Re-creating old times: part I

For some reason I happened to re-visit my old website (more my blog than my website, if  you think about it) and like a king would feel looking at the ruins of his city after a battle — all tattered and untended and yet familiarly hopeful — I stood there, staring, turning page after page and feeling vaguely happy yet nostalgic about those times, reading those articles and how I kept writing even when my daily readership was less than 1,000.

Old to new

It is a combination of good writing, even if I say so myself, and emailing readers like they mattered and addressing issues close to me that brought this world from that old blog/site to this one, perhaps a hundred-fold bigger, more vast, deeper and with a readership that has (even if not in comparison to incorporated websites) blown sky-high.

And I cannot say I do not like it this way.

The three photographs

As I scrolled around that old blog I came upon three photographs I had put up on three different occasions.

If not for my good pal, Raghul Selvam, I would eventually (read: currently) never have bothered to organise my photographs offline as I have done now to some extent.

Unfortunately, these three photographs do not fall into that set and I am afraid I may not have even one copy of them offline. In any case, what else I reflected on was that I made these at a time when I made all my photographs with my trusty, tiny, now-hardly-adequate Canon point-and-shoot. (No, I still think Canon P&Ss are awesome, and still not their SLRs!)

A re-creation mission

I would hardly want to touch upon the finer details like the abilities of the camera (but I have blown up parts of those photographs below). And I would like to, symbolically and on a technical level, re-create these photographs with my current bigger, costlier, generally more impressive gear and see how things turn out.

With this in mind, I set out to work this morning (which I think was the same time as these older photographs, as I remember; but I may be wrong) and these are the results. After the three photographs in question are a few more I shot on the way to and back from the railroad spot.

1. “Life”

The old edition:

The new edition:

Life_2013_edition_reduced

The challenge:

What I found most challenging in re-creating this photograph was exposing the various areas perfectly. I had to match the previous one as closely as possible so broke down the photograph into four quadrants.

The top right quadrant was easy enough, but the rest test lay with the top and bottom left: the image had to be just enough under-exposed to get the black regions you now see, but without hindering the top and bottom right quadrants.

What I did not get was the shine on the railroads: the sunlight has to be falling just right for that and the path leading to this section of the railway tracks is not really a path but a trek downhill through the woods behind my house and it is now covered by a thick undergrowth and a good possibility of snakes. So I decided to let that go, but still make the rest of the photograph as best as I could.

The new photograph carries greater detail in well exposed areas and gives the viewer a better sense of presence, which also means it moves out of the realm of the abstract — a sacrifice I had to make. I, for one, am quite happy with the results.

2. “Start today and create a new ending”

The old edition

The new edition

Start-today-new-ending_2013_edition_reduced

The challenge:

It was all about the processing, of course! Understandably, the same degree of cross-processing can never be achieved twice, so that apart, the only obvious difference between these two photographs is their length-width ratio. The old one was cut almost square, but I left the new one as it came out of camera.

You can notice an increased lot of greenery overall in the new photograph, along with a few missing trees on the right, but that, of course, has nothing to do with my work: grass grows whether you like it or not. Further, I did not have as many clouds as I clearly did while making the first photograph, so the sky in the new one is flatter and all the more blank. I tried to use it to my advantage and I like how it turned out, but if I could change one thing about the new photograph, it would be the clouds (or the lack of them).

I also slightly re-composed the trees on the right to increase focus on the tracks. Back then, there was no question of selectively focusing, so the trees’ presence or absence made no difference, but now, it could have very well broken this photograph had I composed it much the same way!

Once again, close as I could get, I do like the results here too.

3. “The tree of life”

The old edition

recreate2

The new edition

Tree of life 2013  reduced

The challenge:

This photograph was a lot more about framing than exposing. New hedges popped up on my frame and obscured part of the tree as you can see on the lower right; but the biggest problem was reducing that blockade by moving about and re-composing, but this was the best I could given that my movement was restricted by other plants and hedges in the garden.

 

The differences in shooting, mainly, were that the old photographs were shot partly by the camera (semi-auto mode or worse) and the new ones — much like all my photographs lately — were shot in full manual mode. (Although I like the famously good A mode, I have come to favour it less lately and find myself shooting in full manual because M is so much better!) Also, there was nothing to focus on or with before.

Understandably, re-creating shots being more complicated than it seems at first, I also made slightly different or entirely new shots from, and from around, these very locations: more on that in part II.

Do let me know how you like the results privately or by commenting below!