One our recent anniversary trip, I had a particular goal while we were in Cades Cove: take a do-over of a shot I made there on an earlier visit, just 2 months after I’d gotten my first DSLR.

I remember the time clearly. It was a period of intense study—Scott Kelby’s 1st 2 digital photography books lived in my camera bag—but also frustration. Time, research, and practice are required to become familiar with your camera; understand not only how to manipulate the settings, but also how they interrelate; and compose photos (which is more than just technique, it involves developing your own personal style).

When I decided to recreate my original photo—with a better camera and more time, research, and practice under my belt—I never considered the possibility that the original vision was flawed or might have changed with time.

Here is the original:

I like the concept of the dark, empty room in the old historic home, white curtains fluttering in the breeze, but looking at the metadata is interesting—like an algebraic equation gone wrong—ISO, aperture, exposure compensation all competing with each other rather than working in harmony.

When I walked into the same room last week, the curtains were no longer hanging loose, but tied. Whether exposing for inside or outside the room, it was all blah, unsatisfying.

Leaving the room, I felt disappointment. In another small room, however, I found an old barrel, cracked, aged, textured.

Looking chronologically at the pictures, I can feel the shift from old vision to new: focus on the window; focus on the barrel; focus on the light, and how it falls on the barrel.

This was the last photo shot in the house, the moment I knew I’d found it.


Detail and age were my goals for the final image. In black and white processing I tend to prefer high contrast: dark darks, light lights, less in-betweens. This can be especially flattering in portraits.

What I wanted here was exactly the opposite effect: detail. One of my favorite Lightroom presets, Noir Film from, was the perfect choice. It has a way of sliding into the crevices of a photo, drawing out nuances of shape and texture. See?


And finally I achieved my vision. Refined.

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