The Third Tunnel – Lessons Learned and Improved Photo


Last month, in the Tale of Two Tunnels article, I discussed how the coincidence of two similar photos shot by two different artists could benefit your work.  As it so happened, Mark J. Sanders and I just so happened to shoot similar photos:  A long  exposure through a tunnel (different tunnels, of course – because that would be a little too weird).  With both photographs analyzed and my lessons learned – I planned to redo the shot.  My major concerns about my own photo were that the dashboard was visible, raindrops on the dirty windshield, and lack of color and interest.  Before I get into what I did, let me share with you the final product.  I bring you, Tunnel Warp:

"Tunnel Warp" by D. Travis North

The Setup

First things first, I cleaned the windshield.  There were a few specs that managed to work their way on the windshield on the way there, but nothing that couldn’t be solved with spot healing.  For safety, I made my wife drive this time – okay, “made” is a strong word as she won’t let me drive most of the time.  But it all works out in the end; she gets to drive, I get my photo opportunity, and we continue to remain married.  Under these much safer conditions, there is one disadvantage.  Last time, I stabilized the camera on the steering wheel.  This time, I had to come up with a different solution.  I ended up using my tripod with it’s legs closed and extended to the floor and wedged between my feet.  The goal was only to eliminate up-and-down movement that was not with the car.  Not a perfect solution, but good enough for this type of exposure.  Finally, I set my camera for the desired settings:  18mm, F/22 aperture and 1/6 shutter.

Creating Interest

Unlike Mark’s tunnel, the Lehigh Tunnel isn’t very interesting.  The walls are dingy and drab, the tunnel isn’t straight, and there is no source of dependable color.  While I did shoot a few shots within the tunnel, the first shot (this shot) turned out to be the most successful.  I actually shot this as we were going into the tunnel.  This gave me a definitive difference between the tunnel itself, and the areas outside fo the tunnel.  It also gave me a lot more interest at the focal point as the colors become richer the closer to the focal point your eye travels.

Post Processing

My unaltered photo is shown here at right.  It’s a good start, but not quite what I want.  For starters, the dashboard is visible, which is an item that concerned me before.  During setup, I realized very quickly that this was unavoidable at 18mm  and I didn’t want to sacrifice my view angle by zooming closer.  So during the exposure, I had to make sure I framed it in a way to allow for cropping.  Therefore, the crop was the first thing I did.

Next, I tweaked the exposure, color temperature, saturation, vibrance and hues to get the colors where I wanted them.  I also tweaked contrast  to make sure I didn’t lose the definition in the photo – the ridge just below the light-bars was important to me. I bypassed any sharpening functions as it wouldn’t be necessary for this image.

The Finished Product

In the end, I’m quite happy with my photograph.  It is a bit of a departure from my norm, as I tend not to work with such abstract compositions.  But it’s good to break out every once in a while.

I’d love to hear what you think about the new photograph.  Do you like it better than the old shot?  Do you feel the redo achieved in a better photo?


About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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