Warning: Limited Vision Ahead

I was browsing Facebook last week and one of the photography forums I follow posted an image and requested comments.?? This is quite often an occasion for the fanboys to come out and say how ‘awesome’ even the most mundane of subject matter and composition is. (Surely, ‘awesome’ is one of the most frequently used and least meaningful words in the current vernacular of English. Don’t believe me? Still like to use it in everyday usage? Go to Flickr and type the word in the search bar. You will have over 2 million images of various levels of awesomeness to browse. Have fun!)?? However, on this forum I have read insightful and constructive comments that someone actually put some thought into.

The particular image that caught my attention was of interesting subject matter and was converted to black and white, which generally piques my interest.???? The composition was nice but what I objected to was the existence of an over-large watermark placed in the lower third of the image.?? I’ve already written about the disease watermarkis blotis, which seems to be plaguing so many photographers today. In addition, the photographer had processed the image to the point where the sky featured prominent haloing.?? There is using techniques to complement an image and then there is using it to effect.?? Where one ends and the other begins is certainly subjective.?? I have seen completely grunged-out images that work because the processing is well suited to the subject matter.?? And, I’ve seen the opposite, many times over.

I left a short comment referencing the watermark and haloing and upon checking back 10-15 minutes later was surprised to see a small flame-war between one individual who liked the processing and another who only liked “real” photography. ??The former was of the ‘live-and-let-live’ mindset while the “real photographer” (we’ll call him Mr. RP for short) was condescending, patronizing, absolutist, and quite full of his self.?? His statements became sillier as the thread lengthened.?? For instance, did you know that: HDR is fake; real photographers never have to use Photoshop; unless you are a “real photographer” you are merely a hobbyist; you must have a big camera to be “real photographer” and not merely a ‘cookie-cutter’ camera; if you shoot raw and in manual mode your image will need ‘nearly no’ post processing; if you’re not looking to capture the “real thing” you should just steal an image off the net and manipulate it in Photoshop; and only full time photographers have anything of value to say about photography. Really? I did not know all of this. But, good news! Now, I do!

In all seriousness, I thought “this guy has got to be kidding.” I mean, I know a number of full time, and I would say quite real, photographers and they all use Photoshop, Lightroom and various plugins and yes, even the dreaded HDR software.?? But this is all computer gimmickry of course and these folks – who have collectively sold thousands of images and published over 100 books – can clearly not be “real photographers!”?? At least according to Mr. RP. So, I wondered; who the hell is this Mr. RP??? Though he did not list any websites on his public-facing Facebook profile (wouldn’t a real, full time photographer do that?), I was able to sleuth him out.

Navigating through his website galleries, some of his images were nicely composed and some were pretty journeyman-like, if not just plain boring.?? A few series featured nice colors, if somewhat standard compositions. Generally though many of them lacked pizzazz, interest or excitement and would have been greatly aided by the serious use of post-processing tools. Low-contrast, color-deprived images are not necessarily more “real.” They are just low-contrast and color-deprived.?? My goal is not to trash this unnamed photographer.?? After all, his images must be EXACTLY what he wants out of photography, no matter how limited in vision they seem to me.?? However, it is the visionaries in any creative field (be it art or science!) who push the bounds.?? If not for them, photographs would be strictly representational ?? la 1850’s and painting would not have moved off of the cave walls of Lascaux.?? I’ll leave it to Mr. RP to discuss with the ghosts of Messrs. Adams, Weston (all of them!), Brandt, Stieglitz and Steichen (amongst many others) the virtues of the wet chemistry equivalent to Photoshop.?? And, I’ll leave it to others to educate him that shooting in RAW is advantageous primarily because you have the most amount of information to “play with” (not because somehow that format is more ‘real’ in appearance than TIFF or JPEG).

No it wasn’t objectionable that Mr. RP’s vision seemed so limited but rather that he insisted others conform to his “wisdom.”?? Worse than parochialism is uninformed absolutism.?? Expressing oneself in such a fashion says much more about the critic than the criticized.

(Warning: below are Photoshop processed images. If offended, please avert your eyes.)

Awake-but-dreamingClay6141-edit2-bwClay8085-editImgp2664-edit-2Clay6910_editClay6948_hdr-edit-editClay4974-82-panoClay5032-40-vfImgp4324-editImgp4021_22_23-vf

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