This image is of a gathering thunderstorm that bore down on West Towne Christian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, right before the 2010 wedding of my friends Don and Anna Haney. At the time I took the picture, I wasn’t equipped with a wide-angle lens or even much time; I just noticed it getting very dark out before the wedding started, ran out with the camera I had with me (a Nikon D300s and a 17-55mm f/2.8 lens), and fired a few overlapping shots just as the electricity was knocked out to the church. It wasn’t a candlelight wedding after all; the storm passed, the lights came back on, and we all enjoyed a beautiful wedding and reception.
At home, I stitched the storm photos in Autopano Pro, posted the picture to Facebook, received a few likes and comments, and went on with my life.
A few weeks ago, Anna Haney messaged me about making a print of the storm for Don. Looking back at the original piece, I realized that the picture would need major work before I could print it. More than a dozen power lines stretched across the sky; there were cars, and as my ambition grew, several other distractions I thought worthy to remove with Photoshop.
I’ve learned that there are times you just don’t Photoshop something away. If you want to eliminate something from a picture, you have to create what would have been behind that object to take its place. In this photo, I had no idea exactly what was behind those cars. Believe it or not, it was Google Maps to the rescue. Google Maps has a feature called Street View that allowed me to virtually drive down the highway below the church to get a better idea as to what those yards, homes, roads, and businesses looked like.
Nevertheless, the scene I created involved a good deal of digital art. Street View did not take me up to the church’s parking lot, and it wasn’t practical to drive back to Knoxville to take empty parking lot pictures from the same vantage point for cloning fodder. Thus, I’ll admit that parts of the finished picture are fabricated and hopefully remind the viewer of how the uncluttered scene might look.