I just returned from the NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association) Summit in Reno, Nevada, an annual gathering of professional and passionate amateur nature photographers. Spending most of a week with an assortment of talented and similarly minded individuals is uplifting and enlightening. One thing in particular that struck me during the week was that despite the similarity of our subjects, we all approach our craft in a very personal fashion. For example, one respected pro acknowledged that he never uses his histogram; another considers the histogram the most important aspect of his image capture success.
I also noted how many photographers have have started to embrace the latest technology, and the growing role of computers in the image making process. Digital blending of images to overcome the camera's limited dynamic range and range of focus has become standard, and video has created a virtual photographer stampede. And creative treatments (watercolor effects, selective coloring, etc.) using Photoshop or other post-processing software are ubiquitous.
Much of this shift to new technology stems from a need to innovate in a completely new business climate. For many NANPA photographers their images represent their livelihood, and what has worked for years works no longer: Demand for images has dropped with the decline of the print media, just as the supply of images has exploded with the advent of digital photography.
As somebody who dealt with the limitations of color transparencies (slides) for over 25 years, I'm the first to sing the praises of Photoshop and the control it gives me over my finished product. But I find that I'm still profoundly influenced by my film days and get very little satisfaction from most of the new technology-based techniques. I have no problem with others who use the new tools (as long as they do it honestly), but I find that I'm still most drawn to the images (both my own and others') that rely on the camera for their creativity (you've heard me say this before).
I'm fortunate to have come to photography as a profession after the advent of digital imaging and was therefore able to fashion my business model under the new paradigm. I never relied on stock photography for income, so the decline of stock photography income has had zero direct effect on me. Instead I chose to blend my passion for "fine art" photography (whatever that means) and communication skills (I made my living as a writer and trainer before turning to photography full time) into a profitable endeavor. In other words, I make my living selling prints and teaching others through workshops, classes, and writing. And I can say absolutely that financial success is relative--when you truly love what you do, the "rich" threshold is achieved far easier.
A few words about this image, captured six years ago while I was still employed as a tech writer in the Intel (Folsom) cubicle maze.
Each day entering and exiting the Intel parking lot (daily host to the vehicles of 7,000 employees) I saw these poppies in a raised planter on the lot's perimeter. One Saturday afternoon in March, on my way home from a day of photographing poppies in the foothills, I detoured to the Intel lot to see if I could do something with these poppies. I arrived as the sun was setting and set up quickly on the adjacent sidewalk.
The fact that the planter was raised allowed me to get beneath the poppies, and an extension tube on my macro lens allowed me to limit my focus range. I metered on the brightest poppy and underexposed slightly to highlight its backlit luminance. A haze on the western horizon limited the sun's intensity enough that I was able to restore some color with a little Photoshop burning (a darkroom technique that allows photographers to darken selected areas of their image).
One amusing anecdote. Intel takes its security very seriously, and despite the fact that this was a weekend and the lot was virtually empty, Intel Security was in hyper-vigilant mode. I hadn't been there five minutes when a guard careened around the corner in his little truck, hopped out, and (respectfully) demanded to know what I was doing. I reassured him that I was not a snooping reporter, corporate spy, or domestic terrorist, but he remained dubious until I showed him my Intel badge. He allowed me to finish but I have no doubt I was closely scrutinized until I exited the premises.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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