Do I Really Have to Tell You?

Some Stuff I Like About This Photo

Y’know what I like about this photo? The colors. The light. The tree. The clouds (lerrrrrv the clouds!). The way it looks like the tree is dreaming those clouds out of its dreamy little noggin. That it’s vertical. Just some stuff I like about it. It’s not a million dollar print, but it’s a cool little photo, IMHO. It was taken in Croton-on-Hudson, New York (literally ON the Hudson!) a couple of weeks ago.


Does Anybody Really Need to Know More? 

Now, should I tell you how it started out? Well, I don’t mind telling you, cause y’know, we talk about stuff like that over here. So, the original is below.  Clearly, I enjoy re-imagining things so that they are more to my liking. I’m like that in the rest of my life, so I guess it was bound to show up in my art too.

But here’s my other question… should I HAVE to tell everyone what I did? Does it make it somehow less or more legit if I do or don’t ‘splain it? I’m a little puzzled by this whole subject. Because I hear a lot of people make a really big stink about it. I hear… those who don’t believe it’s a true photograph if you do ANY post-processing at all. It should come out of the camera done. We’ll ignore them for now.

Then there’s folks who say it’s OK to post process as long as you say that you did so. I’m not sure what difference that makes, but OK.

Finally, there’s the camp that says that their photo is an interpretation… their vision. No promises made about what they did or didn’t do. It just is.

I tend to fall fairly comfortably into the latter. But I heard #2 again recently from a very well known fine art photographer who sells to VERY high end clients for VERY VERY big money. So it made me think I should consider the matter more deeply. So with great intent, I set about imagining scenarios where it potentially might matter and others where it simply didn’t matter at all, in hopes of having the contrast between the two release the big “AHA!” in my brain that would explain everything. It didn’t happen. Not even close. Mostly I just got bored by the whole discussion and my mind wandered off into more interesting realms like why no one ever asks filmmakers to justify their use of color grading in the creation of their films for the purpose of establishing the proper world for their stories to live in.

Anyway, here’s the original photo. I know you wondered about it after all that! 🙂


21 thoughts on “Do I Really Have to Tell You?

  1. It is YOUR vision- you own it, You share it……people think they have the right to tell you what they think- to judge it on levels that are not relative to the purpose YOU had for creating it. Yes the noise is great. If I might share with you an experience of about 32 years ago- I was involved in the quilting world- people with vision, skills and the tools to create masterpieces. The divide in purists/traditional vs contemporary- hand vs machine- even to the extreme of judging cotton vs polyester batting-has now over three decades expanded into home machine to industrial longarm machines with even more diversity in wool and bamboo batting all have the champion of each- with a multi billion dollar industry that supports it. The biggest turning point in the acceptance overall in the Quilting world was when machine quilted quilt walked away with best of show- the art was judge on its merits of art- not on the machine that made it- or the thread- or the fabric- but what was presented as the piece……All had the same goal but different ways of getting there- one thinking the other was of lesser desire- Art is ART- A camera is a tool for creating art- everything that technology has advanced in post processing- becomes a new crayon in the box- we can choose to color inside the lines- color outside the lines- to create OUR art. Making your heart sing- to capture the vision in your mind- with the aid of the digital “skeleton” your camera has provided- breathing life into a piece you create- is a gift you give yourself. To answer your question- NOPE you dont have to tell me-I totally get it..if I ask what you did- it is only to understand how you did it so that i might learn- but the fact that you did it in the first place is one that excites me that you as an artist can master the tools to create such from your minds eye with the aide of a camera….I dont think the noise is going to go away-(human nature being what it is). follow your muse… and find joy in that- for not everyone has one 🙂 Keep drawing with the Light- It true-lee is an exciting time to have all these options of creating- Thank you for your honesty in this post. 🙂

  2. Thanks so much. I didn’t expect such a lengthy response and appreciate your time. This is a subject that I wrestle with constantly. The gradient grayscale between “documentation” and “the fantastic” and where my lines fall. Trying to find my photographic “voice” and its relation to my lines seems to be very fluid depending on what day it is. A word that I struggle with is “integrity”. I don’t believe it is relevant to all photography, but it will not seem to completely go away. It would make things so much easier for me if it did. This is my last question. Is the word “integrity” any part of your inner dialog when thinking about your line in the sand? Again, thanks so much for your time. I love what you do and if this is too personal I’ll understand if you don’t post, or edit it. It’s just I think about this a lot. (maybe too much)

    1. I’ve thought a lot about this whole topic too, Richard. And y’know, I’ve often thought we too readily swap “integrity” for “allegiance”. We pledge allegiance to a set of rules (real or imagined) – which were created by someone or someones at a particular point in time. So often, these rules reflected the best someone knew at a particular point in time, never intended to exist “for all time.” But then someone decided we had to ALWAYS abide by them, without considering that the nature of life itself is to evolve. We are an evolving species. It’s in our nature, it’s in our DNA. Creation itself evolves too, in a never-ending cycle. What makes us think that simply because something as marvelous as photography was destined to sit still?

      Photography was invented and developed at a particular point in time, with the particular knowledge and abilities those people had at the time. It was a huge leap from what they knew before. What if they had pledged allegiance to the belief that it were not possible to record an image on a piece of glass, tin, or whatever medium initially used? What if they didn’t believe it was in their integrity to try to improve the way photographs were taken and developed? What a random choice THAT would have been! Cut to now… what do you suppose that inventive spirit would be doing with today’s photographic tools… trying to only do what they’d done 100 years ago? Heck, even back then photographers were inspired by painters – and the impressionists were inspired by photographic accidents, like the blurring of moving people. Right from the get-go, influences were drawn from other sources.

      So to pledge allegiance to a particular set of rules without considering the basis or spirit of those rules seems to me to be against our very nature as evolving beings! I even think rules themselves are somewhat suspect. And pledging allegiance to a set of rules or an ideal kind of gets us stuck in time. It’s stagnant. There’s no movement. (Mind you, I’m not saying ALL movement is good – or bad – just that we’re hard wired for it)

      On the other hand “Honest”, “Whole” and “Undivided” are words used to define “Integrity”. The way I see it, we should be in integrity as it relates to our soul, to God, to our higher self, our deeper knowing, to love and life itself. NOT to some hallowed idea about photography, art or anything else that was invented, no matter how cool it is. The way I see it, if we operate from our own integrity and from what we deeply feel is worth sharing, creating, expressing – then we are also in our integrity in our creations. And to me, THAT’S cool. And allows for natural evolution.

      You still might want to create traditional photographs, journalistically correct in every way. Then in the next moment, create some fanciful work of art. Why not do both? There’s no rule or law that says it’s all not legal and wonderful. There really, truly isn’t!

      OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now. You started it! heehee.

      1. What a wonderful, thoughtful response. Thanks so much for your insight. FWIW 80% of what I do is HDR so I am by no means tied to tradition, but always questioning.
        Thanks again.

  3. So I have 2 questions, if I may.
    1. Is there any level of software manipulation that you are uncomfortable with?
    2. Were there any levels of manipulation that you absolutely wouldn’t do in the past that you are now comfortable doing?

    1. What interesting questions, Richard. I had to think about them… and answers to queries such as these do evolve over time. But today…
      1. This question is hard to answer if I try to think of every kind of software manipulation there is, then try to imagine what I wouldn’t do. It’s easy to answer when I approach it from this angle: I tend toward using only the tools that allow me to create the vision I have. I’m very mission-oriented about this sort of thing. If I could paint (like my sister does so brilliantly!)… I’d be doing that. But since I have zero talent there… I use photography/software tools to do it. So from my way of thinking about this, I’ll use any tool that helps me create what I want to see. For the most part, that tends toward things like color grading, color enhancement, light bending, textures, some compositing and that sort of thing. I tend to enjoy creating KHutt worlds where I’d actually like to exist… or a piece of art I’d like to have on my wall.

      Having said that, I can also tell you that I take a couple different kinds of photographs… ones that I intend to stretch and make part of my fanciful world… and ones that I purposely don’t do much with, where the scene itself is so grand I don’t want to mess it up. Since I shoot in RAW (currently with a Canon – though that may be changing)… the images are always quite flat in color and tone by design. So even the ones that are intended to be minimally processed ARE processed to some degree.

      I don’t mean to sound like I’m wiggling around your answer… but from my perspective I’m not uncomfortable with anything I create, nor the tools used to create them. Then again, I was raised with an artist sister – and a family that saw thing a little differently than the rest of the world, too. I suppose I’d be uncomfortable using any tools that creating something ugly, horrifying or deeply disturbing… I only want to create works that uplift. The tools used to make those kinds of images don’t seem extreme to me – and I haven’t yet been uncomfortable using software manipulation to make them. To me, it’s all about context and results – not about the means to get there.

      2. There is one thing I used to be adamant about not doing: replacing skies. I WAS classically educated in photography way back when – and even though we manipulated images in the darkroom – for some reason I drew the line at replacing skies, adding clouds, that sort of thing. But I’ll do that now without blinking an eye in the right situation.

      These kinds of questions and the lines we draw with our photography are always so interesting to me! Everyone sees it so differently. I’m glad you asked these.. I hope I managed some kind of answer that made sense. 😉

  4. Karen,

    After seeing your FB mention of the original, I had to look. Well, what a big change. You know, if you hadn’t said so, I never would have thought the original looked relatively flat in comparison. Then again, I ‘m sure you’ve had this happen lots of times. The sky is beautiful, you take a picture, and then you look at on your computer monitor. It looks much flatter and lifeless than you remembered it. I say, go for it, as you did. No one can really say what’s right or wrong. It’s always what personally appeals to you, the photographer, and me the viewer. You don’t really know how I will see either product or how it will be perceived in my mind. I’m in your camp, although not nearly as skilled in image manipulation. But, I like your vision and your rendering. It’s your view of reality… for the moment.

    Gee, I think I’ve probably said what’s already been said in a simpler way. Oh well. It’s my rendering.


    1. Love hearing your thoughts, Steve! Thanks for coming over – and for sharing ’em. Nice rendering. ;))

  5. Love your vision on this shot Karen, It matters not to me whether it was done in Pre or Post processing.. It is what you see in your Mind and Heart at that precise moment that matters..

  6. Everything in life in interpretation. I love your vision and the very “zen” place it comes from 🙂 My only reason to know how you got there is selfish…..when I “grow up” I want to be like you!!

  7. I was surprised by the amount of colour in the sky and clouds. Not in a bad way, I just had this expectation that the colour was in the “out of camera” image and enhanced. I really like your vision that you created.

    I guess, in as far as landscapes go, people can get discouraged…. I’m going there to see this beautiful scenery for myself but then finding the image is not reality…….. Forgetting that the beauty is still there to see, that even if it was an “out of camera” image it wouldn’t be what they saw if they went. The moment in time will be different weather, light, season etc.. The camera wont capture what our eyes and mind perceive….

  8. So what the heck does “come out of the camera done” mean any more? With my d810, I can warm, cool, change the hue of an image; shoot in standard, neutral, vivid, monochrome, portrait, landscape and flat modes; use Active-D-Lighting; correct for red-eye; trim the image; add filter effects; change the color balance; do an image overlay and even do HDR “All In The Camera!” Oh ya, I almost forgot. I can also change the exposure a multitude of ways and add additional light with the flash!

    What if I do any or some of those things in camera? Is this all considered pre-processing? I am so confused……………………Am I no longer a “real” photographer? Oh my! 😉

    BTW, I love your finished photo!

      1. Oh – that’s not stupid or boring! I used Puppet Warp in Photoshop. I’m no wizard at it – and usually have to clean up my mess a little bit afterward, but that’s how I fix stuff like that.

    1. Hahahahaha!! That’s priceless, Bill. I think we all need to decide that we’re either all cheaters – or everything’s legal. Or everything’s illegal, but it’s OK. Or none of it matters except what’s in your heart. Yeah, I like that. 😀

    1. Riiiight (about the boring)? And yet… it resurfaces in the oddest of ways. This whole photography scene is one big exercise in FOCUS… on who you are, what you love, what your audience/clients love… and ignore the rest. The rest is sure noisy sometimes!

Comments are closed.