The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a diamond-in-the-rough as “having exceptional qualities or potential but lacking refinement or polish.” Whatever the end result, I certainly can attest that the image in this post, “White Tree No. 3 (Embrace the Night),” began by lacking in refinement and polish.
This image was captured during the wonderful summer of 2012, when I was spending several evenings a week photographing in Rocky Mountain National Park. I photographed as the sun was setting and, as is my habit, continued photographing until well after the sun had sunk below the horizon. As the light grew fainter and fainter, the images naturally grew darker and darker, until there simply wasn’t enough light to get a good capture without undertaking shutter speeds of several minutes. This image was one of the last I captured, and therefore one of the more substantially underexposed. You can see just how underexposed at the end of this post, where I have included the unedited JPG captured by my camera.
I didn’t return to this image until more than one year later, and even then by accident. I was going through my image archives, looking for something completely different, and time was running out because I had to be out the door shortly for an appointment. I didn’t find the image I was looking for, but with only about five or ten minutes left, I stumbled across this one. With time short, and expectations low, I decided to open up the image just to see what I could make out of it.
I’m glad I did. I truly am astonished at just how much information was able to be recovered from this file. A simple adjustment of the exposure slider to the RAW file brought back an incredible amount of tonality and detail that was still lurking in the capture. Because the final image still is quite low key, I perhaps didn’t have to push the exposure adjustment to extremes, but still I’m impressed at just how much shadow detail can be recovered from a RAW file when using a digital camera.
The bigger lesson, of course, is that this image turned out to be a diamond in the rough. A little refinement and polish, and I’m quite happy with it. It makes me wonder, though, how many other diamonds in the rough are hiding in my image archives. Now that I know they may be there, I’ll be looking for them.