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Friday Slide Show: Garden For The Environment Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

2 October 2015

It sits in a narrow strip of land too small to build on and across the street from a convalescent home. You might think neither lot has much going for it. There's always an ambulance parked in front of the home. And the drought doesn't encourage much gardening.

Garden For The Environment. Growing in a drought.

But that wouldn't quite be right. There are stories to be heard in both places. And yesterday, on a long walk down the northern side of the hill we inhabit, we visited the garden for the first time to see what could possibly be growing.

The one-acre lot on Seventh Avenue and Lawton Street is called Garden for the Environment. It describes itself as an "urban demonstration garden and offers environmental education programs about organic gardening, urban compost systems and sustainable food systems." It also offers online classes for those who can't make it to the garden.

Who knew?

When we visited, there was nobody there but a few butterflies. We wandered around for 10 minutes, reading the informative displays and studying the plants. Then we took a few shots of the more photogenic species.

Sorry but we just couldn't get a good angle on the plump, greenish strawberries just starting to turn red.

But everywhere you looked, if you looked carefully, there was something to see. Even the kitchen sink.


We shot these as Raw images using Aperture Priority mode to control depth of field, converting them to DNGs on import before archiving them.

The two approaches to growing things -- one time-honored and the other cutting edge -- struck us as a metaphor for modern photography.

Then we went through them in Lightroom. We've been automatically shifting Clarity into the 40s, no matter which camera we use. Sometimes we open the Shadows a bit by brightening them, sometimes we add a little detail to the Highlights by darkening them and, paradoxically (but it helps) we then add a little Contrast. No Saturation changes to these.

But then we did something a little off beat.

We ran the exported JPEGs through Piccure+. That's not the best way to use Piccure+ (you should run it on the Raw files before you do anything else). But we had already taken care of optical aberrations and only wanted to sharpen the images. Which Piccure+ did for us. It was a small but noticeable improvement.

Why didn't we run the Raw files through Piccure+ first? Because we hadn't selected the ones we wanted to use. We didn't want to run all of them through, just the selection.

When we tried to run our selection through Piccure+ from Lightroom, we only got the first image back. So we thought we'd run a little experiment and just process the reduced JPEGs we usually publish.

Otherwise, you know, how are we going to learn anything?


We certainly learned something at Garden for the Environment, although the principles were not unfamiliar to us. Capturing rain water, encouraging helpful insects, mulching and more.

But a little later that day, when we had returned to the bunker, we did learn something new. The PBS NewsHour featured a segment called Why growing lettuce in New York City is a growing business, a story about growing greens on urban rooftops. You need grow lights and either water or misted air but you don't need soil. And it puts a lot of roof real estate to work.

When we put our feet up and considered what we had learned, it struck us that the two approaches to growing things -- one time-honored and the other cutting edge -- struck us as a metaphor for modern photography.

Never mind what we were drinking.

There are, we posited, the time-honored principles governing aperture and depth of field, shutter speed and subject blur, ISO and noise, as well as composition. We'd sweated those in the garden with our camera.

But that's not the whole picture.

There are also the cutting edge technologies, represented by the Raw capture, the DNG conversion, Lightroom and Piccure+.

Unlike gardening, though, you nurture both those to get an image these days. One isn't sufficient. You don't give your roll of film to some guy or machine in a dark room who comes out with your image. And you certainly can't perform magic tricks on your computer with lousy exposures. So image creation entails both technologies.

And anyway it's twice the fun this way.

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