About vision, technique and gear…

What camera do you use? Is this photoshopped?

That is by far the two most common questions I get when people see my images. I guess any of you other photographers out there know everything about this. You make good images, ergo you must have a great camera and/or be very good at photoshopping. I can understand why people are interested in these things, but frankly, does it really matter? Well, to many it obviously does. When I visited Grand Canyon this summer I got several questions and comments regarding my gear. At one time (sunset at Mather Point, a very crowded experience!) a lady looking over my shoulder pointed me out to her husband and stated “ohh, if you only had purchased a camera like this guy has, I’m sure you could take some wonderful pictures!” Her husband, carrying a very good point-and-shoot, seemed to agree. I turned around and smiled at them and said “well, a camera have never made a picture by itself”. I don’t thing they understood that they actually insulted me, because they just stared somewhat offended back at me, turned around and left.

As G Dan Mitchell says: photography is about photographs, not about cameras and lenses. And to paraphrase one of Cole Thompsons favorite quotes: You should complement the chef for his/hers stove as much as you should complement the photographer for his equipment. Every single camera sold today has a great potential to capture fantastic images. But it doesn’t do it by itself. The photographer makes the image, not the camera.

When it comes to postprocessing (“photoshopping”), there seem to be an opinion in the public that this also makes good images all by itself. Often, “photoshopped” is said with a negative tone, as almost frowned upon. Painters start with a white canvas and make an image from scratch, and most people don’t have a problem with that. However, there seem to be a misconception that photography should equal documentation. Unaltered reality. What if a photographer should just alter an image? How can we document the world then?? What if a photographer could just change “reality” with software? What are we left with then???? …..well, art? A RAW-file needs processing. The eye is an amazing instrument with phenomenal dynamic range, resolution, angle of view and sharpness. No camera is even close to replicate human vision. Psychology is also a very important part of what one sees and how one see it. A personal experience can never be captured by any sensor. Regular straight out of the camera-files are often .jpg, and these files are already “photoshopped” in the camera software with increased saturation, sharpening etc. Straight out of the camera .jpgs are no more real than a “photoshopped” raw-file. The only difference is that when processing a raw-file, the photographer is behind the wheel, not a software programmer. So what can a photographer do? Well, we have to use postprocessing to make the image to look the way we want it to. According to our vision.

Oh, and there is that word. Vision. What is that? Well, in my mind, vision is how I interpret a scene. How I see the world. And that is of course very much influenced by me. The sum of all my memories, all my experiences, my mood and my feelings, always filters and influence how I understand a scene. And that is my vision. How I see the world. And then I have to use all my experience and technical knowledge to try to make an image of the scene according to my vision. Both when capturing at location and in postprocessing where I do the finishing touches.

Techniques and equipment are only tools a photographer use to express his or hers vision.

And therefore, techniques and equipment may be somewhat important, and I will discuss this thoroughly in future blog-posts. But it is far from being the most important factor in the creation of an image. Vision, on the other hand, is.

Have a nice weekend!

Dag Ole

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