Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Classic IV

ALEC SOTH: "This is the same problem I have with digital photography. The potential is always remarkable. But the medium never settles. Each year there is a better camera to buy and new software to download. The user never has time to become comfortable with the tool. Consequently too much of the work is merely about the technology. The HDR and QTVR fads are good examples. Instead of focusing on the subject, users obsess over RAW conversion, Photoshop plug-ins, and on and on. For good work to develop the technology needs to become as stable and functional as a typewriter."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Return to a typewriter? Never! Though I understand the complaint. No matter how much keeping on top of technology may resemble riding a bucking bronco, the images being produced using HDR and various Photoshop plug-ins are changing expectations about visual representation and what a photograph may be.

When a photograph winds up looking like a watercolor painting, or a pencil sketch, is it still a photograph? Are there essential qualities that distinguish photography as an art form? At what point does one no longer say, "I am a photographer," and say instead, "I am an image maker"? Or conversely, where and why does one draw the line and say emphatically, "I am a photographer"? For the moment I can only answer this question an image at a time.

Since upgrading my computer system I've been exploring some of the newest plug-in releases for Photoshop. Some small enhancements were made to this image using Topaz Adjust 3.2.5, mostly to give a bit more substance to the clumpy snow on the foreground tree. It also helped me add a bit more character to the sky and distinction between the distant mountains, but in shots like this the urge to clarify forms is in direct opposition to my frequent wish to represent whiteout. Here the veils of falling snow are used mostly to space out the distant hills, and I've sacrificed a bit of foreground snowiness to clearly define the foreground players. The software is designed for accomplishing far more radical photo renderings.