Photography is a wide open medium raft with ideas and methods of producing an image. Realism, natural images, oversaturated and enhanced, painted over images, canvas, glass, metal, wood and a multitude of paper print surfaces mire the landscape of photography. Is it a technical art? Is it art? Is it an informational medium? It is all and so much more.
In every gallery that one visits one finds photography produced and over produced in quantities unimaginable. Some images depict the realism of the scene that the photographer wants to share. Others are as abstract and obtuse as the most avant-garde paintings that one can find. As wide as a mind is, you will find photography that fills that gap.
Why is this? Well, the first and most obvious reason is that much of photography is considered, photo/journalism. Realism sells as news and as an informational medium.
Let us look at realism first, or a photojournalistic view of the world! Photographers in this arena want to capture the beauty of an image in a way that all can see this view in the same lighting conditions of the day. The image captured in the camera will essentially not receive a great deal of computer manipulation. The rawness and impact of the image will be true to what the photographer saw. Some manipulation is required as while the average human can see about 5000 different colors and gradations of combined colors and textures the camera may see 500. There are also color corrections needed to adjust for the differences in camera and computer views. Each time the image goes through a new program or computer there are minute changes in the image.
All of these color corrections are small and do not change the view that the photographer wanted to create. My personal view is that I will crop an image and adjust the color to what I saw and experienced. Some of my images go from the camera to computer with no corrections at all.
Photographic art is a wide open arena with all kinds of computer manipulations to form an image that may not even be real. I am sure that we all have seen wolves on the ridgeline howling at the moon. The vast majority if not all of these images are composites, putting two, three or even more images together to make one. Grand panoramic images can be produced using this same method. Sunsets of vibrant, never seen in nature, colors are produced in Photoshop and similar programs. Photographs are painted over to produce interesting scenes and landscapes. One thing it does not show is the simplicity and reality of nature, it is an art form that denies the ability to see the world as it really appears.
Photographic gear will determine how well a series of images will turn out. Many good photographers can produce superb images with minimal equipment while less talented photographers produce uninspired images with the best of equipment. Each professional photographer hones his skills to the equipment he or she likes to shoot and develops a talent and skill set with this gear. At times the setting and logistics of a shoot will determine a great deal as to what equipment can be transported to a specific location.
A shoot that can be accessed within the comfortable range of a small hike, or one in your backyard is easier to photograph than one that is accessed by a kayak or backpack after a multiday paddle or hike. The equipment that can be bought to bear is completely different and so is the mindset of the photographer. I am one of these people that shoot in the backcountry, sometimes weeks from civilization and with little ability to haul all the gear that even I would love to use in the field. Sometimes a shoot is even regulated by the amount of batteries one can haul as there are few plug in receptacles in the wilderness.
In 2009 I paddled, solo, the upper five hundred miles of the Yukon River in Alaska. This twelve day, on the water, paddle required that I be totally self-contained. Besides my camera gear, I needed to carry all my food plus an emergency reserve, a tent, sleeping bag and pad. I had to cook so my stove and fuel had to find a place in one of my two holds. Communication was a satellite phone, quite a bit more bulky than that little smart gadget on your hip. Security had to be provided as this was bear country, lots of bears. Besides bear spray I carried a 12 gauge shotgun and both defensive and offensive ammunition. No ‘doc’ in the field so a medical pack was incorporated into my gear. All of this gear had to weigh less than two hundred pounds and fit, physically, into my boat. Not much could be strapped to the top as this changed the handling characteristics of my boat on this large and dangerous river.
With all the needed gear my photo gear is really held to a minimum. One body, a couple of IS telephoto lenses, many extra batteries and CF cards plus a charger if I am lucky enough to find some electrical in the remote villages of the Yukon. Besides the gear one packs in some talent.
Well, how did the photography do? Splendid actually! In the gallery one sees brown bears, lynx, caribou and beavers playing in the water. My landscapes are gorgeous, shot from the water and while doing a bit of hiking. I was able to capture historical places and see old buildings and equipment from the Yukon’s mining years. Rainbows and storms also found their way into my archives. Plus, I completely enjoyed camping out on islands in the river each night. Getting pounded by thunderstorms, lightening and micro-bursts livened up the paddle. But mostly, I enjoyed capturing real and vivid images of what the Yukon is really like. A Yukon that you could see as I have!