Shooting through a problem / by Andrew Dacey

Back in October I flew down to Florida to attend the Vanelli and Friends Bahamas cruise photography workshop. I hope to have some more details about the workshop up soon but I wanted to share one of the images from the shoot as I'm really happy with the shot. However, I think it also helps illustrate some of my personal approach to dealing with problems you encounter while you're shooting. I've shot plenty of times in colder weather so I'm aware of the concerns about condensation when coming in from the cold. As many people can tell you, this also works in the other direction in hot and humid climates when going outside from an air conditioned space. I've shot in SE Asia before but when I was there I wasn't staying in heavily air conditioned rooms and it was also toward the end of the dry season so condensation wasn't much of a concern. Nassau, however, was a completely different matter and when I pulled my camera out of my bag it fogged up badly. When I put the camera up to my eye all I got was a huge amount of blur. As I mentioned, I'm more used to shooting in cold weather so I'm used to having my viewfinder fog up when I'm outside. I'll admit that at the time I mistakenly thought that it was just my viewfinder and LCD that were fogged up, it just didn't occur to me that the front element of my lens was fogged as well. Perhaps because of this, I simply didn't let it get me down and when I saw shots I took them, I just kept shooting through the problem. Because of this determination to just keep shooting in spite of being barely able to see what I was framing I took this shot.

As you can see, things are pretty fogged up (and this was after my lens had started to clear up). But, I loved the look of these side streets and when I saw that man walking towards me I knew I had to grab a couple of frames.

Now I do really like the mood of the fog that's created in this shot but there's just so much detail lost. Thinking it might be worth salvaging though, I played with the sliders in Lightroom a bit but just wasn't very happy with it. On a lark, I decided to see if it might work as a black and white so I swung over to Photoshop to use Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro. Playing with some of the presets, I found that they did pull out a lot more detail in the shot but I wasn't happy with losing all of the nice colour. I quickly realized though that this would be a perfect application for the technique I'd described in my Making Montreal posts. The fact that Vanelli had recently talked about using that technique as well may have played into it being in my mind. I found a preset that I liked and blended it using the luminosity blending mode and I was amazed with what I ended up with. I went back in and further tweaked things like brightening up the man's face a bit and playing with the structure sliders. I liked the look but found that I'd lost a bit of the glow to the highlights so I went into Color Efex and applied the glamor glow filter to bring but some of that look to the highlights. On the advice of Vanelli, I burned down the edges a bit and also corrected the slight tilt to the image. This is the final result:

What was most impressive about this was that I got to about 90% of the look in this image in probably less than 5 minutes of work thanks to Silver Efex Pro. By applying it as a smart filter I kept things in a non-destructive space and that allowed me to go back in to tweak things based on the feedback I got, and even allowed me to fix the rotation in camera raw. I think this shot really shows the power of the workflow I described in my Montreal posts. But more importantly, I think it also shows how important it is to not give up when you're faced with a problem but instead to work through the problem and just keep shooting. I could have easily written off my camera as useless until the fog cleared and if I'd done that I would have missed this opportunity. Instead, I shot through the problem and I ended up with a great happy accident.