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22 November 2019

We knew the second we saw it that we liked the view of the bridge with the pier in the foreground. But our zoom didn't reach very far. And that included the huge pavilion sitting on the pier, which itself took up a good percentage of the scene.

This happens frequently with the 14-42mm kit lens on the Olympus E-PL1, which only reaches to an equivalent of 84mm, hardly telephoto. And when it does happen, we calm down and tell ourselves we can always crop it later to the part of the capture we wanted to zoom into.


Just for the record, here's what the original 42mm capture looked like:

Camera Capture. The original 84mm crop.

We did like a few things about it as we considered our crop. Some of those things were the fire escape, the roof, the seagulls on the roof (in contrast to the one on the dock) and the changing colors of the bay water as it flooded the bottom of the frame.


And, oddly enough, taking an almost square crop, we can include all those features in the image:

You can play with variations of the crop, making a narrower version of this that includes just a bit of the building and just the tower of the bridge to emphasize those verticals.


But we had originally wanted to focus on the scene you see in the thumbnail: the bridge and the nearly silhouetted figures on the pier.

Thumbnail. The essence of the image.

In fact, when we took the shot we assumed those figures would be silhouettes.

But, as we edited the image, we realized that would have obscured the detail of the pier on which they were perched. We really didn't want to do that.

Nor did we want to selectively silhouette them while opening up the shadows on the pier. That seemed overly manipulative.

The other tonal issue is the background of the Marin headlands and the bridge coming out of them. In our tight crop, we've dehazed the background to make it more prominent, an equal player with the figures in the foreground.

But in the alternate crop above, we actually increased the haze a bit to make it dreamier.


Besides the crop and tonal issues, we noticed the horizon was askew even though the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge seemed square to the horizon. We used the building to keep the tower square while adjusting the horizon slightly using the Upright tool.

It took three attempts with the Upright tool before we were happy with the adjustment.

We also wondered whether the image should be rendered in color, monochrome or with a gradient map. So we tried them all.

A certain humility is required when editing your own work if you're going to get the most out of it.

We were a little disappointed in the monochrome rendering. That's what led to the gradient map, in fact. We like that particular gradient map for the Golden Gate Bridge. But we aren't sure we like it more than the color version.


You really shouldn't read an article like this without monitoring your blood pressure. Did it raise your stress levels? Did you become unmoored as we navigated the issues we raised?

We're fond of pointing out that editing images is fun. And when you have one you really like but can't quite squeeze out of it what you want, you're either frustrated or having a ball.

We were having a ball. One we kept extending by going back to the crop, reconsidering the dehazing, rejiggering perspective and tossing the color up in the air to see where it would land.

Being able to move around like this is the mark of good image editing software. You want to be able to take a snapshot or save the state of the image at various points so you can return to them. This can be as simple as just saving the file.

We did that when we finally got the basic Camera Raw adjustments and the perspective sorted out. And we did it again for each crop. We used Adjustment Layers to affect the color rendering, one for monochrome, one for the gradient map. They were simply turned on or off as we evaluated them.

Working with Raw data instead of a JPEG made it possible to backtrack easily, too. The original data is never lost. Just buried under a pile of edits.


This was a difficult edit, with no clear path forward. As we made one decision and moved on to another, the subsequent choices suggested changes to our earlier decisions.

A certain humility is required when editing your own work if you're going to get the most out of it. You can't be all in on a particular decision. Everything has to be provisional.

Even now we haven't stamped one of these images as the definitive one. We've left that for you to decide.

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