Visual Artist or Documentary Photographer.

If we limit our vision to the real world, we will forever be fighting on the wrong side of things, working only to make our photographs equal to what we see out there, but no better.

Galen Rowell from his landmark book, Mountain Light


All photographers that make digital prints of their images, (regardless of whether the original images were recorded digitally or on film) must process them through some sort of computerized “software” interface to produce a file for digital printer output. In that process either the artist, or the software program in their camera, scanner or computer adjusts the color balance, brightness, contrast, saturation, shadow & highlight detail, etc. It’s these adjustments, whether by design or default, that determine what the final image will be.


Since the mid-nineties I have relied on Adobe Photoshop to optimize my images. Because I was originally trained as a darkroom photographer/ printer, the tools and techniques in Adobe Photoshop are all very familiar to me. But more important, Photoshop enables me to replicate the overall experience that I felt when capturing my landscape images.


WHAT I BELIEVE (continued)

When I use the words “overall experience”,  I mean the effect of the sights, sounds and even smells of the high desert at dawn as the sun lights up the highest peaks and the birds and animals become active. Or the feeling in the air that the fog brings in as soon as the sun sinks below the horizon on an ocean beach.

Photoshop lets me control essential emotional elements of my images: such as the saturation of individual colors and the contrast in selected areas of an image. Plus I am able to produce a composite image from two or more images taken at the same time, but with different exposure values, that will cover the full range of details from the highlights to the shadows just as the human eye sees it. (NOTE: It’s possible to do this in a traditional darkroom too, through the use of multiple images and film masks; but it’s much more time consuming and much less precise.) 

This is what has inspired me to be a Visual Artist, and not just a Documentary Photographer. I share the view of Pete Turner, one of the best known and most successful color photographers of the 20th century when he says:

I am really surprised that there are so many photographers that reject manipulating reality, as if that was wrong.  Change reality!
If you don’t find it, invent it!

  © Copyright 2009 Jack McBride