Friday, September 23, 2011

I Think...

Its important not to loose site of the fact that photography should be fun. We hear all too often that the marketplace for photography is being taken over by the amateur, driving down prices, dilluting the overall quality, etc. etc. As with many forms of technology, easy access has opened up the once quiet photography arena to anyone with access to a wide range of imaging devices.

Every professional was once an amateur and every ameteur aspires to greatness. Go have fun!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Photo(shop) by Jim Brandenburg?

A few months back, I was browsing various blogs and came across renowned photographer Jim Brandenburg's site. If you're a photographer from Minnesota (or nearly anyplace else) you know of Brandenburg's outstanding collection of images and his long history as an editorial shooter for National Geographic and other top publications. On this particular day, he had just posted an image from Crow-Hassen Park Reserve near Rogers, Minnesota. You can see the posting here.

Here's Jim's image. It's an outstanding picture of rolling hills, wildflower covered prairies, and a lone tree in the distance. So outstanding that I had to see this landscape for myself.

I waited until the day I thought the flowers would be in bloom (too early I found out) and made the 1-hour trip from my house. It didn't take long for me to realize that finding a lone tree on the prairie would be difficult. The day was pleasant as I headed down the sandy trail. Before long I came across a scene that looked like it could be the spot. Problem was, the hills weren't high enough and there were small bushy trees nearby the large tree.

Here's my image. Something seemed out of place. I considered my surroundings a moment. Jim mentioned that the photo was from a recent trip, so the image is at least a year old. I hiked up to the trees and inspected the smaller ones. In my novice opinion, they were at least 5-10 years old. Since this is an active prairie restoration area, its unlikely that they would have been allowed to grow there unchecked.

Here's an overlay of the two images. By rotating my picture slightly and scaling it to match the tree's height, we can see that the horizon line has been changed, wetlands removed, and trees and other types of plants have been removed.

Now, to be fair, Jim never claims that this is an editorial, untouched image and I have yet to find any statements by him regarding his use of Photoshop. I was just surprised and frankly a bit disappointed to see such an extreme amount of alteration to the image.

So, is it still as good? Would you be as disappointed as I was to reach the destination and find it's different than presented?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"A photograph is a secret about a secret."

I've added a small selection of black and white images from my formative early years as a photographer. Made between 1987 and 1990, the images show the beginnings of a lifelong search for the perfect vision. You can see the other images here. I'll be adding more as I get the time.

The quotation above is from Diane Arbus, a famous American photographer made famous by her images of people living on the fringe of society.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Of Digital and Dreaming

Nobody likes to feel duped and in a world of digital images, it is often hard to tell the reality from the fiction. When exhibiting my photography, I continually field questions like “are your images enhanced?” and “Are these digital or film?” I’ve been accused of faking images and even had people turn up their nose and leave my exhibit when they hear the ‘D’ word.

I began making commercial images over 20 years ago when film was the only option. To the public living outside of the photographer’s world, image manipulation appears to be a new game introduced with the advent of the computer and Photoshop. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Image manipulation is nothing new. The names and the processes have changed but, to a great extent, what happens with digital imagery today happened with film as well. To make an extreme case, just look at the work of Jerry Ueselmann.

In the days before digital was even a dream, the choice of film type and speed determined subtleties in color, contrast and grain. In camera, film was again subjected to manipulation with multiple exposures, contrast filters and color filters even defocus (soft focus) lenses. All of these manipulated how the image was recorded on the emulsion of the film.

During chemical processing, a simple change in chemical temperature or agitation rates increased or decreased film contrast. Film of one type was even processed in the chemicals of another type in a process known as cross processing to produce color casts and increased grain.

When it came to printing, litho masks, contrast filters, paper choice, and multiple exposures were commonplace. Burning and dodging, the art of selectively lightening and darkening areas of the print, were executed on nearly every print. In addition, with black and white prints (a total departure from reality; manipulation to the extreme!) prints were selenium toned to produce a steel blue tint or sepia toned to create a warm brown tone.

Image manipulation is not new; it has only changed to suit the medium. My goal is faithful representation of what I saw and felt at the time of exposure. After all, it’s art, not a crime scene photograph.

Next time you see an image that catches your eye ask yourself; “Do I like the image?” If the answer is yes, why does it matter how it was made? Enjoy art for what it is whether its painting, sculpture, photography or anything else.