SEEING MORE RED AT ARCHES NP - 23 January 2015
Double Arch in Red Light - Arches National Park, File# 1515290
Link to Full Sized Image: http://www.tom-hill.biz/Galleries/Scenics/Utah/i-XJS8DNC/A
(Editor: Updated with some typo fixes - 23 Jan 15)
This red light thing where I bath the subject with a red light from a handheld flashlight is a new thing. I think it looks cool though like any fad, it might be a flash in the pan. After doing it a few times like eating a bowl of CoCo Puffs, it might feel great at the time but after reflection you might not be so proud of it.
I am not there, yet, with using a red light to modify the light in such a dramatic way. I'm not at the "not so proud" stage, yet. I still think it's cool to be able to capture a subject like the Double Arch that otherwise would be a black blob... nothing in the dark. At least using this technique makes the subject interesting and it's something.
So it goes with the creative process. Photography is no different from any other form of creativity. Some people think that photography is all about capturing reality. While you can very closely document instants in a flow of life, it's not precisely reality. It's just a photo. I believe the medium allows for creativity. In fact, to be relevant experimentation is required or the art form becomes stale.
If you look at what I like to shoot, nature images, you'll find most nature photos pretty similar across the board. It's hard to make unique and impactful art when your subject is so obviously real. To overcome that, there are those that try to turn up the saturation in post processing to made the colors more vibrant and bold in the final image. Super bright highly saturated colors can be quite attractive, in a "I can't turn my eyes away" kind of way. Unfortunately, there are those that only use that technique and always turn it up way past what's reasonably passible for natural. I tend to think this simple technique as "nature porn" as in nature is pumped up to a D or E size. I personally resist that type of nature photography. Still, I like experimenting like the image here. And, when my techniques depart from what might be termed as natural, I try to tell people--i.e. truth in advertising.
I visited a nature photographer's gallery in Las Vegas--the home of everything turned up a notch. This place had incredible imagery, truly world class stuff. While most of the work easily fit within my standards for classic nature photography, there were some images that seemed a little too much to be true. In fact, if you knew this one shooting location--and iconic one at that--captured by this photographer, you would notice the clear digital manipulation that rendered the scene subtly unnatural. I am 100% certain none of the many throngs of people oooing and awwwwing over this image daily noticed the manipulation. But, it was there and it certainly wan't identified by the artist. While the evidence in the image showed the photographer was not above digital altering his pictures, I don't think it's a problem. It just placed him in the domain of digital artist than a pristine nature photographer. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being a digital artist. It's art, never the less. Still, there is an element of integrity and the need that a artist's viewer know what they're looking at.
Recently I've been capturing night and dark images and merging them into single files. I've posted a couple of those this week. Those particular images would be impossible to see with the naked eye. Through the trick of digital photography we are able to merge elements of what we can see into a single composition that wouldn't exist in real life. I very much like the technique. In fact, as un-natural as it can be, you can make the images look quite natural. In fact, it's easy to make the images look unnatural. The challenge is to create something that isn't real so it appears like something quite real.
So, I'm undecided if this red light painting technique has legs, or that I'll continue to use it long term. I am smart enough to recognize that adding red light to the scene all the time would be like using salt on everything. Eventually, everything tastes the same. But, the occasional judicious use of the accent has high potential to improve and expand a portfolio and what's creatively possible with nature photography.