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The Right Direction

by Anna Niemic 
Published the 29th of April 2021

I drove by this scene for several months. It's one of the many supermarkets in my town. On the inside of the building is a bakery with the best pastries in Stettin, Poland, and I was on my way there to order my favorite torte for a family celebration. When I saw this new facade at the hypermarket, it was immediately clear to me that I had to come back with my camera quickly!

Canon 6D  .  Canon 24-105mm f/4  .  f/5.6

Colorful, narrow strips of wood were used to cover all of the outside walls. Visible from afar, it attracts the viewer with all the vibrant colors of the rainbow. It is of course a wonderful outdoor photo studio: the owners of the building surely wanted to heighten the visual attractiveness of the building, and by doing so they created a perfect place for photography.

I could spend an entire day here, and my impatience brought me back to do just that. After dropping off my daughter at school at 8:00 a.m., I drove to my newfound "photo-paradise," despite the cloudy weather. I loved the feeling of happy excitement when I grabbed my camera, got out of my car and started to walk in front of the colorful wall.

"Sure enough, a large man approached me and forbid me to photograph the building. I said: 'That's ridiculous. I'm not doing anything wrong!' "

There were so many colorful stripes. With the camera around my neck I started to focus here and there, coming up with countless possibilities in my head. I noticed a man standing right in front of "my" stripes, suddenly creating a perfect situation to photograph, so I clicked the shutter button on my camera. Out of the corner of my eye I could see someone who had been watching me coming closer. That was not a good sign. Sure enough, a large man approached me and forbid me to photograph the building. I said: "That's ridiculous. I'm not doing anything wrong!" The times of Communism are gone forever, and I was reminded how I can now happily enjoy this freedom. I do not understand why the owners of this supermarket would be opposed to my photographing such beautiful architecture.

"Upset and disappointed, I walked away slowly. I looked with sorrow at my paradise when all of a sudden the traffic sign caught my eye  :  an arrow that regulates the traffic in the parking lot."

Upset and disappointed, I walked away slowly. I looked with sorrow at my paradise when all of a sudden the traffic sign caught my eye : an arrow that regulates the traffic in the parking lot. It looked so beautiful against the colorful lines behind it. Ok, this is the right direction, I thought, and I lifted up my camera to take a picture. One shot and the man ran toward me; I guess he was really mad at me! I escaped as fast as I could to my car, like James Bond. When I got home, I was full of anticipation as I looked through my photos on my computer: I had one single shot of the arrow.

I am satisfied with the outcome, but I regret that I did not take more pictures. Now all I had to do was think of a title. The Right Direction? That worked for me. One look at this photograph and the viewer can understand my intention and outlook on life. Will I follow the right direction against absurd restrictions? Of course! I was not doing an injustice; I was not causing harm. I just took a color photograph to create something pleasing to the eye, something worth contemplating and worthy of a smile.

The image was processed in Photoshop.

1) Using the Crop tool, I cropped away some of the colored strips of wood to draw more attention to the arrow sign. I took the picture from a distance and therefore a crop brought it closer into view.

2) In the original file the lines are horizontal and the arrow lines up in that direction, pointing to the left side of the frame. At first glance the viewer would see the lines and the arrow, and the image would be quite boring. So I rotated the picture clockwise in a 90-degree angle and then flipped it horizontally so the street sign would be on the right side of the frame. I look at the photo starting on the left side, and my gaze skips over the vertical lines but then stops at the sign, which I believe is its strong point. By cropping, I positioned the sign in the composition according to the rule of thirds. The arrow guides the viewer upward to the longest part of the photograph. I edited it this way to keep the viewer interested for the longest possible time, and I also wanted the viewer to get a sense of orientation to "the right direction" rather than getting lost in the lines.

3) Because of the clouds that day, there was not enough contrast. So I applied a Levels adjustment layer and increased the black point (the slider on the left) to 25 and decreased the light tones by moving the midpoint slider to 0.90.

4) The street sign was not distinctive enough, so I used the Quick Selection tool, Feather set to 0.1 pixel, to select the entire sign. I then copied the sign and pasted it in place. Using the Levels tool (Image > Adjustments > Levels), I raised the contrast and the dark color tones of the sign by moving the black point slider to 25 and the midtone slider to 0.70. But these adjustments also darkened the white arrow, making it grey. With the Quick Selection tool, I selected only the arrow, copied it and then pasted it back in place.

5) I lightened the arrow by applying a Levels adjustment layer only to it. I moved the midpoint slider to 1.65 and the white point slider to 180. The arrow was white again.

6) I sharpened the photo by applying the Unsharp Mask filter, setting Amount to 100, Radius to 2 and Threshold to 20. A lower threshold would give a stronger sharpening effect, but in this case was not necessary.

I am a biologist and I live in Stettin, Poland. I worked at the Sea Fisheries Institute studying plankton. I loved my work, but had to quit because of the serious illnesses of my two children. I have been doing photography for four years. Taking care of my two disabled children has taught me to appreciate the simple things in life. With photography I can again find the beauty of the small things. I like to take walks in the city of Stettin, where I search in the chaos and haste for that one moment; when I capture it in a photograph, it gives me energy for my life.
Great image and tutorial Anna. I love your work. Best regards, Patrick
Dear Anna, very well described, thanks for sharing! Always wondering how the beautiful pictures of walls are processed. Looks we have something in common, love to photography and details, background of biology, and my mother born in Stettin :-) . I hope your children are fine today! Stay healthy, best regards Ulrike
Thank you very much Yvette for publishing my text. Greetings from Poland!
Excellent creative work Anna and an emotive personal story, thank you for sharing your post processing , congratulations! Thank you as always too Yvette, I hope that you are keeping incredible healthy and happy!
Thank you very Wayne much and best regards!
I still remember well the time when I collected this tutorial many years ago in an intelligent collaboration with Anna. Since then, Anna has received a lot of awards for her photography. Her last honor was the nomination for Personality of the Year in the field of culture by the Polish newspaper Głos Szczeciński. Congratulations ! And thanks to Yvette for presenting this tutorial after such a long time.
I also remember our nice cooperation Hans. Thank you for so many warm words and best regards from Szczecin!