Saturday, January 31, 2009

Graduated Filters, Galen Rowell and Ethics


I have been exploring the benefits of shooting with graduated neutral density filters, as in the case of the above shot (Carpenter's Orchard, Ojai, California). These filters had there place when shooting with film, and in many ways they can still be used very effectively. Yet is there a compromise in quality by placing a layer of glass or resin in front of a lens? If you can do it more cleanly in Photoshop, and in some ways it may more closely replicate what the human eye sees, then does the end justify the means?

What is ethical?
1. Multiple exposures then masked to reveal what the photographer saw?
2. multiple versions of the same master, processed for highlights and shadows and then masked in photoshop?
3. Shot with a neutral density filter and left as is? As with Galen Rowell’s work.
4. Shot with a neutral density filter, then without, then painting in a mask to reveal detail otherwise obscured?
5. HDR

Galen Rowell was OK with rescanning an image for highlights in a moon, but it was the same 35 mm frame. Is this discussion moot considering the digital times? Do we use the tools available to us and be happy with the result if it is what we saw and felt? After all, improvements in technology supposedly allow the artist to be more creative. But is this true? The work produced by today’s photographers isn’t necessarily more artistic or sharper for that matter. Artistry with negative film and darkroom processes yielded remarkable results . . . and in many ways these processes are more available to more photographers now. After all, a computer is practically ubiquitous. I don't completely buy the adage that Ansel Adams's work was heavily manipulated and that makes all manipulations OK. I acknowledge that Adams worked creatively with a variety of tools in the darkroom in order that his vision come out in his final prints, but I don't believe that this fact is carte blanche for today's crop of digital photographers and digital darkrooms.

Is disclosure the only concern? If disclosed properly is their no problem? Is the public familiar enough with digital that HDR is OK?

How when you some one asks: ‘is this real, or is it digital?’ Yes! It is digital and it is real. Nothing added an nothing taken away aside from some ‘darkroom’ processing (tone, color, vibrancy).

Is film the benchmark by which all digital work is judged?

I haven’t satisfactorily answered many of these questions for myself, and I have a feeling that I may never actually reach a decisive conclusion. For the time being I am going to keep my mind open and see what the options are. My gut tells me, however, that maintaining a standard is essential in nature and environmental photography. I work hard to make the shots and I don’t want to misrepresent. One of the things that inspires me in photography and the environment is that they are entities vastly larger than myself. What I get out of others appreciating my work is important, but it isn’t the only thing or the most important. Capturing my response to the wilderness is my goal, but not by showing something that was not there."

(Via .)