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LIFE & TIMES / JEFF MEYERS

Our Photo Imagination Can Soar With a Mac

June 29, 1995|JEFF MEYERS | Jeff Meyers is editor of Ventura County Life

From the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to the top of the Topa Topas, our photographers go anywhere for a Life cover.

Increasingly, they've been heading to the Mac.

Modern-day photojournalists have emerged from the darkroom into the bright new world of computer technology. While there is no substitute for a sharp eye and quick reflexes in the field, a deft touch on the Macintosh can make magic.

Three weeks ago, our cover was a photo of a sandy beach with a large footprint in the foreground. The original had the footprint in a different position, but photographer Spencer Weiner digitally moved it to keep the toes from disappearing off the page.

The computer gives photographers the freedom to bend reality slightly or really warp it. For our April 20 cover on multiplex mania in the county, Weiner took a shot of movie-goers queued at a box office and then seamlessly substituted a red-striped popcorn box for the theater.

"Anything you can conceive and visualize, you can do virtually," said Larry Bessel, Ventura County Edition photo editor.

In the darkroom, a photographer could have created the same illusions using multiple exposures and special effects, but the process would have been long and laborious.

"What would have taken months in the darkroom takes three hours on the Mac," Weiner said.

Today's Centerpiece photo by Joe Pulgiese, documenting the scene at a piano bar, is untouched. Had we wanted, we could have added hundred-dollar bills to the snifter or put Elton John at the keyboard. But even though photographers are enchanted by the computer, they are not its slaves, and they still prefer their work to appear as shot.

"The gratifying part of photography is capturing an image," Weiner said.

Photographers enjoy shooting Life covers. A cover showcases their talents, of course, and sometimes gives them a chance to play with the computer. But it also is a challenge. Shooting in the field, the photographer has to frame the subject so it fits the cover's physical dimensions while accommodating the Life logo and headline.

"You have to be thinking of a clean, simple image that stands out once you drop in the type and the logo," Alan Hagman said.

Hagman has shot numerous Life covers. He spent an evening on his living-room floor shooting bread kneaded into the Life logo and three days in the saddle capturing the wilderness.

"Certain Life assignments are more than assignments," Hagman said. "They're an adventure."

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