A Second Look Reveals a Hidden Gem

KAP is a very weather-dependent activity, and sometimes the wind and lighting don’t come together just how you want. That’s what happened back in July, when I went to Buffalo, New York’s Outer Harbor to take some pictures of the city skyline with my kite. There were wildfires raging on the other side of the country, and a thick blanket of smoke had drifted all the way to the east coast, resulting in gray skies with very low visibility.

At the time, I was a bit bummed with the conditions, since I wanted a nice clear view of the skyline. And indeed, the original photo is a bit dull and boring. For example, compare the two images below, the first taken on the smoky day, and the second taken when I returned to the same spot a couple days later:

The second one is a lot better, with colors and a sky that “pop,” and not as much distracting stuff in the foreground. I ended up just writing off all the pictures from the smoky session. After all, I got the shot I really wanted a couple days later.

That is, until yesterday, when I was looking through photos of mine that had “atmosphere” as examples for an online photo challenge I am running. The smoky picture stood out to me, and I realized that it really could have a lot of character with a little bit of editing. It’s unusual to get conditions like this with KAP, since normally weather that’s suitable for flying kites is not suitable for maintaining interesting atmospheric effects like smoke, fog, or mist, so it would be a shame to waste this photographic opportunity.

First, I applied a 2:1 crop to get rid of some of the distracting foreground elements as well as a good chunk of the gray sky that wasn’t adding anything to the photo. Then, since the colors are dull and muted anyway, I just went ahead and made it black and white. I added some contrast too to make it a little more dramatic. The end result was what you see at the top of this post: a dark and ominous shot that I think captures the mood of the day quite well. Here are the original edited versions again. Which do you like better? How about the smoky shot versus the clear one?

Original and edited image

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