Canon 30D, handheld
Mamiya 80mm at f11
1/200 second at ISO 250
Your call
great egret Ardea albus

The advent of digital ushered in a new set of questions regarding a minor set of ethical questions that have always been around photographic editing: how much is too much? In days past it regarded darkroom tricks – selective lightening and even contrast-enhancing chemicals were usually fine, but manually touching up details and double-exposures in the darkroom were usually considered "retouching." Now of course, it's what can be done in digital editing programs like Photoshop, which often includes combining two or more different frames.

So, I'm leaving this one up to you, with comparison images at right. The original frame was definitely lacking in rich color and contrast, due to the partly-cloudy conditions of the day. But by going into the Curves function in Photoshop, I could selectively enhance not just certain colors, but how they would appear throughout the brightness range of the image – the brighter registers could be tweaked to show more blue, the darker more yellow, and so on. Technically, I was working only with what was already in the image, but this is kind of misleading – white is made up of all colors, so if I'm purposefully favoring blue as I was in the upper left of the new image, well, that's largely the same effect as using a color filter. Except it was not used across the entire photo, but only where the image was the brightest. This could not be accomplished in a darkroom without a whole lot of very fancy work. I often consider a simple bend or S-curve to be a "color tweak," but this edit required multiple curves in each color register and was quite involved in how far each went across the spectrum.

So, is this cheating or not? Myself, I consider this digitally altered, but it's easy to see that this isn't comparable to hand-coloring portions of the image or using more frames to composite elements together (like High Dynamic Range, or HDR, a fairly common technique anymore.)

This was taken from the bridge of the North Coast Inland Trail across a very shallow portion of the Portage River in Elmore, Ohio, largely a grab shot during a brief exploration of a friend's bike trip plans. That's a great egret (Ardea albus) in the background, standing over a meter tall.