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Throwback Thursday – Europe 2006 II


Welcome to #ThrowbackThursday the Second.

In the previous ThrowbackThursday post, I shared several old photos from my original Digital Rebel from my 2006 semester abroad in Europe, where I made mention of my lack of wider ‘scene’ shots being due to the lack of a proper wide-angle lens at the time.  That’s where my trusty Canon Powershot SD400 point-and-shoot camera came in handy.

As you can see, I took far more photos with that little camera than my DSLR during my travels because even if it was only 4MP as opposed to the Digital Rebel’s 6MP, it got the job done better. I know a lot of people think to take a good photo, you need a ‘good’ camera, but the SD400, at an estimated retail price of $370, really knocked it out of the park for some shots, even for an inexperienced photographer like I was at the time.

Once again, I’m showing my before & after edits of the JPGs, as well as the final, edited image on its own. Please note that I cropped the original size ratio of the SD400’s images to match the ration of DSLR images out of personal preference, and used only Lightroom 4 for all my processing. Also, click the images to see them bigger!

This first image was taken before I even touched down in Europe. My journey across two oceans had me fly from Honolulu to San Francisco, and then San Francisco all the way to Frankfurt, Germany, which is hands-down the longest flight I’ve ever been on. After waking up to an early morning sun shining through my window, I peered out and spotted the first snowy countryside I’d seen since I was a young child. (The light spattering of snow we get on Maui doesn’t really count.)

There was also a haze that was unfamiliar to me, as well as streaks in the sky from all the air traffic, which made for fantastic atmospheric effects, so I snapped some photos through the plane window. This is the first of several photos I took through the window of a moving vehicle, but as long as you avoid having a reflection in the window, it works out just fine.

Editing this one is pretty straightforward – just a matter of bringing out the contrast and detail, with a little vibrancy for good measure. I’m glad I somehow managed to not over-expose this shot too badly, even without understanding manual exposure controls on a point-and-shoot.


I love Hawaii, and having the ocean all around me, but I am seriously passionate about still water. Lakes and still rivers are endlessly fascinating to me, so it’s no wonder many of my photos were just of that. This is a shot of Florentine buildings along the Arno River. Again, all this needed was some contrast adjustments, which helped bring out more blue from the hazy sky. Notice the church’s bell tower covered in scaffolding – so many ancient and historical buildings are constantly undergoing restoration, scaffolding became a meme during our European tours. “Here’s some scaffolding…and to your left, some more scaffolding!” The church in Siena even had a giant photograph of its facade covering the scaffolding to give an idea of what it actually looked like!


Of course, the classic beauty of the canals of Venice were also captivating to me.  To this day, I am still frustrated that I couldn’t do the ancient, sinking city justice with my fledgling photography skills, even if it’s such an often-photographed place. The original photos seem faded and washed-out, so I tried to work on bringing out the colors. Of course, it’s been so long that I don’t remember exactly what it looked like in person, so I may have taken some liberty with the warmth.  I can’t wait to go back with my wide-angle lenses so I can go nuts and get both sides of the canals!


This shot, taken during my gondola ride, is similar to one I took with the DSLR, but is a better composition, and more of a mood/scene shot. As you can see with each image, a lot of my processing style was just to enhance the contrast and color in each shot. Again, I also warmed up the shot to my liking.


This is another image where I was lucky the original exposure was somewhat under-exposed, thus granting me more leniency with bringing out the dynamic range more. I wanted to maintain the suggestion of cloud detail and bring out the foreground, but maintain the darks of the gondolas and their passengers. I especially love the pop of the yellow flowers.


For my final shot from Venice, I picked out this grey-tinted view of Isola di San Giorgio from across the water. I had fun with editing this one, and made it more dramatic and fantastical by deepening the sky and bringing out the faint colors found in the original photograph. I’d like to note that I’ve almost never introduced false colors to my images, but instead enhance what the camera originally detected in the first place. We don’t all see color the same, but I like to bring out hidden colors in my pictures.


Now, it’s off to Switzerland for the weekend! That weekend in Interlaken marked the first time I ever tried skiing, so I can say that I have technically skied the Alps in my youth.  As a child of Hawaii, this snowy mountain environment was utterly magical. While I’m still not a fan of dressing in layers upon layers, I can definitely appreciate  snow. This is another moving-vehicle shot, taken out the window of the train that took us from Interlaken up into the mountains. Because there was so little color detail in the original image, I decided to go with a contrasty black & white image, making sure to keep the beautiful cloud details.


This is another Swiss mountain train shot, and one where I managed to capture the exact composition I wanted as we went rolling along. For the edit, I made it black & white, and darkened the blues in the color mixer to imitate using red filters on black & white film, which makes blue skies dark and brings out the clouds more. The final image feels like a monochrome painting to me.


When it’s grey and raining at Lake Como, the best thing to do is to hop on a covered lake ferry, and just enjoy the moodiness of it all. I’m so happy with how much detail the SD400 captured in the clouds and haze, which allowed for a very dramatic edit. I mostly just enhanced the layers of fog with contrast, often employing gradient filters.


This is another shot from our rainy ferry ride as the clouds were breaking, and the evening sunlight was peeking through the Italian Alps.  Once again, for the edit, it was just a matter of enhancing the color and contrast. I also used a gradient to darken the skies, because I love moody skies. If you look closely, there’s a tiny duck swimming across the water. I am especially fond of ducks, so they are just another reason Lake Como is a perfect place.


Back in Dublin, here’s my ‘River Liffey at Sunset’ photo. The original edit of this was one of my first sunset photos I was truly proud of, and of course it came from my point-and-shoot. Have you had enough of rivers and lakes yet? Because I don’t think I’ll ever have my fill.


Here is some Florentine skyline, with the Palazzo Vecchio towering over everything else, taken while on my way up the Duomo’s bell tower, also called Giotto’s Campanile. Does anyone else who’s played Assassin’s Creed II just find yourself looking for the climbing route up the tower? ;) During my last days in Europe, I found myself suddenly panicked with the realization that I had not taken nearly enough photographs, and took to venturing into the city alone, trying to document as much as possible. Too much time had been spent hiding away in the studio, covered in oil paint and charcoal, rather than out adventuring and exploring.


 This final photo is from the very top of Giotto’s Campanile. Even though the sea of red roofs is classically Florentine, I decided to go with a high key, black & white edit, focusing on the texture of the city instead.  Also, rather than darkening the sky as I usually would, I chose to let the landscape fade out in hazy layers, which almost gives the impression of a tilt-shift shot.


I hope that this #ThrowbackThursday post, as well as the previous one, encouraged people to not only revisit their older photos and experiment with re-editing them, but also to not write off what “lesser” cameras and equipment can pull off. Of course I would have preferred these photos to have been taking with a DSLR simply for the better quality with the large sensor, but for what they are, I am still happy with them six years after they were taken.  As my better half likes to point out, saying you take good photos because you have a good camera is like saying you make a good stew because you have a good stove. Sure, it may help, but really, just do your best with what you’ve got!

Now, it’s time to think of next week’s #ThrowbackThursday post’s theme…

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