Imagecraft Bootcamp — Making Lemonade

Hi!  Mitch again, your host for this series.  For those of you that remember the bad old days of film…

Ugh.  This is just what you don’t want to see when you get your precious negatives back from the commercial film processor.  You sputter and nearly scream loud enough to move the continental plates, “whiskeytangoFOXTROT HAPPENED???  GAHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhh.”

Well, in this case…

My brand-new digital camera died after just five days out of the box (this was right after Christmas 2013), we were scheduled to leave for a few days of vacation, and I needed a camera.  I got the bright idea to bring along my 1954 Leica IIIf rangefinder, which I had literally not used once in the past 15 years.  So I bought some color film, loaded it up, and went my merry way.

And I forgot how to load the miserable thing…

I stupidly forgot how it needs a very long film leader and I forgot how you have to watch it like a hawk until you get the first sprockets fed just so.  Very fussy, these old Barnack-style cameras.  And if not fed just perfectly, they chew up the sprockets of the film.  And the little bits get into places with very tight tolerances and make things jam… like this image illustrates.

A tiny bit of chewed up film sprocket got into the film curtain track and made the curtain only open halfway on many frames of this roll of film.  But I didn’t know that until long after the fact, ages after I could have fixed the problem by reshooting everything.

So here we are.

What to do?

The film is ruined.  The images are all waaaay too hot, they have all skewed far into the blue spectrum, and about 10 frames or more on the roll are only half-exposed because of the problem with the shutter curtain.  This is a COMPLETE and total disaster.


(Think for a while…)

Well… when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

First we’ll level the horizon (above), then we’ll chop out the unexposed part of the frame (below).


Even though this photo was framed and shot as a vertical, it doesn’t look half bad as a horizontal image.

I tried most of my usual post-processing steps, but the image is so wonky and messed up that I just decide go with it as is, straight out of the camera.  No Auto Tone this time; everything is massaged manually. Even with the Blacks and Shadows sliders all the way to the left at their densest setting, I still don’t get solid blacks — so I have to do everything completely by eye.

Now to continue by color correcting it with manual White Balance; fortunately, I have a lot of white surfaces within the frame to use as my source.

You know, this is really looking much better than I had any hope of it being at this point.  Now I’ll adjust the Tone Curve (below).

Further adjust the contrast and dark elements a bit, fix a few zits across image, and…

Voilà! — you have the finished image below, which actually reminds me of some of the paintings by Edward Hopper.

I know you guys always like the before-and-after comparison:

And since you like challenges so much, here’s yours for this week: find your worst image disaster (don’t “borrow” a photo from someone else off the Internet!), and go through the post-processing steps I’ve taught you over the past several weeks.

Once you’ve finished, be sure to include “#photo101rehab”, “#photorehab”, and “#imagecraftbootcamp” with your normal tags — and if you wish to submit it to our Flickr group, you’ll need to join us there prior to doing so.

Reminder:  If you want me to tackle one of your throw-away images, but you’re reluctant to comment or post publicly (I completely understand), or want to contact me (Mitch) directly, just go to my About page — which you can find here — and send me a message via the feedback form in the “Contact me” section.  That will launch an email directly to my personal Inbox (sorry, I don’t publish that in the clear due to all the spam I get as it is) and we can communicate and work out the details that way.

For those readers that want to review the older Imagecraft Bootcamp posts, just click here.

Good luck, and see you next Wednesday!

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