Dee Sunset

I have been trying to get a decent shot at this location for some time and then I discover this one in the files, so with a little bit of work……..da -da………..and here it is.

I have a lot of trouble with people who think that photography ends with the camera. I’ve been in exhibitions where visitors have asked whether the images have been photoshopped and also what camera was used. I get the impression that there is a new snobbery about images. If it’s been edited they dismiss it. If it’s digital, they dismiss it. Dorks of the first order, fed by some bigoted sections of the press which jump on the bandwagon of opposing ‘altered’ images. I agree when you are selling skin care products that you don’t ‘airbrush’ the complexion, but since when have photographs been the whole truth and nothing but…   Whoever coined the phrase ‘photographs don’t lie’ have bamboozled the world ever since. Don’t these people know their photography history. There are brilliant examples of edited images from the earliest days, and for three good reasons. 1. To over come technical limitations. 2. To satisfy the demands of the photography market, and 3. Because photographers have the right to be creative….even with ‘the truth’. I cite one example of dark room practice which was always ‘the way it’s done’ and that is dodging and burning. Without it Ansel Adams would be just a ‘good’ landscape photographer. People generally are ill informed.

Two opposing views from reviews about the work of Camille Silvy, a French photographer who used wet colodian plates in the 1850s. Laura Cumming writing in the Guardian. ‘Silvy is always so far in advance. He exploits the double exposure, develops the collage and the dramatic reconstruction, exposes multiple images on the same negative.’ Whereas Martin Gayford writing for Bloomberg News says, ‘Image manipulation is a news story, and a scandal, in the 21st century……’His work (Silvy) is a window on an early Impressionist world and a reminder that photography had scarcely been invented before it began to lie.’

Lie; yes he said lie…….. I agree with him. ……What I’m challenging here is the assumption that photography is expected to be truthful and that only painters have the right to change things for expressive or creative reasons. All photography delivers shades of ‘the truth’. Point your camera in one direction and you depict a rural idyl, point it in the opposite direction and you see the oil refinery or building site. Holiday brochures long ago discovered this reality. Photo editing is photographies birthright. Photos always deliver ‘shades of the truth’.



20 thoughts on “Dee Sunset

    • In simplest terms….the short answer would be….use it for the foreground of a picture to increase the detail contrast, so dodge the highlights and burn the shadows, keeping the changes to no more than 2 percent….and see where that gets you..

  1. Very well said John. I’m afraid that I am not much good at photo ‘enhancement’, I wish I was. I do, however, agree that the photographer has the right to do whatever he thinks is appropriate in his art.

    • Thanks Mr B. it’s always a difficult decision to interfere with ‘reality’…it’s like playing at being God…….it’s also like thinking that we have the right to decide what constitutes perfection…is that our conceit?

      • John, I agree with everything you’ve written here and above, except one little bit! I’m not sure we decide what constitutes perfection as much as we interfere with what hampers our message. A picture is a snapshot. A photograph is more like a point of view.

  2. And one other note, are sunglasses unfair? Do they improve our vision, or do they dilute our natural ability to “see.” I think this conversation you started will be popping up in that lecture which you were telling me about… !

    • Filters, real or digital have always been an accepted way of altering colour and tonal balance. The choice is determined by intention and aesthetics. As for sunglasses……they are a fashion statement… 🙂

  3. Lovely image. I agree absolutely with what you have said but I guess one minor ‘clarification’ on my part is that photography doesn’t have to be truthful but photographers do. I think that part of the ‘snobbery’ has come about by people trying to pass off a Photoshopped image as a genuine in camera capture as they somehow feel there is more kudos to it. After all, if there’s nothing wrong with Photoshop why deny it?!
    One more thing now I’m on roll 🙂 If you shoot in RAW format then every photo HAS to be edited in some way. What many people don’t realise is that JPGs have ALL been edited, only that it’s been done to the manufacturers specification rather than to their own personal preference and creative vision.

    • Excellent Noeline, …..all my images are edited. I guess that every published image is edited, even if just to address the media characteristics.

      Almost every day I come across people who hold the view that a digital image is inferior to a film image. They believe that it is pure and unadulterated. This stems from ignorance about how film is reproduced in print. Of course we all produce ‘snaps’. With film this was through a contact sheet, or by taking the film to the photo shop or chemists, and we do the same with digital. We do this with our holiday photos. The photos I’m talking about are creative or art images, in other words the type of images produced by 19th century landscape photographers who were selling to a market accustomed to buying paintings.

      Your point about in camera settings is entirely pertinent. A jpeg is an edited image. I turn off all my camera settings such as sharpening so that I have full control of the final image.
      Thanks for your comments Noeline.

  4. love the photography and the writing. I think it depends on the propose of the picture, if I just want to record my memory, my life( not for commercial uses), I would like my picture to be “just as it is” (I absolutely don’t mean no post process at all), otherwise there is no point to take the picture: we can’t and don’t want to lie to our memory, do we? My point is, i prefer to try hard to take a picture as close as what I want it to look like instead of just snapping around and then giving my bad work to the software. Anyway, the software can’t “post process” the emotion in one’s face if there is nothing. Very interesting topic, hope to read more”rant” as such from you:)

    • Hi there Han, thanks very much for your interesting comment. Agreed, purpose is all. Though I believe that the impact of converting to mono has a big impact on portraits as does contrast and sharpening…….with the result that the character and personality…..the mood…..can change significantly. But generally I agree with your point about the in-camera editing…..we aim to get the best out of composition, viewpoint and lighting when we take the photo. My main contention is that we should not be limited to what the camera gives us and we should be free to exercise our creative intentions to create our images. Thanks again.

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