The high-desert altitude and lack of industry makes the skies, sunsets and rainbows over Taos/NM quite spectacular. A recent double rainbow in plain sight of our house had me run out with my trusty Nikon Coolpix 5400 to capture what I could of the transitory splendor of nature's palette. I'm not a trained photographer by any stretch and thus rely on many of the automated smart functions of this camera which in this instance meant shooting full-auto as well as shuttling through diverse pre-sets in the menu. These presets use DSP to alter exposure compensation and other mechanical parameters for situations such as backlighting, low ambient light etc.

Going through the catch of pix afterwards, it occurred to me that they'd lend themselves to visualize some of what goes on with audio, namely how altering various tonal and contrast values impacts the fluidic reality of what we perceive.

Two takes of the same reality, completely unprocessed in Photoshop but taken with different scene-mode settings.

The same images, now sharpened in Photoshop.

The same images, now sharpened again in Photoshop. Do the word 'etchy' and 'grainy' become suggestive? With a bit of masking, one could selectively sharpen specific areas and then use the feather command to tone down hyper-chiseled edges.

How about tilting the tonal values instead?

Believe it or not, these now are completely untouched images. The only difference? A different scene-mode setting on the camera during snapping. Had I known I'd use these photographs to illustrate audio, I'd have gone through every single camera option available. Alas, I had this idea in retrospect only hence the scope of samples is limited.

More color manipulations in Photoshop, this time specific to certain color bands.

More of the same, deliberately skewed to extremes just for the hell of it. Remember, all of these images were taken within less than two minutes. The natural light changed very little. However, the camera -- plus later user manipulations in Photoshop -- can render reality very differently indeed. Of course, none of this truly captures nature's spectacular panorama or scale. Hence the emotional response to the pictures is diminished when compared to the live event. But manipulating contrast values, color saturation and sharpness (as very basic examples of what a truly skilled Photoshopper could do) demonstrates eloquently how our reaction to what we see can be tuned and shifted.

Audio is no different. From TechnoColor to soft pastel tones, from hyper-realist to romantically soft, imagination is the only limitation on how many flavors and takes we can coax from the so-called absolute sound imprinted as cyphers on our CDs. I don't believe any of this will come as a surprise but if pictures truly are worth a thousand words, this might serve as a miniature crash course for newbies who don't believe that components -- any components -- can make a difference. While some are admittedly subtle, those differences do exist. Whether you care about them is another matter altogether. But one thing's for sure: Reality and perception are interlinked and there are as many versions of reality as there are people participating in it. Audio is all about finding a perspective that suits you to portray reality in a manner that emotionally pleases and convinces you. Anyone with ambitions to recreate the live event in its entirety is on a fool's errand and the only thing mythical about that quest is the amount of money and time spent. As long as you're having fun and can afford it, that's all that matters though. Just don't confuse reality per se with a selective rendition thereof.