The Panama Canal: Editing Old Photos

Today I am starting a new series based on editing photos.  I will be completely honest with you, it took a lot of hours reading and listening to the advice of others to get to the point in photography where I am now.  I used to be an absolutely terrible photographer.  I had no concept of light and exposure, how to compose a shot, or even what the program functions on my old point and shoot camera meant.  I have a travel photography ebook published now on the subject, have had photos published in magazines, and sold many images to designers via stock libraries.  What a change five years can make.  One of the most frustrating things I do is go through my old photos, it is almost shameful.  However, thanks to photo editing programs like photoshop CS5, adobe lightroom, and even something simple like windows live photo gallery a lot of these photos can be saved.

In my new series, which will be published every Saturday, I will be showing an old photo then explaining the adjustments that I made in the digital darkroom and the result of the editing.  This week’s photo is one from the Panama Canal and it was edited entirely in Abode Lightroom.

Miraflores Locks

Miraflores Locks - Unedited

The Adjustments

My first issue with the above photo was the poor exposure resulting in a blown out (lack of detail) sky.  The blown out sky is a result of an overexposure (to much light to the camera sensor).  However, it is also a light issue that couldn’t be corrected due to the time of the day.  With my DSLR I could have drawn the detail from the sky because the RAW file holds all that information, but with my old point and shoot that took this picture at 5.1 megapixels, most of the blown out details were lost when the camera converted the photo to a JPEG when the photo was shot (as nearly all point and shoots do).  However, using the recovery feature, and a gradient exposure feature I was able to pull back some of that detail, although it did introduce a little bit of noise (grain) to the sky.  My second biggest issue was the composition.  I had the right intention, I shot the photo using the rule of two-thirds.  The only problem is that the bottom third was a mess.  As such, I’ve cropped the bottom out, and all through the photo doesn’t use the rule of two-thirds for the horizon, the building is still at the two-thirds horizontally.   I also tilted the image a little bit so that the lines flow better.  Finally, I added some life to the colour of the photo using some contrast and vibrance.  You’ll see the final edited verison above the old version below

I’d love your feedback on this series.  Do you want to see more?  Any suggestions??

Panama Canal

Miraflores Locks - Edited

Miraflores Locks

Miraflores Locks - Unedited


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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7 Comments

  1. Love that you’re starting with Panama:) We’re in the process of making plans for it so any photos will be great. Plus, I’ve been reading your posts on there as well.

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    • Panama was really great. I might have a post coming out on it quite soon.

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  2. Interesting series, I like seeing the before and afters. Did you see Wes’ latest on JohnnyVagabond.com he goes through the Lightroom process which is really helpful.

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    • Yeah, I flipped onto Johnny’s at one point, I think it’s really good. I was thinking I could go through the process to offering screen shots, but it looks like lots of work. I may try it at some point though.

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  3. Nice job. I admire the fact that you’ve taken on such a daunting task as editing your old photos. I can barely find time to edit the ones I’ve taken recently. 🙂

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  4. Interesting series. I need to work on my photography. I started getting better with editing but need to work on my eyes.

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    • Michael, a photographer once told me that a photo isn’t taken it is made. If you have the time, look at all the angles before shooting the photo. If you shoot a DSLR you should read the Scott Kelby digital photography books, they are really straight to the point and give great advice. If you shoot a point and shoot I know a guy who has an ebook for sale 😉

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