In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks - John Muir
As a kid, I always liked taking photographs with my 35mm film camera, but I never thought about content or technique. It wasn’t until I graduated from college that I really developed a serious interest and an eye for photography. I started out with a basic digital point and shoot that offered me manual options so I could learn technique. That camera really helped me develop my eye and I got some great shots with it! I enjoyed taking low light and night photography, but my Kodak camera didn’t offer the necessary options to allow me to capture the images I wanted. So, after finishing graduate school, I bought my first dSLR and the rest is history.
A few weeks after getting my dSLR, I drove across the country, and then traveled to Hawaii. I thought I knew enough about my new camera to make great photographs. I was often disappointed in the dull colors and lack of contrast in those early pictures. The compositions were pleasing, but they just didn’t quite capture the colors that I saw with my eyes.
One of my favorite magazines is National Geographic. I’d heard that photographers for NG had to submit unedited photographs. Perfect out of camera, proof it could be done! So, on my quest to be “perfect out of the camera,” I switched to taking pictures on a “Vivid” setting. This would usually give me the colors that my eyes saw, but sometimes it was too much, especially if there were people in the photographs. I also refused to accept this as “editing,” even though it adds saturation just like Photoshop can. I would only shoot jpeg, because my RAW files always looked flat and dull. Plus my old PC couldn’t handle those large files.
After reading many articles, listening to podcasts, attending workshops and seminars, and talking to professionals, I came to understand the different editing and post-processing philosophies and workflows. Just like photographers using film, pictures need to be developed. If you pulled negatives out of a camera and exposed them to sunlight, they would be ruined. Digital files also must be processed, and the extent of that is up to the photographer. I realized what my true ideals and goals are, and came up with ideas to achieve them. I want my photos to remain faithful to my original idea, to what I saw with my eyes. I applied these new ideas to my old pictures from the cross country drive, and what do you know – they finally look like what I originally envisioned!
My ultimate goal is to capture images of natural beauty as close to perfect in camera as I can. Sometimes this requires the use of polarizers or neutral density filters. I try to keep post-processing to a minimum, which may include basic develop (adjusting the exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows in the photo to make it look realistic), white balance adjustments, occasional cropping, and sharpening. Portraits will have significantly more editing than landscapes and nature. Panoramic photos are stitched together in Lightroom, and I rarely shoot HDR. But honestly, I would rather be out in nature taking photographs (or sleeping!) than sitting in front of my Mac editing pictures!
I believe that:
…we must protect and conserve areas of natural beauty.
…nature or structures should never be altered or damaged for the sake of the perfect shot.
…photographs of animals in captivity should always be labeled as such. It’s quality, inexpensive practice in my own backyard, so when I finally go on a safari, I will be ready! Zoo photos are not for sale.
…wild animals should not be disturbed to get a shot.
With that, please enjoy!