I used to have an odd sense of discomfort when I would ride buses that had tinting in their windows. It stemmed from the irritation I felt that I wasn’t seeing something accurately. I’d see something outside the bus that looked particularly picturesque, but nudge myself that it wasn’t “true”. And when I’d see a beautiful sunset I wouldn’t want to be wearing sunglasses, because I didn’t want the image of its true beauty to be altered.
My father and I were traveling together once, when I had the impulse to get some post cards to send to friends at home. But something was odd about the post cards. They didn’t look real. I asked my father what he thought. He said, “Yes. It looks like they over-saturated the colors in post-production. You can do that to your own if you want!” But I told him I thought it was distasteful. I wanted the world, as wonderful as it is, to look as ordinary as it is too, un-edited. Somehow I wanted my lens to have a sense of truthfulness. An Abe Lincoln lens.
Then one day, I developed some pictures I took in Nepal. I was simply astounded at their color. But it was almost exactly true to life. I realized that it was lack of haze at the upper altitudes that let the sun’s unhindered spectrum bounce off of things to create that dazzling brilliance. At sea level, the air is dense. The upper atmosphere (which thankfully filters out much harmful radiation) filters light in a certain way too that changes colors.
On particularly hazy and cloudy days, much of the world’s color can be toned down to the point that beauty doesn’t strike us with its brilliance as much as it should. In these contexts, I think a slight sprucing up of the actual colors that are in the light is merited. I suppose it’s a question of what you see as truest. Is it what the world looks like on a cloudy day that you want to capture? Or is it the nature of things as they are, despite weather, that you want to bring out? I don’t want to make everything seem like it had to be seen on a sunny day. As some places are more majestic in the dark than the light, such as Venice, Italy. But over time I’ve become less fixed on these ideas. While I’ll never use lens filters on the raw photography, I will sometimes clear the fog of a hazy day with a bit of judicious saturation.