Elizabeth Carmel: Visibility Excellent
Her shooting agenda is determined as much by the time of day as the time of year. She works primarily in two to three hour windows at sunrise and sunset—“when the sun is not too high in the sky to create the kind of light I’m looking for.”
She generally shoots alone, traveling on foot, horse, or skis as necessary to find unique angles and compositions, so logistics are always a consideration. “I do have to be aware of the weight if I’m carrying my own gear and it’s more than an hour hike in,” she says. “The Hasselblad body and bag don’t weigh much more than regular DSLR. The lenses are what will break you.”
Carmel began using Aperture because it could handle her Hasselblad files on import. Since then, she’s reworked her entire workflow around it. “It’s a really great feature of Aperture that I can do everything in it,” she says. “Before Aperture I really didn’t have the ability to create in one application a workflow that allowed me to import, organize, sort, compare, adjust, and output RAW files from the Hasselblad,” she says. “Now I don’t bounce between a lot of different apps like I used to.”
On short trips, Carmel typically will bring back her shots on CF cards and import them in her home office, being careful not to erase the cards until she has backed up her images in multiple locations. If she is in an area for several days, she’ll import and analyze the shots into Aperture on her MacBook Pro in the field.
“Because all of my files have to be referenced files on an external drive, when I ingest the images in Aperture I’ll have them copied to an external drive,” she says. “Then they are backed up to other drives I have in my home office.”
Unlike photojournalists who face tight deadlines, Carmel’s naming and organizing of her images generally begins in the office. “I use Aperture for keywording and copyright identification. If it’s a multi-day shoot, I can do a lot of that in the field, and it’s a real quick workflow enhancer that I can type all that in on import.”
Compare and Select
Because very few of the images Carmel shoots eventually become prints, she uses Aperture’s compare and select tools to help her pick out the very best images.
“What is really helpful for me initially is the stacking,” she says. “Because I bracket a lot of shots for exposure and even depth of field for focus, stacking allows me to do an initial organizational cut of the images so I can see what specific compositions I’ve done. If I take 500 pictures, they might represent only 10 or 12 compositions, so that’s how I organize the stacks.”
After stacking the images, Carmel uses Stack mode comparison for careful side-by-side analysis of different takes of the same image on a 30-inch Cinema Display. “Because I might take 30 shots of the exact same thing, being able to view and compare images, find the one I like, make that the select, and then compare all the like ones is a really good workflow for me, and Aperture makes it possible.
“If a flower is a little more tack sharp in one image than the other, I need to see it. The stack comparison tools are really critical because they help me quickly determine in which image everything came together in the frame. If a tree is blowing, and it’s a real blurry mess, I can quickly look through 4 or 5 images and know which has the tree in better focus.”
When she has made her selects, she uses the star-rating tool to quickly group them by overall quality. “I am not in the volume business,” she says. “So although I take a lot of images, I end up offering for sale as prints in my gallery and on the website a very small percentage of what I take. From a week-long photo shoot in the High Sierra this past summer I ended up using about 8 shots out of 2,000.”
After selecting her top images, Carmel uses Aperture to adjust them as necessary. She uses all of Aperture’s basic adjustments—“I methodically go through them in the order of the bricks”—but calls out for special notice the recovery and highlights tools: “Aperture has the ability to pull data back into highlights that may appear blown out initially, which allows me to get the detail I need. For my work, it’s very important to have good detail in the shadows and the highlights and to have a really nice broad range of tonal balance without any color casts.”
The final effect of Carmel’s work is determined not only by how it is captured and processed but by how it ultimately looks on her gallery walls. “Once I’ve got the final image I’ll do a number of test prints until I can sort of finesse the image to have the best look as an outputted print. I do all my printing from a very large format Epson 11880 printer onto fine art matte paper (Epson UltraSmooth paper or Premier Imaging Alise Paper for color prints; Intelicoat Museo Silver Rag for black & white). That differentiates my prints from the glossy, highly-saturated color that some landscape photographers choose. In my prints you’ll see perhaps a more subtle use of color.”
Not all of Carmel’s prints get framed; instead, they are displayed in portfolio books in a rack at her gallery. “I don’t frame all of them right away because I don’t have room for all of them, but I do keep my web site up to date will all my images” she says.
The images that make it past Carmel’s hypercritical eye to end up as framed prints are given every chance to find an audience. “Because I can reach more areas with my work via the Web, it’s critical to do the whole search engine marketing thing,” she says. “When people key in “Lake Tahoe Photography” I hope I come right up there at the top. I’ve had people find me that way, and I’ve sold prints all over the world.”
But although she is interested in broadening her market, Carmel continues to sell most of her work in her gallery. “One of the exciting things about the better resolution of the digital cameras and the larger printers is that you’re really able to create these larger prints with no loss of quality, which more people seem to be looking for as the centerpiece of their homes.”