Thrown a Curve

Getting crazy with the Aperture curves feature

Getting crazy with the Aperture curves feature

After playing with my Hipstamatic images for the past several days, I finally remembered that I’d taken a few shots with my DSLR the same weekend.  I pulled out the memory card and downloaded the photos.

I seem to have had some difficulty switching from the square frame of Hipstamatic back to the rectangular frame of the DSLR–there were many extraneous things in my DSLR images.

I thought about talking about how the DSLR images were technically better images than the Hipstamatic images, but really, they’re not from an execution point of view.  If you want to compare megapixels and talk about sharpness, well yes, they are.  But, that’s not better execution; that’s better equipment.

A more conservative adjustment

A more conservative adjustment

In any case, instead of trying to prove you can take technically better photos that still don’t look as appealing as what might be considered a flawed photo, I thought I’d try taking one image and doing a lot of different edits with it.  I chose a DSLR image because of the better resolution and because it’s in RAW, both of which help images stand up to more edits.

This is the Hipstamatic image that I spent about 30 seconds creating:



By comparison, this is the original image from my DSLR (no adjustments/edits):

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It’s not quite a fair comparison because of the differences in composition, but it’s the best I can do.

Now, what can you do with a not very exciting image of a treehouse?  Well, Hipstamatic has already done a lot of editing for me.  But I decided to push Aperture a bit to get a better idea of what kinds of things can be achieved in this relatively simple editing tool.

I don’t advise this exercise be started within 2 hours of bed time.  It’s addictive.

This is what happened when I started playing with the separate RGB channels in the curves feature

This is what happened when I started playing with the separate RGB channels in the curves feature

For most of the effects, I used only one adjustment:  curves.  I tweaked a bit in saturation, highlights, and levels.  But I literally spent an hour playing with dragging a curve around into crazy shapes just to see what would happen.

By the way, I didn’t sit down thinking “I think I’ll play with the curves feature tonight.”  This idea all started when I was adjusting an image and I accidentally pulled the curve too far in one direction.  The photo did something interesting and I liked it.

The curves feature is truly like coloring.  Maybe scribbling is more accurate.  Whatever it is, it’s fun.  I don’t often say that about photo editing.

Tisen cuddles Skunk on the sofa after a walk

Tisen cuddles Skunk on the sofa after a walk

Tisen has resurrected Skunk from the bottom of the toy bin lately.  This may be my doing–sometimes when he wants to take Big Dog or Squirrel on a walk (both of which trip him when he carries them), I make a quick substitution.  I think he had forgotten he had Skunk.  I like that the two of them together make a stripe pattern against a swirl pattern, but both in black and white.  Tisen seems to have discovered Skunk also makes a great pillow.

Still Fireworks


I am 6.5 in dog years.  Is that old enough to use “old dog, new tricks” as an excuse for how long it’s taken me to experiment with some of the features of Aperture?


I still resist learning Photoshop beyond the occasional attempt to use layers in Photoshop Elements.  I think there is some sort of message about life in this avoidance of adopting a technology that would give me more control over my photos and allow me to do things like put multiple fireworks bursts into a single image.  (My photos of multiple bursts are because there really were multiple bursts.)


I think I’ve come up with the main reasons I resist this next step:

  • I’m at the point of “good enough” on how much time I want to spend on post-processing.  The more I can adjust, the more lost I get in trying to decide which way it looks better.  This is much like a story some of you may recall about taking my aunt (who had dementia) bra shopping.  She would try one on, then the next, and I’d ask, “Does this one feel better than that one?” and she would look at me, puzzled, and reply, “Did I try that one on?”  I finally bought her some sports bras figuring they would be “good enough” and get us out of an endless loop in the dressing room.  Similarly, without seeing two different adjustments side-by-side, I have a hard time deciding.


  • I spend way too much time with devices already.  I’m beginning to think of my computers as people.  I caught myself talking to my work laptop the other day.  It’s a Windows machine, so I wasn’t saying very nice things.  I accidentally left my iPhone in the car last night when I ran into a restaurant to place a take out order.  I had to wait 10 minutes for the food.  It felt impossible to sit for 10 minutes with no friend in my pocket.  I felt exposed and lonely.  I decided against running out to get my iPhone, though.  I thought it might be good for me to wait without the distraction for once.  I was soon hypnotized watching muted sports castors talk about football.  I have no idea what they were saying since there were no captions, but it gave a surrogate for my iPhone.  See what I’m saying?


  • I’m not confident Photoshop would make a significant difference in how much better my photos look for the price.  It’s expensive software both in dollars and time to learn.  Would I really be able to do so much more with my photos and would I have time to actually do those things that I would think, “Wow!  I’m so glad I spent that $700!”


  • I suspect Photoshop is really a black hole.  Once you’re in, you can never get out.  The truth of the world is altered and you can never get back to your original reality.

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