#1229. The futility of re-creation

By pascaljappy | Opinion

Sep 13

A beloved lost photograph and the opportunity to shoot it again, along with my attempts to emulate film in digital.

Gorges du Verdon

Above is one of my favourite personal photographs. Ironic, really, as landscape photography usually does very little for me.

That photo – the source file – was lost to one of my many backup fiascos. It was taken in the famous Verdon Gorges, already documented on DearSusan, almost 1000 posts ago πŸ™‚

As I was going to walk this again, my #1 goal was to reshoot this with a more modern camera and save the file preciously. Even print it, who knows …

The North side of the gorge

Yeah, right …

Spoiler alert: it didn’t pan out. At all.

But I made other memories. And that is the whole point of this post.

Trailside 1

It should have been obvious from the start that this idea was futile. Everytime the recreation of an iconic photograph is attempted, the research leading up to the shoot is always far more interesting than the shoot results. Why should my humble attempt have been any different?

Never dwell on he past.

But since I was going to walk the exact same trail, why not give it a try? That was the reasoning.

Trailside 2

So, what went wrong? Three things.

First, Southern France was going through a period of severe drout. In my ususally green part of the world, it hadn’t rained significantly since last November. That’s scary, not typical, and had drastically reduced the flow of the Verdon river at the bottom of the canyon. Instead of the usual blue/green/turquoise ribbon of water, there was only a shallow grey strip, which makes photographs less appealing.

Low water, harsh light, no go?

Seconly, the light was harsher than I ever remember shooting in. At least in this area. Photos in the forests were already challenging, but those in the open completely stumped me. It was necessary to underexpose and then to finesse post processing so as to lower contrast and clarity in very significant measures. It definitely stretched the X1D to its outer limits and my PP know-how far beyond mine πŸ˜‰ This still lead to a few ‘keepers’, thankfully.

A lot of PP for this.

Finally, and somewhat embarassingly, I never found the spot πŸ˜† It should have been easy as there are not many with a stone arch above your head. But there you go. Stumped as charged, again …

I looked. And looked. Turned around often, explored little paths leaving the trail. All to no avail. Rhyming intended.

So there was no other choice but to photograph stuff along the way, as second prizes. Here are a few of those images, with occasional comments, and starting with early morning colour, for a change.

The view from the hotel window
Waiting for the bus
Another take on the same flowers
And another
Homage to WIlliam Eggleston
Homage to a brown board

One of the great pleasures of this trip was to experiment with colour, trying to find a rendering that would evoke film, with its soft shoulders and gentle ways. That was definitely easier in the morning. During the day, it was necessary to resort to strong underexposure and, in post processing, big lowering of contrast. And even that wasn’t successful.

Here is a colour/mono comparison, as a transition to b&w.



Speaking of monochrome, this (below) is what my standard conversion process yielded. Heeeeelp !!! πŸ˜†


Resorting to other methods got me closer to a good photo, but never quite there.


There’s a moral lesson or three, in there, somewhere. Something about living in the present, printing while you can, paper lasting longer than silicon, taking notes, not being a dumbass with lighting conditions, getting a film camera if you’re so obsessed with a film look, and more.

But the higher lesson is this: I had fun.

That’s what our hobby is about πŸ™‚


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  • Philberphoto says:

    Pascal, your failures are richer than my successes. Just don’t complain too much, it might offend the Salieris of this world, whom I know so well for being one of them.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks Philippe. That said, I strongly doubt my photos will be remembered in 2 centuries, like Salieri’s work is πŸ˜‰ But, again, it’s all about having fun and sharing with good friends πŸ™‚

  • Lad Sessions says:

    Pascal, Your “fun” in walking and seeing and imaging is our pleasure in viewing. I do think your monochromes are brilliant; I particularly liked “A lot of PP for this.” I think it was Heraclitus, who said (in rough translation) that you can’t step into the same river twice–nor a river gorge! So enjoy the moment now, and don’t try to re-create the past. Cheers!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you so much, Lad. I wish the lessons of phylosophy were more present in our everyday life, it would do this world so much good. Cheers!

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      I don’t know who this guy Heraclitus is, Lad, but there’s another expression I know – “the past is a place you can’t go to!”

      I quite often have Pascal’s problem. All my own fault of course – as my wife keeps telling me!

      I used a more portable setup to plan shots – taking trial images on that camera and coming back later for the “real shot”. Mostly it’s a good idea. But quite often, it’s impossible to get the same conditions and I end up stuck with the pilot shot[s].

  • Jeffrey Horton says:

    I often go back and reshoot the same places. I feel like you develop a relationship with a place, get to know the lighting at different times of day, how the weather can affect shots. The more you go back to the same place, the more developed a shot can become. You have to like the place though. I don’t get bored of those special places, I just enjoy seeing how they change with the time of year or conditions. I rarely succeed at improving an already great shot. More often I will discover something I’ve never notice, or otherwise find a new composition. Anyway, sorry for my wordiness, I think I’ve spent too much time thinking about this subject πŸ™‚

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Jeffrey, that’s very true. Going back to a location to get to know it better is very productive. It opens us to new opportunities, which is what happened to me on that day. I failed at my initial goal but had other successes πŸ™‚

      Don’t apologise!! This is why I write those post, for the comments and the discussions that follow. Please don’t stop πŸ˜‰

  • PaulB says:


    I have had similar experiences returning to retake a memorable image. You never get back to the exact spot or the exact set up. This is difficult even when you return often, more so when you don’t.

    One lesson I had to accept during my last trip to Arizona was to use my phone for photos more often. Particularly for memorable locations. Why? The phone will use the internal GPS to record your location (if this feature is turned on). Then you can use your favorite mapping App to lead you back to the location.

    Unfortunately, getting back to the general vicinity of the location does not preserve your tripod holes, footprints, or prevent the local vegetation from growing to obscure the scene.


    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Paul, GPS is one of those really features that are part of “digitilization” that I feel so many manufacturers missed the boat on. There have been improvements, lately, and quite a few cameras do offer it now, but it should be mandatory πŸ˜‰

      Trying to recreate the exact same photograph, in my mind, is always doomed to fail. Which is different from trying to improve an image that’s not entirely satisfactory by returning and again in search of better conditions.


      • PaulB says:

        Another lesson I am learning is to use the technology the camera manufacturers do give us.

        Last month I was at a location where I really NEEDED a cable release to get the camera position that I wanted, which is something Leica no longer supports. Fortunately, I scouted the location the day before and made sure I downloaded the latest version of the Leica Fotos app that night. The next day, I hoisted the camera above my head and used the app to frame the image, focus, and activate the shutter all from the screen of my phone.

        The process was not as quick as I was hoping. But, it was better than I feared and the only way I was going to get the images I wanted.

        Ohh, and to conclude this thread, the Fotos App and GPS in my phone recorded the name and street address for my shooting location in each image.

        Have fun!

        • pascaljappy says:

          Excellent. I do think pairing phone with camera is the way to go. I think I wrote about this at least 5 years ago. At the time camera screens were much less good than today’s. But even now, the very best cannot hold a candle to good phones. The new iPhone Pro has 2000 nits. That’s brilliant for sunny scenes. It seems absolutely mad not to integrate more with our phones. But, it’s coming, it’s coming πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚


        • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

          Yes – gone are the days of the old cable release. You can now connect your cellphone to your camera, and instead of having to buy a new remote release with practically every new camera you buy, that only works over 10-25 metres anyway, you can set the camera up wherever you want, then go & make a nice hot cup of coffee, and sit in your car, over 100 metres away, out of sight, and fire the shutter whenever you choose.

          • pascaljappy says:

            I wouldn’t do this around here, Pete. Unless you can run *really* fast πŸ˜†

          • PaulB says:


            You must have a good Wi-Fi set up in your car. My home Wi-Fi doesn’t have that much range.

            Though, I will still need to try that for the deer and birds that come into my yard.

            Have fun!

            • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

              Not the WiFi, Paul – the cellphone does it. I’ve yet to try it over such a distance, but the guy at the camera shop set it all up for me, and he says he’s been using it on his cellphone, over distances up to 125 metres. The APP on the cellphone chats to the camera somehow, and triggers the shutter. You get to see what’s happening, on the screen of the cellphone, at the moment you fire it as a remote. And as a bonus, the cellphone keeps a sample of the shot that the camera took – I still have two of those images on my cellphone, from the shots he took with my camera, using that set up, in the camera shop, when he set it up.
              He did it so I wouldn’t have to wait until the remote I’d ordered was delivered to the store.

  • edouard says:

    Great pictures πŸ™‚
    … ‘looking in google map … : maybe it could be near this?: https://goo.gl/maps/j536DvtqKZCdX5JdA (~”Baume aux Pigeons”) as there are 2 nearby google photo points with something that could amount to a (quarter) of arch?: https://goo.gl/maps/D6GLUsJpHQEPC4Gj6 & https://goo.gl/maps/52SUAzUC715Hu7QTA
    Greatings from Switzerland, cheers

  • Mer says:

    Hi – The view from the hotel window, very nice indeed, I like it a lot. It has a real mood to it, a sense of elsewhere.

    A bit of an addition to iphone thoughts – https://www.lifeafterphotoshop.com/im-shooting-raw-with-my-iphone-but-im-not-sure-i-should/


    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks Mer!

      As for the iPhone, I think the beauty of a good phone is that almost film-like “all in camera” workflow. I wouldn’t want to process files from a phone. My guess is few people can do that better than Apple themselves πŸ˜‰


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