Why not Photoshop?

New London Harbor Lighthouses glows against the night sky and lowering clouds as seen from Pequot Avenue in New London Wednesday Jan. 21, 2015.
New London Harbor Lighthouses glows against the night sky and lowering clouds as seen from Pequot Avenue in New London Wednesday Jan. 21, 2015.

On Wednesday night I was cruising New London looking for inspiration to make a good or at least interesting photo for Thursday's paper.  Being a fan of long night time exposures I decided upon a popular coastal Connecticut theme of our local lighthouses.

An approaching round of snow flurries had lowered the clouds and was creating favorable conditions.  After taking a few frames of Ledge Light I turned my camera towards New London Harbor Light.  There was a pretty good chop of waves coming in off the Thames River so I took my tripod and wide angel lens down to the waters edge and composed this shot with the waves lapping at my feet.  I wanted a longer exposure to blur the waves creating an almost ghostly or foggy effect to blend the reflection of the lights. This shot was the result of a 20 second exposure and was picked for Thursday's front page, and ran on TheDay.com.  There it garnered this question by one of our more observant viewers with the screen name of HipsterG:

"Since I picked on Sean yesterday, I gotta ask Tim: Why are the lights in the water not more straight? The rest of it looks good, except the water is kind of - I don't know - blurred out a bit? Maybe photoshop would help?"

The answer is quite simple on both counts.  First, by using Photoshop to manipulate the image, I would be fired.  Even for a pictorial photo such as this one that has no real news value other than it documents the New London waterfront on a minor stormy night.  As photographers we are allowed to correct color balance, contrast and crop, but other than that, the image you see, is the image we took.  Otherwise we erode any trust the viewer would have in photojournalists being journalists.

So why is the refection "not more straight"?  Simple really, it was all in the camera angle, choice of lens, and crop.  I have included the original image.  As a photographer and editor of my own work, I chose a tighter crop to bring more attention to the light and the colors of this scene. The area at the bottom of the image was not necessary so I cropped it out. This area of the image is called "negative space".  My camera is actually pointed more towards the center of the river, which with the wide choice of lens caught the light reflecting in the waves at an angle, not straight on.  As for the crooked horizon line, and perhaps not my best original composition, my simple excuse is the following:  It was cold, windy, dark and wet as I was being chased by waves, in other words, I rushed the shot.  So in effect Photoshop was used to "clean up" the image, but not to alter its reality.

This is the original (un-cropped) photo from Wednesday night.
This is the original (un-cropped) photo from Wednesday night.
A passing ferry appears as a blur of light as it approaches New London Ledge Lighthouse as it lights up the Thames River as seen from Pequot Avenue in New London Wednesday Jan. 21, 2015.
A passing ferry appears as a blur of light as it approaches New London Ledge Lighthouse as it lights up the Thames River as seen from Pequot Avenue in New London Wednesday Jan. 21, 2015.

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