Jeff Smallwood Photography
What's In a Number? IMG 1000, 2000, 3000, and more
Jan 13, 2013

I received a wonderful email the other day. A lady had seen the photo below. She told me her father had helped to build the Mt. Storm Power Station, working 4 years in the mountains of West Virginia. In addition, she had spent a summer there with her father in 1965 right before the plant started operations. It's always great to hear a background story to a photo.This photo is an HDR, and when I revisited the photo myself something new surprised me.


The first bracketed shot was IMG_0001

This photo represents the exact moment my shutter count started over. It's not the first time it has happened, and hopefully it won't be the last.

Why does this matter? I don't know that is does, nor do I know exactly why the number surprised me. Its like when you checkout at the grocery store and the total comes to exactly $80. Or if you fill your vehicle with fuel and the nozzle kicks off at exactly $50. That image number could have been any of 9,998 other numbers, but it wasn't. There's something strange the way we seem to take notice of nice round numbers, like there's something special about them.

This 0001 image got me thinking about other numbers from the past year. If 0001 is where the counter starts, what did I take at 1000? What about 2000? I thought looking at those nice round numbers would be an interesting way to revisit 2012.

Making Something Out of Nothing: Before and After

Even though I never published any of these photos before, I decided to post-process them as best I could to see what I could get out. These images were selected by number, so I don't have the freedom to pick a different image because a particular shot isn't very good. Below are two copies of each image, a straight-out-of-the-camera (SOOC) version and a post-processed version.

Here are my round number photos from 2012.

IMG_0001 - August 31, 2012  9:51 PM

Default RAW file:

And here's the results after processing the RAW file:

Like I mentioned above, the original image was the first of a bracketed series, so it was purposefully dark. But what can be done? I boosted the exposure, brought down the highlights, cropped a bit, and tweaked the white balance a little cooler. The problem, not surprisingly, is that an image this dark had a TON of noise in it when I brought it up. So a quick run through noise reduction and it was fairly clean. I'm actually quite surprised how much could be brought to life out of such a dark photo.

IMG_1000 - Oct 27, 2012 sometime around 10:45am

Unfortunately I had previously deleted this image but I still had #1001 (taken right after it). So I know where I was but I don't know exactly what IMG_1000 was. If I deleted it, I guess it must have been pretty bad :)

IMG_2000 (#1) - Feb 19, 2012  8:49 AM 

I had two 2000 images this year. Here's the first one, again, SOOC in RAW

Not much really. When I brought it up in Lightroom I thought no wonder I didn't do anything with it. It's just a bit....blah. But I put my thinking cap on and tried to come up with a post-processing approach to bring it to life. Here's the results:

My first approach was to add a neutral density filter to both the top and bottom, boosting exposure and mid-tones, added some structure, then brought up the presence and saturation a touch to bring out the tiny hints of color that were there to start with. Finally cropped to remove some of the sky and added a vignette to draw attention to the center. Not sure if you'll agree, but now that I've done that, I actually kind of like it.

A part of me also said this shot might work in B&W. So I took the results above, loaded them in Silver Efex 2, and worked it a few minutes more.



IMG_2000 (#2) - Nov 10, 2012  5:53 PM 

The second 2000 image I took was toward the end of the year. Here's the RAW file:
This image was originally taken while trying to put together an HDR panorama of the Thomas Johnson Bridge in Solomons, MD. Unfortunately it was on the brighter end of the bracket, but still plenty to work with. Here's the results:
This one didn't require a lot of work. Reduction in exposure, a simulated graduated neutral density (GND) filter, slight vignette, and a small boost in presence. 

IMG_3000 - Mar 21, 2012  7:49 AM 

Taken during the peak of cherry blossom bloom along the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. This was one of a few trips I took to see the blossoms in 2012.  Here's the RAW image:

Again, this is an image that never saw the Internet until now. But what to do? It's not the most interesting photo, but I remember taking it because I liked the empty benches and curved path through and under the trees. It was also a bit overcast. Here's the post-processing results:

I cropped out the tree on the left because it kept competing for too much attention. I boosted presence, saturation, vignette, and reduced the clarity in the blossoms to add a hint of softness.

IMG_4000 - April 21, 2012  4:08 PM 

 A day at the beach with my boys. Happened to shoot this in JPG, so here's the JPG SOOC:

The color was a touch off, so that was my first issue to tackle. Dropped down some of the highlights a touch and cropped it to a portrait shot to get in close on the action. Here's the results:



This turned out to be a really fun and rewarding way to revisit what I did in 2012. I'm thinking about going back and doing the same thing for other years and I'd encourage you to do the same. You never know what you'll find behind a nice, round number.

What about IMG 5000, 6000, 7000, 8000, and 9000? I'm planning to get to those later in a follow-up post. In the mean time, if you revisit 2012 in the same fashion I'd love to hear about it.

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