Earlier this year I attended a talk by an award winning landscape photographer who is an authority on photography, printing, and color management. His presentation was filled with beautiful photographs and the knowledge that he shared was encyclopedic. At one point he said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that the technology in the cameras and software we use today is so advanced, that it can portray what we see exactly how it appears, and it should only be used for that purpose. I strongly disagree with the second part of the last sentence.
As he ranted against the photographers who take artistic liberties with their RAW files, and commit what he saw as crimes against photography, I was profoundly discouraged to hear him tell a room full of photographers not to explore their every creative impulse.
I bring this up for a couple of reasons: First, because I feel that photographers, and all artists, should be encouraged to broaden their skills and discover new ways of expressing themselves. Specializing in one style or technique is something that you may choose to do at a certain point, but exploring a variety of techniques and styles is helpful in the early stages of your development as an artist. Even after you’ve found your specific style, there is always more to learn by experimenting and playing with different techniques.
The second reason is because in my continuing journey as a photographer, I am less interested in presenting a scene as it appeared, and prefer creating my own interpretation. One of my favorite photographers, Joel Tjintjelaar, said it far better than I could: “The further the artist moves away from reality, the more unique the result is, the more it represents his personal vision and the closer we get to experience the essence of that artist."
When I’m focused and have a clear vision of how I want to present my subject, I can show it in a way that is different from how it is usually seen. When I move away from reality and bring my vision to the image, viewers tend to stop, look a little longer and gaze a little deeper. If I can’t show something entirely new, I’ll attempt to show the familiar in a new way. I don’t always succeed, but when I do, it more than makes up for the times when I am not successful.
“There is no such thing as taking too much time, because your soul is in that picture.”
I first heard this from the amazing Parish Kohanim, and it stuck with me. It serves as a reminder to keep working at an image until everything is exactly how I want it. That often means going back and re-shooting under better light or at a different time of day or year – whatever it takes to make sure the final print comes out exactly how I envision it.
Reality has been altered to some degree in each of the photographs in this post. In most cases it’s a combination of camera settings and post-processing. In each case, I had a clear vision of the final print, so it was just a matter of using the right tools to bring that vision to life. I’m not trying to make it sound easy, because it wasn’t. These images are the result of many hours of work and lots of trial and error.
The truth is, failure is not an option, it’s a given. Not every click of the shutter is going to yield a masterpiece. For every great shot you get, you’ll throw away a hundred, maybe two or three hundred. But when you get that one keeper, it’s all worth it. The technology we have available to us can be used not only to recreate what we see, but to create almost anything we imagine. Take those pixels, shape and polish them until a part of you is in there. You’ll know when that happens, and so will everyone who sees it.
For more of my work, please visit my web site.