When I picked up my Nikon D80 years back, I felt like I had jumped into the middle of the ocean without care or hesitation. For years I had been using a plastic Sony point-and-shoot thinking it was simply the greatest thing. I took photo classes in College, grew up with parents who did photography as a profession. I just never took to it, and in retrospect it may have been the cost and patience involved with film that was something of a turnoff to a guy like me back then. The D80 really woke me up. Comparing photos taken with just the kit lens compared to that old Sony was like comparing night and day. There was simply no comparison. It definitely altered the trajectory of my creative work from there on.
A few years later I caved in a paid for a pro account on Flickr. Within days I was fav’ing dozens of remarkable photos I found through searches, and following photographers who’s series I envied. Photos that astounded me with their colors and detail, their unique subject matter and technicalities. I grew up with Photoshop and could write an encyclopedia on the subject. Yet, with what I knew about Photoshop, so many of these brilliant photos I would find on Flickr evaded my ability to ape similar results with my own photos. I knew no camera could produce colors and results like those straight out of camera, post processing was key to what I sought.
Through much trial and error and months of effort I developed my own techniques for achieving the tonal range and contrast levels I liked. Key to all of it was understanding and respecting the Curves layer. Don’t misunderstand, I’m a hobbyist with the off idea of making coffee table books of my shots one day, I won’t profess to knowing the right or wrong way to doing something. However, I did manage to find a place that satisfied me and moved me closer to developing my own personal style. Should you be curious to see how it’s coming along, have a look: http://www.flickr.com/jonsiegel
That said, I’m experimenting with Nik’s Color Efex Pro plugin for Photoshop and Aperture. I haven’t decided yet how comfortable I am using a plugin on a personal level. I’m a do-it-yourself guy and not a huge fan of easy sliders, I like the fine grain control I get out of Photoshop. However, I am surprised at how much of what I’ve been doing is easily streamlined by this software. Cross Processing was always an awkward affair with the Curves layer for me. With Color Efex Pro I’m now aware of several other degrees of cross processing I wasn’t aware of before, and the control it gives me is… impressive. Whether I stick with it or not and make the purchase will be decided after the trial runs out in 10 days…