Where the truth lies? Prt1.

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Technology and technical knowhow.

I Think it’s strange how some people polarize themselves to one extreme end of a debate, often to the detriment and sacrifice of their own intelligence and common sense.
I hope this series of posts is of use to budding photographers and oldies alike, this article will be of no interest to those who simply snap off a shot and don’t really care how good it is. I’m not here to cater to them folks. This series is about what makes good photograph good and how good photographers achieve personal satisfaction and the admiration of their friends and colleagues, the battle will be between technology and technical knowhow, and intuition and creativity.
Firstly we must examine the extreme views of those polarized at two ends of the Technology spectrum and then God willing in part 2 we will kick the ball around and find out what it takes to create a good image.
Firstly one camp believes the latest and greatest camera or lens will MAKE them into a primo photographer, a constant barrage of advertising through magazines and online forums, reinforces that belief and fuels the need for the latest and greatest gear, promising the results they desire.
Ever met the PIXEL peeper on the photography forums? You’ll know him; He’s the one that posts sterile images mainly test patterns and colour charts, complaining that this or that camera has serious faults, this he believes prevents him from achieving his perfect world photographic goals. He never posts real images online, to him/her; photography is about technology and the pursuit of the technically perfect image.

The happy snappers club
The extreme other side says, if you can’t take a decent photo with a cheap point and shoot camera, a new upgrade will be of little help at all. These people couldn’t give a rat’s backside what their images look like, they think, hey I’m just taking these shots for myself, I’m not out to impress anyone or making money out of my photography, why waste money on camera gear or even learning to get the most out of my existing equipment, where’s the pride and passion. No passion? Then we have no common ground, best to ignore these types and move on, they aint in the game at all, not even in the stands cheering the team on. We real enthusiasts strive to present emotionally charged images, capturing the drama and emotion of it all, helping us and others to appreciate or experience what we went through when we captured that image. So where does the truth lie? Somewhere in the middle I’m sure.

Post Processing
From yet another angle, some ignorant’s say, sitting on a computer, post processing in Lightroom or Photoshop is cheating, forgetting the fact that all film past and present needs to be processed (enhanced) in the darkroom and perhaps the most famous of the old timers, Ansell Adams, was in his day the most advanced darkroom jockey on the planet.
The happy snappers club are happy with their shots straight out of their cameras, but unbeknown to them, the camera itself does (in camera post processing) adding colour saturation, sharpness and contrast all according to a concocted soup cooked up by a technician in the camera makers’ workshop.
Even top of the line DSLR cameras possess in camera processing, if the users choose to shoot jpegs on auto, which kind of defeats the purpose of owning that beautiful camera in the first place.
We shoot in Raw format which records as much of the information the camera sensor sees, this is information about the quality and quantity of light, colour and fine detail, it presents this information without any interference from some minicomputer deep inside your camera, we call these files, digital negatives and they give us the best chance to manipulate the image to look like how you saw it when you took the image.
However no matter how good you are at Photoshop, you can’t make an image that sucks in the first place appear natural and to be a great image if the photographer took an image that sucked in the first place. There is no unsuck button in Photoshop or Lightroom. You have to know what you’re doing in the first place in order to capture that great shot and re-present the image as your eye and heart interpreted it.

Photography is an art not a process.
In this modern age with its plethora of super-duper space aged cameras and lenses, many regard photographers as simply baboons that snap away at a scene and hey presto out comes the exact image that appeared through the view finder. Nothing could be further from the truth. Film or digital cameras, even very expensive cameras have big limitations, they just don’t see the way we do. Post processing is an integral and necessary part of the photographer’s creative expression.
Photography is an art not a process, the way a photographer works an image differs from any other. When we create an image in Photoshop or whatever image software you might use, we interpret what we saw and how we want to re-present the shot we took, filtering it through our imaginations and with our own creative flair we try and get in onto the computer screen or on paper with our own unique flavour. Every image is our own creation.

HDRs, the devil’s advocate.
The art of High Dynamic Range processing is maturing and some very fine images are appearing all over the place. HDR extends the dynamic range of an image and if done correctly gives the appearance similar to the dynamic range the human eye can see.
Dynamic range in photography describes the ratio between the maximum and minimum measurable light intensities, at one end we have white and the other black. With our eyes we see detail even in almost the brightest white and the darkest dark. Think of a staircase, at the top its pure white at the bottom its pitch black, we see 12-14 steps of light so I am told, from top to bottom, our fancy fan dangled cameras can only see at best 4-6 steps at any one exposure, so we can take exposures at the lower stage of the staircase and then take another midway up and more at the top and kind of mash them together to create an image displaying a likeness of the dynamic light values we saw with our own eyes, which means more visible detail in the image.
On the other extreme we have the Photoshop monster.
These folks take an image and will then go home and over process the guts out of it, turning into a image looking like it was shot on another planet or caught up in a radiation blast, we call these images over cooked.
This technique can be pushed to create some truly bazaar images far from reality and giving credence to the happy snappers club accusations that we are cheats……..
Next post we will look at the middle ground and a more down to earth approach to photography, which upgrades are worth it ,what it pays to know and how to approach a sensible upgrade and what to expect.

cheers and happy snapping


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