Photographic Truth

What’s your first instinct when you encounter a scene with extreme dynamic range? How about when you’re faced with a foreground/background combination that’s impossible to capture sharply throughout? If you automatically resort to blending multiple images to overcome these “limitations,” you may be cheating yourself of creative opportunities.

Believe it or not, landscape photographers are under no obligation to capture the world exactly as the eye sees it. Not only are we not obligated, we can’t do it. Aside from the human eye’s obvious dynamic range and depth advantages, our world is in motion and isn’t constrained by a rectangular box. And the human world is in three dimensions. Understanding that no amount of Photoshop manipulation can overcome these differences frees photographers to use the unique aspects of their camera’s vision to control and expand their viewers’ perspective of nature.

So here’s the big “secret”: Truth is in the eye (lens) of the beholder. While the world through our eyes is our reality, it’s far from the only reality. A camera can approximate some aspects of human reality, but it has its own, quite unique, reality. Understanding the camera’s vision, and how to leverage it in your photography, is an opportunity to share the natural world in new, exciting, and no less honest ways. I’m not suggesting that you deceive viewers of your images, or that you discard your HDR and focus software. I’m just encouraging you to make your standard for photographic truth your camera’s truth.

For example, rather than something to be overcome, the camera’s limited dynamic range is an opportunity to create silhouettes that emphasize shapes and hide distractions. Similarly, selective focus (like I used in the above dogwood image) can guide the eye and deemphasize background elements. The more you understand your camera's vision and how to control it, the greater your creative opportunities.

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Join me in a photo workshop in Yosemite, Maui, Hawaii's Big Island, Death Valley, California's Eastern Sierra, or the Grand Canyon. Not only will you get great images, you'll be become a better photographer. And you'll have lots of fun.

©Gary Hart, 2013 

Read more of Gary's posts on his blog.

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