What if” Dorothea Lange had . . .

“Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange, photographed for the Farm Security Administration in February of 1936, is one of the iconic images that has defined the Great Depression, despite the controversy that surrounds the events of the photograph. 

Over the years I have seen three different prints and each time I have seen it, I have been captivated, even though my position has wavered after seeing the entire series that were taken that day in Nipomo, California.

However I am not going to discuss the academic merits of “Migrant Mother.” Rather I was wondering What if Dorothea took the picture today, regardless if it were with a DSLR or a mobile device, I am more curious as to her contemporary post production esthetics.

While we have her notes and the other alternate photographs, all efforts are just speculations and can only be considered an exercise in intellectual inquisitiveness and nothing more. My What if curiosity certainly got the better of me and so I spent the evening working on one of the official “Migrant Mother” digital scans that are available from the US Library of Congress (LC-USF34-9058-C, retouched version) and imported the photograph into Google’s SnapSeed program.

Original version retouched version

There were a total of six steps the photograph underwent, with the first being the application of Tilt-Shift, set to a vertical oval and Blur to 100%. Brightness and Contrast set at zero, Contrast at minus 100%. This last setting helped remove some of the photographs original contrast and allowed for more detail in the dark areas to come forward. Also the area outside of the oval, softened the area but left the mother’s face and arm in focus.

Stage 1 - Tilt-Shift

In stage two, the aim was to bring attention to the mother’s face, especially since the faces of the children were sheltered from view, doing so allows the viewer to focus on mother’s plight. To achieve this, I selected Center Focus and opted for Old Lens to get the vignetting that renders the image more dramatically. While there is also a Blur setting with in Center Focus, it was not engaged.

Stage 2 - Center Focus

The next stage was more problematic and it became a judgement call. For I am not sure that Dorothea would have applied a Grunge filter and only worked on the lighting effects of the photograph. But I decided to gamble and use the effect to give a tint to the image. 

I selected May Creek, with Texture and Contrast set to minus 100%, while Saturation and Brightness at zero, so they would remain unchanged and only Style would have only a bearing on the image.

Stage 3 - Grunge

Because Grunge muted the over-all appearance of the photograph, the next step was to introduce the image to Drama, which back-lights  and brings back some of the detail and highlights that were lost by applying a Grunge effect.

By selecting the filter Dark, I carefully adjusted the Saturation of the effect to less then half, while Strength and Brightness remained neutral.

Stage 4 - Drama

While I did like the results and especially the tint, which now had been reduced, I wanted to maintain the photographs period appearance, including the introduction of a level of film grain, the next step was Black & White.

Since only a soft touch of film grain was desired, I selected the Neutral filter. This also meant to reduce the Contrast to minus 100%, and lower Brightness to minus 20%. The Grain was increased to 75%. No Color Filter was applied

Stage 5 - Black & White

For the final alteration of “Migrant Mother,” I felt that a frame would be appropriate. Yet a simple white border did not seem fitting. Even though I proposed in the beginning of this article the photograph was taken today, I also wanted to maintain the integrity of the images appearance, hence the film grain. Therefore, I selected a border that would resemble the edge of film held in a film holder.

Stage 6 - Frame

In the end, I confess I am not sure how much of Dorothea Lange’s influence in the post production might be evident in the final results. Yet the time spent manipulating her photograph was time well spent. For in the end, the results do reflect the hardships suffered by the migrant farmers seen in many of the other Farm Security Administration photographic collection. And then there is the book by The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck and subsequent film with its strictly and realistic visual depiction of the Great Depression.

So who is to say that the results presented here, might not have been very similar to what Dorothea herself would have seen fit to bring out in the photograph. 

Before and After


TiPA’s First GiveAway — Painted Camera

Gilles Dezeustre, one of a duo team of developers at The 11ers has been working on a follow-up application to the popular post-processing app, Glaze, which was released in the summer of 2012. 

Their new program, soon to be released, Painted Camera, is a camera application that features a live view of their one of nine filters and one randomizer for capturing photographs that will be rendered with a painterly effect.

Here are a few samples I took earlier using Painted Camera.

Stable Window Shutter


Gilles has offered us five promo codes of Painted Camera before it is released at iTunes and if you would like your chance at being one of the winners, here is what you will need to do.

1: You need to leave a comment and most important of all, include your contact information, so I can send you your code if you are one of the random winners.

     If no contact information is provided and your name was drawn, another winner will be chosen in your place.

2: Five winners will be chosen by random drawing on Monday, Feb. 17 by 6 pm PST.

                         Good Luck!

Glaze is available at iTunes


UpDate: The results of the drawing are in

Congratulations to the winners . . .
                              I look forward to seeing what you have created.

          Marianne Rieter
          James Clarke
          Carolyn Hall Young
          Mark Smith

Your codes will be sent shortly  with instrutions on how to redeem them.

Thank you all for your participation in TiPA’s first GiveAway and a special thank you to Gilles Dezeustre for making the program available.

All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved


SHOOTER Magazine, Winter 2014 - Issue 4

It was very late in the afternoon when the mail carrier drove up and stopped at the house, it only meant that a package was being delivered and yet I had not ordered anything. As the mail carrier handed me the package I thought for a moment my son had ordered another customised iPhoto book from Apple but it was just too heavy and even though I did not have my glasses with me, I saw it was addressed to me.

With a hastened step, I rushed to the kitchen and retrieved a knife with which to carefully open the package.Between the layers of cardboard lay wrapped in cellophane the latest issue from the Spanish curators of SHOOTER.

Cover: Shooter Winter issue Nr. 4, photo by Jean-Stephane Cantero

After a quick search for my reading glasses, I poured myself another cup of tea and sat down to look at what Milo Kalvin, publisher and Luis Torress, editor have curated for our pleasure. 

Photo by Jean-Stephane Cantero, iPhone 4S

Photo by Jose Luis Lopez Moral, Canon EOS 550 D

Since the first two issues back in late 2012 and 2013, Shooter magazine has not only become a much heavier and thicker issue with more content, it also has shifted its focus from just featuring mobile photography, by now also including photographs captured with a DSLR. 

While this might disappoint a few readers, the shift only goes to show that mobile photography can stand up next to DSLR images, for in the end good mobile photography should not be about the means in which it was captured but about the image and what it has to say.

Photo by Alan Thomas Duncan Wilkie, Leica M

Melissa Vincent, iPhone 4

Paul Dominique, Canon 5D MKII

One year ago The SHOOTER Magazine was not searching for customers, but partners, friends, contributors, and patrons. One year later, you are only one of 3000 partners of SHOOTER Magazine.

I urge you to consider becoming a subscriber, becoming a shareholder of the magazine by visiting, for your support makes this project sustainable.

All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved

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