As a photographer I feel a certain amount of responsibility to record the world as it is. I always looked at what I thought were manipulated photos as somewhat of a desecration. That it was untruthful to portray the world in a way that it was not. I think my first foray with this line of thinking was against those photos that were heavily saturated in color produced by the use of a polarizing filter to make a scene look more enticing than it really was. I have always enjoyed the outdoors and I never saw that dripping off the page color in “real life”. I was satisfied, and in some respects arrogant, in producing the dull and lifeless photos that I knew came out of a camera.
Then as I became more serious about portraying the natural world as it “really” is, I railed against the heavy-handed use of the now popular and almost indispensable Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filter. Used improperly and you could tell that it was a lame attempt to try to make film capture something that it could not. However, when used properly one could hardly tell a GND was used, and the photograph showed a scene that faithfully captured what one’s eye would see. For at this point I had learned that film was limited, it was a poor medium in trying to portray the world as we really experienced it. What I did next shocked my closest confidants; I whole-heartedly accepted and started using the GND. Although now I was branded as a hypocrite, a liar, a fake. I was shocked. Had I created such an environment around me that I had galvanized people into thinking that what the camera and film produced were truth? Had I built around me a glass bubble so fragile that if I tried to grow as a photographer and break through that bubble I would send shards of broken glass at myself as to render me dead? What had I done?
The more I photographed the more I learned that the camera cannot see what my EYES see. The camera cannot feel what my heart feels. The camera cannot smell, hear or touch what my nose, ears and fingers can. As I wandered this beautiful world with my camera photographing I became aware that I was actually being unfaithful to the beauty that I loved so much in my photos.
Even though I was recording the light faithfully, I was not conveying the euphoria that I felt in the presence of that beauty. And thus I embarked on a path of trying to convey the multi-dimensional experience of being out in nature onto the two-dimensional plane of a photograph. What resulted was sometimes very different from the straight record of light that was present. For now, the images transcended into the realm of my feelings. All photographers, as they photograph, are steeped in emotions at the time the shutter is tripped. Recalling those emotions when looking at the resulting photos at times leaves the photographer somewhat let down as the photos appear lifeless. I had to learn to not judge an image until I brought it into my photo editing software environment and apply the standard adjustments – tonal dialation, adjusting contrast and setting color balance – first. Then if it was still lifeless, a number of other adjustments from applying a softening blur or artistic use of dodges and burns to eliminating color entirely and going balck and white. If, after all that, I can’t reproduce a pale shadow of the euphoria I felt at the time I tripped the shutter, then and only then is the image a flop and destined for the trash can, otherwise known as the ‘Round File’.
And thus, you have the photograph that graces this post. A rendition of the euphoric state of my heart as I stood there under these delicate trees as thier leaves shivered in the light breeze and danced among the sunbeams that filtered through them. Maybe I am not a true photographer anymore depicting the world as seen through the lens of a camera, but now, at least now, I feel that I am finally writing with light.