Only fools of the photographic nerd variety would fill their hard drives with gigabytes of large RAW format images rather than the normal JPGs that the rest of the world uses. That makes me a photographic nerd. But it also means that I can revisit old photos – it’s rather like keeping all your old negatives and then deciding you want to print that favourite image but in a new way. Actually, it’s even better than that because RAW images are more akin to undeveloped film. Those of us who used to dip our hands into chemicals to develop our films had the choice of altering its characteristics before moving on to creating prints. With RAW images I can develop that image again in many ways.

Now, in place of choosing different chemicals and concentrations, different temperatures, different immersion times we have software. This is why I still call it the darkroom – my digital darkroom.

Recently I have been using new software from Topaz, in conjunction with my suite of the Nik collection and Adobe programmes to revisit and re-edit some old images to see if they can improved or simply apply my current favourite ‘looks’.

One of the images was from Costa Rica in 2008 and I was amazed at the result. That led me on an obsessive run through that vacation trip and I’d like to share some of my images with you.


Amazing shafts of light at sunset near Huatulco, Pacific Mexico.

Costa Rica

Big Pacific sky over Costa Rica

Paddling down the river looks fun, but belies the fact this was in 96ºF heat, high humidity, wrapped with a tight lifebelt, camera equipment strangling me, and my sleeves rolled down to combat the biting insects. This was a moment I was forced to learn to be comfortable in my own sweat. Competing with entwined camera bag, camera strap and paddling I was determined to capture some images.

I know what you’re thinking. Must be an alligator? But in Central America there are ‘American Crocodiles’ and Caimans and to be honest I’m not certain which this is.


Brown Booby off the Pacific coast of Panama. Cropped in Photoshop, denoised, sharpened and enlarged in Topaz.
Dawn over Panama City and the Pacific approach to the Panama Canal

Travelling between oceans via the Panama Canal we took a small boat around the islands in Lake Gatun:

The image of the sloth was captured quickly as our boat passed. The sloth, being a sloth, was kind enough not to move an inch. Having only a travel zoom at a maximum 120mm meant it was too far away. However, this is a good example of what can be achieved – bear in mind that these are highly cropped from 12 megapixel images, now the average end of many mobile phones….

Use the slider to compare with the original raw capture:

Puerto Rico

Finally ending up in Puerto Rico, this is Old San Juan. I was struck by the lamps catching the light set against a brooding sky.

After this, it was back to the USA mainland. But that’s another post….

Nerdy stuff:

All images captured in 2008 as NEF files with a 12 megapixel full frame Nikon D700 with the 24-120 f/4 Nikkor lens.

Most images re-edited through Photoshop to Topaz software or Nik collection and finished in Lightroom Classic.