changes.

After that I applied a sun-flare effect, which I faded until it was barely perceptible. I also added a texture effect and once again faded it until it barely made a difference at all. I wanted both of those to be very subtle--just enough to give the image a certain feeling.

The final adjustment was to blur the image slightly using a tilt-shift option. I didn't want to make it look "miniature" but I did want to blur the foreground and background a little. This was to pull the eyes away from the busy scene and draw them to the gate. It also adds a bit of mysteriousness to the scene.

I really like the final image. I think it conveys a certain feeling to the viewer. It leaves more questions than answers. Should you find out what is just around the bend? Should you turn around? Does a great adventure await or a great danger?

In my imagination, I think that some creek or pond may be down this road that the local kids spend their summer days fishing at. Or perhaps an old cabin that holds memories of family vacations long ago. That is, of course, the mystery. Each viewer will interpret it differently.

An unplanned stop at an unknown location, combined with photographic vision, allowed me to create The Closed Road. Spontaneity can be good for photography.

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