Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Reality, illusion, and interpretation

As mentioned in previous entries, making a photograph implies the weighing of a number of decisions. Some expert photographers are so adept at the craft that they make the decisions rapidly, almost subconsciously, eliminating elements that will distract the viewer as they select the lens, angle of view, aperture, shutter speed--sorting through all these possibilities and making choices that will contribute to the ultimate, desired effect.

Other photographers (the "intermediates") work through all of the same decisions, but slowly and methodically. The intermediates make many beautiful photos, but typically their knowledge has so far made its way only into their brains and not yet into their bones. Thus, they are not confident, and their percentage of good photos (hit rate) is likely to be less than that of the experts.

Many or most snapshooters consider none of elements that contribute to a photograph's effectiveness. They fire away, sometimes with surprising results. Just as do the experts and the intermediates, the army of snapshooters makes many strikingly good images, but their success is almost entirely a hit-or-miss proposition. In photography as in many other endeavors, Lady Luck is a wonderful companion, but she cannot always be trusted, having the annoying habit of disappearing at the most inopportune times.

Michael Reichmann has posted an essay at his web site, The Luminous Landscape, that deals with his creative process in making a photograph. Beyond the elements mentioned in the paragraphs above, he also deals with ethical considerations of removing objects from a photo, and how post processing a photo on the computer has become part of the chain of decision-making.

One very nice feature of the piece is that Reichmann is willing to show both the before and after. In addition to the final rendering of the scene, which reflects his artistic choices, he also presents the raw, unedited, original frame that he exposed. As the title Lifting The Shroud implies, the article provides a window into one photographer's way of seeing.


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