- The reproductions on this website represent
the printed images as accurately as possible, but they're not the same as prints. In
addition to the matter of fine detail, no two monitors show colors, brightness and contrast quite the same. Also, prints
have a different kind of luminosity, because they reflect light,
whereas computer monitors emit light. I suggest you view the images
under soft ambient light and adjust your monitor, if necessary, so the
images look as "natural" as possible.
- I'll keep this section brief, because the equipment I use evolves continuously and I do not wish to give the impression that one's creativity is defined or necessarily limited by the specific equipment they use. Having said that, the view camera I used for many years prior to 2005 was a Wista SP, with a variety of Schneider and Nikon lenses; the digital camera and most of the lenses I have used since then are Nikon, although I am not endorsing these brands; it's just that people wonder, and these manufacturers' products serve my needs very well. I always use a sturdy tripod and a cable release to eliminate vibration. Beyond that, there are many books, magazines and online tutorials to guide you in selecting equipment that best meets your particular needs and budget. One excellent online resource is Digital Photography Review. Keep in mind that, whatever equipment you use, your familiarity with the fundamental principles of photography and the care, precision and creativity with which you use your equipment directly influence the quality of the final results. In the words of Alfred Eisenstaedt, "The important thing is not the camera but the eye."
- Digital Manipulation
- With today's sophisticated image-editing software, it's possible to make many adjustments to images to "perfect" them. With all of my images, I put a great deal of time and effort into expressing what I experienced at the moment I captured them. In doing this, I go to great lengths to make it appear that the images have not been adjusted or manipulated at all. Having said this, I would like to be clear that I use two different standards for the degree to which I will manipulate images: one for my landscape images, the other for my commercial work.
- With my "natural landscape" photographs, I believe a certain trust must be established with the viewer, based on the traditional values of fine-art photography. What this implies is that certain kinds of manipulation are to be expected, such as dodging; burning; adjustment of color, contrast and density; spotting (to remove tiny imperfections); and cropping (to fine-tune the relationships between the visual elements and the edges of the image). While I digitally manipulate all of my images, I do so within the range of adjustments that is considered appropriate for fine-art photography, yet I am able to make those adjustments in ways that are much more precise than was possible before digital tools became available. It is most important, however, to point out that the content of each image and the relationships among visual elements remain true to what was actually in front of the camera at the moment I captured the image.
- I consider my commercial work (which I refer to as "photo assignments" in the Table of Contents) to be applied art, rather than fine art, because I must satisfy my clients, rather than just myself; I must tell their stories, not mine. In doing so, I believe it is appropriate to apply more lenient standards during post-processing, based on the ultimate purpose and use of the images. In addition to the manipulations mentioned in the previous paragraph, I believe it is acceptable to alter the content of an image, within certain limits. The standard I use for my architectural photos, for example, is that I am free to eliminate visual distractions such as power lines, trash, bare spots in lawns, tire scuffs on curbs, cracks in pavement, etc., that have nothing to do with the architecture, and I will often put in more interesting skies. My goal is to show the subjects (e.g., buildings) in the best possible light while visually illustrating my clients' stories about their work as artfully as possible.
- The only filter I use on a regular basis is a circular polarizer, which I use judiciously to fine tune the value and contrast of skies and to reduce specular reflections off of vegetation, floors and other surfaces. However, I depend more on HDR techniques (next item) to control values throughout my images much more precisely and effectively.
- One of the many benefits of digital photography is the ability to take full advantage of high-dynamic-range techniques, commonly referred to as HDR. No film or digital sensor is capable of capturing as wide a range of values (light to dark) as our eye/brain systems can. In very contrasty lighting situations (those where the range of values exceeds the film or sensor's capabilities), either the highlights will be burned out (completely white) or black -- or both. But by keeping the camera steady and making multiple exposures, so that detail is rendered in highlights and shadows, then combining those exposures using HDR software with great care, an effect can be achieved that is close to what the eye actually perceives. One caveat is that if there is any movement of visual elements from one exposure to the next, the results are likely to be less than satisfactory; for this reason, I tend to use HDR most often for architectural photography. Nevertheless, there are some situations when photographing nature where HDR is extremely advantageous, such as with Image #0949, where the snow and water were quite bright and the shadowy recesses extremely dark. Fortunately, the air was perfectly still while I was making this image. The only way to capture what I actually saw was by using HDR. I would also like to add that one of the most identifiable characteristics of photographs, as a form of art, is excessive contrast, which distinguishes them from, for example, paintings. By employing HDR where necessary, I can approach the subtlety and control of values most commonly associated with paintings.
- For some of my panoramas, I make multiple images and stitch them together. By setting the axis of rotation precisely vertical, keeping the camera level, using manual focus and exposure, and overlapping the images about 30%, stitching software is usually able to combine the images perfectly. If the scene is very contrasty, I might also do HDR. Image #1134 is an extreme example of this. I rotated the camera to portrait orientation, shot at five different angles, and made six exposures (at one-stop intervals) at each angle, making a total of 30 images combined into the final image. The result is extremely rich in terms of detail and tonality, and very close to what I could actually see..
- When capturing images digitally, I always use the RAW format, which provides the greatest flexibility in fine-tuning the images during post-processing. First, I get reasonably close to the final result I want in processing the RAW image. I then save the image as a 16-bit TIFF and "take it home." Once I have the image exactly the way I want it, I save it as an 8-bit TIFF, which I consider the "master." I then use that to create JPEGs or other (lossy) formats. I always retain the RAW files of my landscape images for reprocessing later, if need be. In effect, the RAW files serve a function similar to film negatives or transparencies.
- Technical info on images
- Some may wonder why I haven't included information on f-stop, focal length, shutter speed and ISO with each image -- which I used to do, and which is common practice (you can still find some of that info if you go into the sub-sections of this website, such as "Index by Topic"; you'll find images there that aren't included in the gallery on the main index page or in the Index by Numbers, and some of those images may still have technical data on them). Mainly, this is because I've used various camera formats over the years, each of which has unique characteristics. Without knowing what camera I used, such information would be both confusing and irrelevant, and even more so for HDR images, for which I use different shutter speeds. Instead, what I would like viewers to focus their attention on is the art of photography: the composition, the subject matter, and the creation of certain moods by controlling light. Once you learn the fundamentals of photography and gain experience in the field, you'll learn what equipment, techniques and settings best suit your artistic vision.
- Reverse engineering
- "Reverse engineering" might not be the most accurate term to describe what I have in mind, but it's the closest thing I can think of. The idea is that one should be open to learning from others. The best way I've found to do that is to closely study images that appeal to you, try to figure out what it is about those images that you like, how the photographers created them, and what you might have done differently. What stories do you think the photographers were trying to tell about their subjects? Are there things in the images that don't contribute to their overall effectiveness -- or even detract from them? What can you learn from those images, and how can you apply that to your own work? Each of us has a unique artistic vision, yet we all stand on the shoulders of others.
- Technical competence
- Finally, I'd like to say that photography draws upon both hemispheres of the brain: there's a technical side and an artistic side. While the balance varies according to the type of photography, the key is to have an appropriate balance between the two sides. I find that with landscape photography, I care most about the artistic quality of my images. But I couldn't achieve that without a strong foundation in the principles and techniques of photography. Those are my enablers. They may lie in the background, but keep in mind that every technical shortcoming of an image will compromise its artistic potential. Even though today's technology is capable of doing many things automatically that had to be done manually not so long ago, I highly encourage aspiring photographers to LEARN THE BASICS well enough that they can use them as creative tools.