How much contrast is too much?

I went to 11-mile Reservoir for a class back in June, and while we were primarily recording nature sounds, the camera had its place in my explorations as well.  Looking at the pictures later with the other members of my group, one made the comment that they were too high contrast, something I didn’t even think about or notice myself.  I think he’s right, but it took me this long to actually correct them.  The thing is, the lower contrast didn’t necessarily improve things…

So what’s the deal, then?  I was alright with what I had before, but there was definitely more detail in the pictures that I wasn’t getting.  Maybe I’m too content, and I need to be more critical, train my eye better.  It’s interesting what the change in contrast does to the colors.  This is the first roll of color negative (and the only one I’ve shot all year) that I’ve put through the Pakon since getting it back in February, and really, just how different the look can be from so small a tweak makes me think of some of the complaints Ken Rockwell has against anything that isn’t Fuji Velvia: I don’t really have a baseline for how any particular image is supposed to look.

How much time are you all putting into your color images?  I’m kind of used to just taking what the photo lab has been given me (unless I’m wandering into dangerous color temperature territory, ahem, Cinestill).  Maybe it’s force of habit, maybe it’s that I don’t find my color work as critical/important as black and white, maybe it’s because there are too many variables I have to deal with now, and I can’t be bothered.  It’s not really a complaint, but more of an observation.  Color changes things.

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