This photo of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal was taken in November 2007 near the end of the morning rush.
Okay, I know I have 12 separate treatments, or versions, of the photo displayed above. So you may be asking which is the photo I shot that November morning.
My answer would be: I shot ALL of the photos that morning. The base photograph — travelers rushing through the Main Concourse as the morning sun streams through large windows on the east side of the building — is always the same. The treatment I prefer will vary depending on the mood I’m trying to create or, at times, the mood I’m in.
That’s the beauty of digital photography and post-processing in Photoshop or other similar editing software (these edits were made in Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop, and in On1’s Perfect Effects). There are so many things you can do to have the final version of the photo match the version that’s in the photographer’s head. The same effects could be created in the pre-digital era, but they were much more difficult to accomplish.
Let me be clear, I’m not a big fan of photo manipulation like the fashion magazines do. Yes, I can make a person look slimmer in a photo, fix a crooked nose or a crooked smile or improve spacing between eyes. I can add people to photos or subtract objects from photos. But I don’t do that, except for obvious artistic photo-compositions like the image with the hand holding a brush painting a black-and-white version of the Grand Central photo.
Maybe it’s my newspaper background, but I prefer a photograph represent reality.
The question is, what is reality?
In my many versions of the Grand Central photo, the contents of the image (the building, the flags, the sun reflecting off the floor, the motion of the travelers) remain the same. I didn’t add or subtract elements. The photo is the photo.
But adjusting the contrast or color tone, adding depth by deepening the shadows, highlighting the detail in the block walls or dropping all color to create a black-and-white image can significantly change the mood created by the photograph. It’s something photographers have done since Louis Daguerre developed the daguerreotype process that was commercially introduced in 1839. Capture a scene on a metal plate (as Daguerre did) or, in later years, on a negative, or today in a digital file, then work to get the final print or final image to match how your eyes and brain saw the scene.
So I guess the best question is: What did I see on that November morning when I pressed the shutter button to capture this Grand Central Terminal scene to a digital file?
I saw lines and light and motion and detail, the compositional elements that make the photograph visually pleasing. That’s the never-changing base canvas I work with. Everything else is cosmetic.
By the way, the correct name of this site is Grand Central Terminal, although people refer to it as Grand Central Station — the name of the facility on the site before Grand Central Terminal was completed in 1913, and the name of the U.S. Post Office station next door.
I do have more photos of Grand Central, both interiors and exteriors. I always try to hit that area every trip to New York. The energy level inside the building is incredible, especially during morning or evening rush. It’s one of the iconic — and recognizable — New York City locations. I have some of those other photos in the grid that follows the 13 treatments, or versions, of the Grand Central main concourse below.