Posts Tagged ‘digital photography’

eBook Review: Creative Processing Techniques In Nature Photography By Guy Tal

August 7th, 2013

Review Of Guy Tal’s Creative Processing Techniques In Nature Photography

“In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The goal is to produce images that uniquely represent the photographer’s vision and possess meanings beyond the literal visual elements they portray.” – Guy Tal

Cover, Creative Processing Techniques In Nature Photography By Guy Tal.

Cover, Creative Processing Techniques In Nature Photography By Guy Tal. Click On The Image To Read More…

In Guy Tal’s ebook, Creative Processing Techniques In Nature Photography, he assures the reader that digital image processing can be a much richer introspective and creative experience than can possibly be provided by formulas or rote routines to “achieve such trivial goals as more vibrant colors or gimmicky visual effects.”

In the introduction to Creative Processing Techniques, Guy Tal wrote, “The digital studio at your fingertips is every bit the fertile bed for creative expression as any field technique…” He refers to the process of visualization discussed in his ebook, Creative Landscape Photography, and explains how decisions in the “studio” give the photographer a wide spectrum of possibilities and control for attaining the “visualized end result.”

Guy clearly favors creative post-processing over using presets or leaving image files the way the camera captured them. He also makes a good case that the answer to the question, ‘How much is too much?’ is best left up to each photographer’s own discretion and intended use of the image. He argues that the creative photographer’s purpose is to go beyond a mere documentary recording of subjects. However, he urges us to remember, “We chose the medium of nature photography because we were moved by the beauty of natural phenomena, and we may not want to venture too far from our source of inspiration.”

From Basics To Advanced Techniques

From the basics of monitor calibration, definitions of bits, 8-bit versus 16-bit, RGB, CMYK, color channels, RAW files, JPEGs, TIFFs, GIFs, conversions, Bayer patterns, Digital Negative or DNG files, clipping of highlight or shadow detail, file storage, compression, Tiff versus PSD and other image file formats, pixels, PPI, DPI, the International Color Consortium or ICC Profiles, color space or gamut, monitor and printer profiling or calibration using a colorimeter, target images, hue, saturation, “dodging” and “burning,” .icc, .icm, Perceptual and Relative Colorimetric rendering intents, sRGB, Adobe RGB, Kodak’s ProPhoto RGB,  pixilation, and why images do not look the same online as they do when made into archival fine art digital prints, all the way through the process of creating and working on digital master files, Guy Tal guides us with smooth, clear and thoughtful precision. Not only are you rarely confused by Guy’s explanations, but at the end of each chapter to assure even better understanding of the ideas presented, we find short, fun exercises and self-quizes about various points in the text.

Guy Tal suggests that as you process an image, you may change your mind as to how you will finish it. Your pre-visualized goal when you made the photograph can be refined and reconsidered along the way in a process Guy calls Dynamic Visualization. The way Guy Tal presents global and local adjustments had me anticipating the development of my next photograph in the digital darkroom. I became inspired by the possibilities as I began to see the process through new eyes from what I did previously. I realized that by employing Guy Tal’s workflow, I caught his vision and enthusiasm for image refinement, while at the same time I came into a deeper understanding of my own approach to creative landscape photography.

Unconventional Self-Awareness In Photography

Guy Tal is photographically self-aware and by example he teaches the reader to be more self-aware of his or her own creative process. Guy’s wisdom is often unconventional. For example, one of his image captions reads:

Do not assume that just because something is technically deficient, it should always be corrected. For example, the image on the right contains areas of both over-exposed highlights and under-exposed shadows. Still, I found these perfectly acceptable and decided not to correct them. In fact, it is likely that if I had corrected them (e.g., by blending multiple exposures), the result would have looked decidedly unnatural.

In the film era, under and over exposed areas in photographs were common, even with the use of the zone system. It was only with the advent of digital and especially High Dynamic Range or HDR that striving for detail in all areas of photographs became the norm. In this sense, Guy Tal’s experience in large format film photography serves him well as to what is worth spending time adjusting. Along the same lines, Guy provides good guidance as to what to adjust and what not to adjust in RAW conversion, as well as what to adjust minimally to avoid detail loss and fringe artifacts.

Guy Tal also bucks another trend in the digital darkroom. He points out that high contrast, more color saturated images often make a stronger first impression but may have less “’staying power’ if bold color is all they have to offer.” He writes, “…nuanced and subtle images often invite closer inspection and result in a more extended, contemplative viewing experience.” In this spirit Guy tells us how to use the various controls in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. Not only does he provide a clear description of each tool and how it works, but he also explains various situations where one tool works better than another and shows us how the results differ.

Photoshop Setup And Tool Optimization

From giving recommendations for how to arrange your tools for easy access in Adobe Photoshop, to how best to apply each tool and adjustment, Guy shows you the best practices and set up to make Photoshop easier to use. My impression is that with Guy’s technical background, he has a better understanding how and why each tool in Photoshop works the way it does, than many of the most prominent photographers in the field. Reading Guy’s ebook clarified some ambiguities and showed me better technique than what I have learned by observing or talking to many other photographers working in Photoshop. For example, I had learned that in using “Levels” to find the white and black point in an image that it is necessary to bring the corresponding sliders into the histogram slightly. However, Guy recommends bringing the sliders to where they are either just touching the histogram or even just outside the histogram, not touching it at all. Guy explains succinctly why this is a better approach.

In this extensive ebook Guy also discusses layer blending and how to combine the highlight detail from one image with the shadow detail of another, a process many refer to as High Dynamic Range or HDR. With Guy’s specific and complete directions, I performed my first blending of two versions of an image. How exciting: I have hard drives filled with bracketed images waiting for this moment. As can be expected, much more can be learned and realized by applying each exercise to your own images. I had a sense of anticipation and accomplishment in the learning by running my own images through each process and exercise that Guy outlines.

Global And Local Adjustments And A Different Way To Dodge And Burn

Besides philosophy and global adjustments, Guy also touches briefly on a number of local adjustments including Cloning and Spot Removal. This helps to round out the reading experience, but other books or tutorials may be necessary for more detail. I like the way Guy moves on to expand on more advanced methods such as Layer Masking and various uses for these layer masks. Most of Guy’s explanations are clear and thorough, but in some instances, he summarized a bit too much in my opinion, shortening the explanation of certain steps when he might have included more specifics without taking too much more space and reader time. Nonetheless, no one book could ever cover all features and tools in Photoshop. Anyone can Google the step-by-step functions of whatever basic tools Guy leaves out. Guy warns us against attachment to any particular tools or methods, but shares the importance of developing a strong working approach to visualizing and finding gaps between what we envision and what we have so far attained. Meanwhile, Guy’s explanation of non-destructive Dodging and Burning is comprehensive and extremely helpful for improved image editing, as are most of his other process explanations.

Before reading Creative Processing Techniques, I had a fair understanding of many of the controls in Photoshop, but some of the time I was just guessing as to how to obtain what I wanted in my images. Afterwards, I now have much more control and am more able to directly obtain what I intend in my photographs. Guy wrote by e-mail that it is better to learn good workflow and processing methods from the beginning rather than trying to unlearn bad habits later. With the reading of Guy’s ebook, I feel I have caught the best wave to take me all the way into the shore of happy image making.

To order click this link: Creative Processing Techniques. Also, a two volume bundle discount is available when you purchase Guy Tal’s Creative Processing Techniques with Creative B&W Processing Techniques.

Ansel Adams On What A Mountain Means

June 13th, 2013

An Excerpt And Commentary On Ansel Adams’ Short Essay, “What Can A Mountain Mean?”

Last Light On Mt. Hough, Plumas County, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

Last Light On Mt. Hough, Plumas County, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

(See the photograph large: “Last Light On Mt. Hough, Indian Valley, Northern Sierra, California.”)

Within a few years of John Muir’s founding of the Sierra Club in 1892, charter members formed a committee to oversee the writing, compiling and production of a Sierra Club Handbook. The handbook went to all new members as an overall orientation, an introduction to outdoor etiquette and a guide to Sierra Club philosophy. Half a century later, David Brower became the editor of the handbooks, as well as the Sierra Club’s first Executive Director. The 1957 edition of the Sierra Club Handbook included on its Editorial Committee such renowned environmental leaders as Ansel Adams, William E. Colby, Charlotte E. Mauk, Harriet T. Parsons and Blanche Stallings.

David Brower wrote in the introduction:

America’s resources of scenery that we explore and enjoy today are not set aside through accident. National Parks and forests, state and county redwood groves and beaches, wilderness areas and primeval regions—these are not now open to free public enjoyment just through happenstance, just because the country is so big and its resources so limitless that no one has yet got around to fencing them in. These areas, to which millions go each year for escape, exercise, or rest, are available only because people have fought for them. We who enjoy the mountains today owe a debt to generations of those now gone, or now no longer able to be fully active, who have thought in terms of long-range public use and enjoyment rather than immediate development and exploitation.

The Handbook told the reader the story of the Sierra Club, educated about the Sierra Club’s conservation role, provided information on mountaineering, wilderness outings, Sierra Club lodges and lands, winter sports, administration of the Club, trails, the human need for tranquility, the library, scientific background, new films, how to contribute, folklore, directors, chairmen and honorary members, publications, Sierra Club Books, periodicals and the Sierra Club by-laws, but the highlight of the handbook was a signature of 16 glossy black and white photographs by Ansel Adams. The series included such famous plates as Moon Over Half Dome, White House Ruin, Yosemite Valley From Valley View, Old Faithful and The Grand Tetons from Oxbow Bend. The irony is that these locations have now become like treasure map stops on checklists kept by some of today’s landscape photographers.

Accompanying his photographs, and equally as moving, Ansel Adams wrote a brief essay titled, “What Can A Mountain Mean?” This short plea for people to look more deeply at nature applies today even more than when written. The following is an excerpt:

We are seeking a closer contact and deeper understanding of the natural scene in both its vast and delicate aspects. Our ultimate function was never the mere making of maps and the collation of physical data; rather it was to interpret the assembled facts in terms of enjoyment and spiritual experience, and to assist others to seek and comprehend the heart of nature. After all, in the strictly materialistic sense, a mountain is simply an object of inanimate stone garnished with vegetation. It can be measured, weighed, climbed, and even removed or destroyed. Gravity, weather, geologic processes determine its form and the flow of the rivers at its base. These streams posses potential water power, provide irrigation, and contain fish. The timber on the slopes may be salable, and on the surface and inside of the mountain valuable minerals may be found and mined. Obviously the corpus and the spirit of the mountain are two very different entities. A mountain provides an impressive symbol of the wonder and beauty of the natural world, of contact with the primal purities of nature, of the cleanliness and the emotional stimulus of the realities of the earth.

At the time Ansel Adams wrote his short introduction to accompany his photographs in the Sierra Club Handbook, the term ‘landscape photography’ had not yet come into common use. Ansel Adams and his associates called the outdoor photographer who photographed wilderness, a ‘photographer of the natural scene.’ Whatever term you use to describe photography of the landscape, flora and fauna; today many practitioners of it, including myself at times, approach it more like those who are making maps or collecting data, rather than with the intent to impart joy or share a transcendent experience stemming from a more developed connection with the land.

While the internet is a superb tool for showing, viewing and critiquing landscape photography, it sometimes encourages the photographic sport of trophy hunting. Some online photographers objectify nature like pornography and subliminally sexual advertising objectify women and sometimes men. If one photographer has a photograph of a Grizzly Bear, the Aurora Borealis, Antelope Canyon or another trophy that others also have, then we feel we must bring home similar big game to hang on the wall and join the icon club. In contrast, to create photographs with meaning and make a contribution to the art, we must examine our motives. Are we purely profit or recognition-driven? Are we grabbing and bagging moments rather than living them? Are we carving notches in our camera cases? Or are we embracing nature; studying, living and breathing our subjects? Are we getting to know the places we portray, or are we defacing rock art, trampling flowers, stomping on and digging up the mountain, like destructive miners only interested in a payoff?

Until a photographer experiences and imparts the intrinsic values of a natural scene, he or she will not obtain the same long-term satisfaction with his or her images. There is nothing wrong with photographing an icon from time to time, but if they dominate a portfolio, it may be time to re-evaluate. Perhaps the commoditization of landscape photography will continue. Maybe digital photography will be more of an industry than an art, but why be part of the problem? Why not set your own sail, calibrate your own gyroscope by what fulfills you from the inside? Each person sends out a ripple effect. The world needs more sensitivity to nature, not more objectifying of natural subjects. In fact, this adjustment in perspective, this shift in vision, may be exactly what can save us. Photography is much more powerful than many realize. Through it the vision of an entire society is examined, determined and cast. What version of society will we choose? Will future generations see us the way we wish to be seen? What kind of civilization and what kind of people are we?

Relevant Blog Posts:

The Trophy Shot – A Nature And Landscape Photographer’s Dilemma by Gary Crabbe

A Big Light Night – Are You Too Old for Trophy Hunting Photography? by Darwin Wiggett

Aboutness by Guy Tal

What do you think? What is your opinion about exploitation versus inspiration?

Official New Release: Sierra Portfolio

May 29th, 2013

Announcing David Leland Hyde’s All New Sierra Portfolio

“The Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light… the most divinely beautiful of all mountain chains I have ever seen.” –John Muir

New Sierra Portfolio By David Leland Hyde On PhilipHyde.com

Half Dome From Mirror Lake Trail, Winter, Yosemite National Park, Sierra, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

Half Dome From Mirror Lake Trail, Winter, Yosemite National Park, Sierra, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

John Muir wandered and celebrated the Sierra for more than a decade inspiring thousands of artists and lovers of wilderness to “climb the mountains and get their good tidings.” My father, American landscape photographer Philip Hyde, was one artist so inspired. His last book, published in 1992 and titled, “The Range of Light,” featured quotes from John Muir to go with his color, as well as black and white photographs.

When Dad was 16 he first visited the Sierra and labeled his map of Yosemite National Park, “Home.” Twelve years later in 1950 he and my mother moved to the mountains in the Northern Sierra. Another 15 years later a doctor friend helped them give birth to me at home in the wilderness of the Sierra. I grew up in the woods along Indian Creek and have been “haunted by waters” like Norman Maclean ever since. The Sierra could also be called the “range of shimmering water” as it is more abundant in rivers, lakes and streams than any other mountain range.

The house I was born in is situated on an ancient granite rockslide that originated from Grizzly Peak. The peak itself is not visible from our home directly below the mountain. We see Grizzly Ridge, rising precipitously up 4,000 feet to 7,600 feet elevation, from Indian Creek at 3,600 feet elevation just below the house. Nonetheless, this northern end of the Sierra is mild, softly rounded and much lower than the high Sierra of Yosemite, Kings Canyon and the John Muir Trail.

As a child of the mountains, they raised me just as much as my parents. My mother knew I would learn many of life’s most important lessons by wandering around in the woods, fishing and hiking along Indian Creek, Spanish Creek, Greenhorn Creek, Ward Creek, Red Clover Creek, Montgomery Creek, Lights Creek, Hinchman Creek, Peters Creek and many of the other streams of Plumas County and the Feather River region.

These local names are telltale signs of my focus on local photography for the last four years since I forged into digital photography; and for many years before that while carrying a film camera off and on, sometimes going whole decades without a camera too. Here I learned to walk, talk, run, swim, fish, ice skate, drive in the snow, jump off of big rocks into deep waters and all the fun a boy could ask for without any need of television, video games, cell phones or portable computers.

I understand the need, in some cases, for landscape photographers to travel. During his more than 60-year career, Dad traveled an average of 99 days out of every year. Yet even Dad’s travels were almost exclusively regionally limited to the Western United States, primarily in Arizona and Utah canyons and California mountains. Is it necessary that all photographers go to Machu Picchu, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, or even Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, Tunnel View in Yosemite Park, or Zabriski Point in Death Valley National Park? Sometimes photographers traveling to Iceland might help save the ice sheet, photographers traveling to far northern British Columbia might save a vast wilderness like the Sacred Headwaters. However, generally, I feel more and more that I am a proponent of photographic bioregionalism. In other words, bloom where you’re planted. Considering that Edward Weston said he could look at his boot and find a great photograph, amazing images are everywhere, if the photographer looks, or rather sees closely enough. There is no need to travel great distances to find beauty. It can be found right in the backyard as locally focused well-known photographers like William Neill, Michael Frye, Gary Crabbe, Richard Wong and Guy Tal prove over and over, day in, day out.

I was born in the Sierra, here is where I live and here is where I photograph. This new portfolio is a collection of a small slice of my personal expression through the lens, very often one single rudimentary lens, a Costco special Nikon 18-55 mm that came in a kit with my Nikon D90, a Nikon 55-200 lens, a camera case, an SD card and camera manual. Sure, some day I hope to break out Dad’s large format Deardorff view cameras and his two medium format Rollei SL66 film cameras to try out some black and white film, but for now, I’ll stick to the easy to use and versatile Nikon D90. I am lucky to have Dad’s nearly indestructible Bogen #3028 tripod with handy pads on the legs for comfortable carrying over the shoulder for long distances or while free rock climbing with one hand down into some canyon in these fair mountains of home.

Nearly all of my photographs are single exposure, single image capture, though now that I’m learning to blend, I usually make at least two, sometimes three exposures of most high contrast photographs. The only photograph in this new Sierra Portfolio that is a blend is #3 “Oaks, Grizzly Ridge, Fall.” It is not a blend for contrast, but for the purpose of lightening the California Black Oaks and shifting color temperature of part of the image and not another. Many of these Sierra Nevada photographs involve very little Photoshop work at all, except where obvious. Color saturation was rarely increased with the saturation slider. I usually only increase saturation as a byproduct of working with the curves to attain the look of the original scene. People who don’t use Photoshop and claim their images are more pure because they for the most part use their RAW file, are generally producing images that are less true to life than those who use Photoshop because the RAW file rarely match any scene the way it looked originally. For more on this and related subjects see also the blog post, “David Leland Hyde’s Portfolio One Revisions And New Releases.” Please keep in mind that I create these photographs in limited editions of only 100. When they’re gone, they’re gone. Enjoy browsing: Sierra Portfolio… and please share which you like best…

(Originally posted for soft release May 29, 2013.)

Monday Blog Blog: Review Of ‘Light And Land’ by Michael Frye

October 31st, 2011

Monday Blog Blog: Review Of Light And Land: Landscapes In the Digital Darkroom By Michael Frye

Light And Land E-Book Promotional Image.

(What in the world is Monday Blog Blog? See the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog Celebration.”)

Michael Frye’s articulate, yet casual writing style in Light And Land: Landscapes In The Digital Darkroom, easily conveyed ideas to me that perhaps had seemed more complicated or even intimidating before. Right from the start I felt relaxed as though he would take me through a challenging journey safely. For example:

In this book I’ll take you step-by-step through each decision as I process five different images in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. You’ll see my workflow in action, and I’ll explain why I use particular techniques in a particular order. But more importantly, you’ll come to understand the aesthetic judgments behind each decision… you’ll gain insights about how to convey your own unique vision, and how to squeeze every ounce of beauty, emotion, and inspiration out of your photographs…. While I use Lightroom for these examples, the basic principles apply to any software. Learning how to make good decisions and find the right balance is more important than learning any particular tool or technique.

“OK, I’m in,” I said to myself. “I can do this.” Michael Frye then rolled right into Highlight and Shadow Detail, Black Points and White Points, Workflow, Curves, Tools, Default Settings, Finding Direction and other sections in the natural flow of his work on digital images. These sections, besides explaining technical concepts in non-technical terms, made the process seem simple, but not too simple. Many photography how-to books wax long on technique, but Michael Frye showed me what to do with the techniques to create images that bring out my own vision. He also told me how to best apply each technique depending on what I intend to accomplish in each photograph. In my view, this makes Michael Frye an above average teacher. No wonder he teaches workshops through the Ansel Adams Gallery. No wonder he is the author of the traditional paper paged book Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Masters. Michael Frye knows what he is doing regarding the unique considerations in landscape photography post processing. In his e-book, Light And Land: Landscapes In The Digital Darkroom, he also sprinkled in his own wit and wisdom for landscape photography in general:

…In some other photography genres the photographer is often concerned with only one subject. Landscape photography frequently requires blending many different ingredients in a harmonious way.

Or:

…Landscape photography is all about communicating the mood of a particular place at a particular time.

Or:

Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether you prefer using Curves or some other tool, what default settings you start with, or even what software you use. The goal is to make the image communicate something, and there are many ways to accomplish that. Knowing what you want to say is more important than using a particular procedure.

At the top of Michael Frye’s section on Workflow, he listed for us readers in order the various steps he takes in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Then he elaborated on each one. He showed how he goes about each step in a sort of “real time” demonstration on his landscape photographs.

He explained that “in a book of this size it’s impossible to describe every nuance and keyboard shortcut in Lightroom.” Then he went on to recommend the two books I already have on Lightroom, but have never read, how handy is that? Plus Michael Frye recommended one more book on Lightroom by David DuChemin called Vision & Voice: Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. The other two books I have are Martin Evening’s The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers and D65’s Lightroom Workbook: Workflow, Not Workslow in Lightroom 3 by Seth Resnick and Jamie Spritzer.

Having watched master landscape photographer Carr Clifton work with curves since 2008, but having only minimally tried it myself, I found Michael Frye’s explanation of curves to be the easiest to understand of any I have read. To check out the Photoshop and Lightroom resources I have either studied or gathered and not yet studied, see the blog posts, “Monday Blog Blog: Photoshop For Pros” and “Monday Blog Blog: Lewis Kemper.”

What I liked about Michael Frye’s style of presentation in Light And Land: Landscapes In The Digital Darkroom was that he urged the reader to think and make decisions. He asked many questions that put me into action in processing images along with him and starting in on my own. His sections called “Evaluation” in Light and Land and on his “In The Moment: A Landscape Photography Blog” have encouraged and inspired us students of landscape photography to jump right in and get involved.

Michael Frye powerfully wound up Light And Land by advising us to go to galleries and museums and look at the finished product: fine art digital prints. He said not just to look at them but to ask yourself his many evaluation questions:

When viewing prints, look at the contrast. How much of the photograph is pure white? How much pure black? Is the print dramatic or understated? Notice the color balance and saturation. With black-and-white prints, check for slight color tints.

To bring home his e-book coaching Michael Frye in Light And Land quoted Ansel Adams, one of the world’s greatest fine art print makers of all time:

The difference between a very good print and a fine print is quite subtle and difficult, if not impossible, to describe in words. There is a feeling of satisfaction in the presence of a fine print—and uneasiness with a print that falls short of optimum quality.

The only aspect of Light And Land I don’t like is that it is too short. I would like to learn much more and have Michael Frye go into greater depth in many of the areas of his coaching in this e-book. Fortunately, Light And Land is priced at what David DuChemin termed the “outrageously low price” of only $5.00. If you look around some you may even find a coupon to purchase the e-book for $4.00. I recommend that each of you who takes the digital printing of landscape photography seriously not wait any longer: buy the book now. Michael Frye will show you how to make that subtle difference, referred to by Ansel Adams, in your fine art digital prints. To order go to Light And Land: Landscapes In The Digital Darkroom.

Interview of Gary Crabbe Part 3

July 12th, 2011

Landscape Photography Blogger Interviews Photographer Gary Crabbe

Last Part of A Three Part Series

(Continued from the blog post, “Interview Of Gary Crabbe Part 2.”)

On Photography For Books, Publishing, Rebuilding After An Injury And Stock Photography

Interview Conducted By Phone May 25, 2011

Cloud Rising Out Of The Owens Valley At Sunrise, Eastern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2009 by Gary Crabbe.

(See the photograph full size, “Cloud Rising Out Of The Owens Valley, Eastern Sierra Nevada.” For the story of Gary Crabbe’s transcendent experience making this photograph see his blog post, “Spirits In The Air.”)

DAVID LELAND HYDE: We continue with the conclusion of an in-depth interview of one of the leading landscape photographers working today, Gary Crabbe of Enlightened Images. Gary is also the author of an award-winning and highly acclaimed photo blog. In the first part of this series Gary and I talked about how the arts in general are relevant to landscape photography, his famous mentoring by the late landscape master Galen Rowell and the development of your own personal style. In the second part we developed the discussion about personal style, delved into the making of photography books, photo editing and selection and a bit more about Galen Rowell and how he worked. We are talking now about a few of Gary Crabbe’s photography books.

GARY CRABBE: The rest of the Voyageur Press books were in a pre-existing series. With Backroads of the California Coast: Your Guide to Scenic Getaways & Adventures, Voyageur Press put on a huge marketing campaign like they’ve done with other subjects like agriculture, trains, race cars and  basketball. If it’s kitsch, they’ve done it. They are a regional publisher so they’ve done books from Colorado to Chicago. They knew I was near San Francisco, so they asked if I wanted to do their San Francisco book and I said sure. They also said, “We’ve got this Back Roads series: Do you want to do Backroads of the California Wine Country: Your Guide to the Wine Country’s Most Scenic Backroad Adventures?” The writer that I had teamed up with on the first book project got together with me on four titles. She would say, “These are the places I’m going to be writing about.” I’d go out and photograph and the publisher would match my photos with her text.

HYDE: About your brand new release, Greetings from California: Legends, Landmarks & Lore of the Golden State: You wrote a blog post not long ago saying that when you told people your book was about history they were not enthused. You concluded that history is boring, but I find people are eating up the history. It may be the way history is presented. On my blog I’m mixing the history of conservation and the history of landscape photography. I find, to my dismay, that the history of conservation causes some yawns on a photo blog, but there aren’t as many dynamic leaders as in the history of photography. I’m finding that when history is presented with an emphasis on the interesting personalities, then people are interested. Although, I know your blog has much more traffic than mine because my traffic spiked significantly when you linked to my blog post, “Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?” So what gave you the impression that history is boring?

GARY CRABBE: My blog post was more specific regarding the people I contacted to get permission or access to photograph. When they heard it was history, it didn’t mean much to them because they were thinking more about business and promotion. From the publisher’s perspective, this was to be part of a new series for which they had already published a few books they sent me like Twin Cities Then and Now (Minnesota) and Philadelphia Then and Now. My book was originally to be called, California: Then & Now comparing historical and modern photographs. That was the premise under which I did all my shooting though I didn’t need to be standing in the same spot as the historical photograph. Then someone did a book about Colorado using his grandfather’s photos. He took his modern photos in the exact same spot. He called it “Colorado: Then & Now.” After I turned in everything to Voyageur Press, they said, “We’re scrapping the series.”

HYDE: My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, had a lot more stories like that than like your other book where everything went smoothly. . .

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, you know it. I was sitting there with this huge knot in my stomach. Then they came back and said, “The publisher liked your work so much that we’re going to try to re-package this book as something a little bit more fun, like a scrapbook.” They still used all the same photographs and text, but instead of making it like the original layout, that even my mom had noticed from the sample copy was dry and stagnant, my book was to be the test guinea pig for repackaging. Three other photographers had their states’ Then & Now projects pulled. Whether their projects get repackaged will depend on how well my book goes over. One of the things you sign on the dotted line is that the publisher has complete and exclusive control over the design, layout and format of the book. When I saw the first layouts, I was blown away. They took this dry, dull and academic look and turned it into something that was exactly what they said: fun. They kept all the history, but they picked out pieces of my text and put in little scrapbook-like post-it notes to highlight the information instead of putting it all into one or two paragraphs of text. In my opinion it worked out perfectly, but I empathize with the three other photographers whose projects got shelved. I hope that my book does well and they can get their projects.

HYDE: Did your images cover the whole state?

GARY CRABBE: For the most part, yes. In fact I was scheduled to go off on my first shoot, down to Edwards Air force Base, when I fell off a cliff several years ago. I hadn’t even taken the first frame before I wound up in the hospital and shut down my business for half a year.

(See the photograph full size, “Morning Light, Badwater From Dantes View, Death Valley.”)

Morning Light And Clouds Over Saltpan At Badwater Basin From Dantes View, Death Valley National Park, California, copyright 2009 by Gary Crabbe.

HYDE: Wow. How did you fall off a cliff? What did you injure?

GARY CRABBE: I was going to meet someone to do a couple days of photography in Death Valley. I had bought a cheese burger, in the town of Ridgecrest, 100 miles away and I pulled off on the side of the road. I think I was going to go off-road somewhere, but I just climbed in the back of my Toyota 4-Runner, laid the back seat down and  went to sleep. On trips I have my sleeping bag and I lay down right behind the passenger seat. Behind the driver seat is all my gear, equipment, food containers and my backpack of film. I live like a turtle when I’m the road. I just as often sleep in the back of my truck as in a hotel. Apparently I woke up to answer nature’s call and in the darkness walked off a 40 foot cliff. I didn’t remember the fall at all. I woke up in the middle of the desert floor in the middle of the night. It took minutes for my brain to say uh, uh, where am I? Why am I lying in the dirt, face down in the middle of the night? Where’s my truck? Why am I at the bottom of the cliff? OK, now I know I hurt. I have no idea how long I was unconscious. At some point in the middle of the night I woke up again. I didn’t have my truck keys. The only thing I had was a lighter. I sat there and made myself a little camp fire in the middle of the night, in the desert, by myself. Maybe an hour, two hours later, I said, “Alright, I want to get back to my truck. I know the main road is that way. I know that my truck is up there.” I worked my way down this desert wash and then finally found a place on the hill where I could scramble up. I made it back to my truck and climbed back into my sleeping bag. The next morning I got checked out by the Park Ranger of Death Valley. I had a broken wrist, bruised ribs, a yanked nerve in my back, but I managed to get all the way home to the Bay Area. My wife Connie took me to the hospital that same evening. They put me in a cast, gave me medicine and sent me home. Two days later I was lying on the couch in the fetal position, barely coherent, throwing up. My wife took me back to the hospital and they found out I had a subdural hematoma, which is the same injury that killed the actress Natasha Richardson in just about the same window of time.

HYDE: So you hit your head, is that what that means?

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, bleeding was going on in the brain. One of the guys I have coffee with in the Bay Area is a retired surgeon from the Children’s Hospital in Oakland. When I told him this story he said, “You were lucky that you even woke up. Given your injury it was just as likely that you could have climbed back in your truck and never woke up again.” It is eye opening when someone who is a surgeon says something like that. I wound up spending a week in the hospital, recovering from the trauma and the next 3 months recovering from the physical injury. I couldn’t even hold a camera. As soon as I recovered, I had to start this book project, which was supposed to be done in a year. I had to do it in about four and a half months. It was challenging. It has taken me 18 to 24 months to get my business back up to speed because my business completely shut down.

HYDE: Wow. What does your wife do for a living?

GARY CRABBE: She’s part of the reason why I get to do what I do. She’s a senior business manager at AT&T. She has the full AT&T benefit package.

HYDE: That’s nice, yeah.

GARY CRABBE: I complain about big corporations, but I got to admit. You know… I originally thought she was the type of girl that working in the big corporation in the big city would chew her up and spit her out in no time flat. Instead, she’s now been there 10 years. They were so impressed by her work that they hired her during a hiring freeze. The benefits help make our family. She has been probably one of the biggest support factors I could ever imagine.

HYDE: How many kids do you have Gary?

GARY CRABBE: Two: a nine-year-old daughter named Alyssa and a 12-year-old son, Brandon. Both of them act like teenagers or four year olds, depending…

HYDE: I’m trying to piece the chronology together in my mind. Starting out, you didn’t know much about photography. Most of the time working for Galen Rowell you didn’t want to be a photographer. Was it while you were still working for Galen Rowell that you decided that you did want to be a photographer?

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, I knew nothing and was suddenly thrust into the top level of the industry. Trial by fire. All I had was a one week vacation for my first few years of working there. The first year’s vacation my wife and I went to Crater Lake. Wow. I had just switched to using color film and trying slides, as part of my job.

HYDE: Were you still using the same original camera?

GARY CRABBE: No, once I started working for Galen Rowell I bought my first Nikon 8008 S and some Nikon lenses. As part of my job at Mountain Light, I had to work with Galen in his workshops. Staff would help the students edit their work. We would be there while Galen was doing critiques and we’d be out in the field helping the photographers. It was like osmosis. Photography was coming at me even while I was asleep. One day I was out taking a photo at local Lafayette Reservoir when a guy walked right by me and said, “I’ll buy that.” I hadn’t even taken the photo yet. I had just put the tripod and camera in place. I said, “Do you want to at least look through the lens?” He said, “Why don’t you just call me when you get your film.” I didn’t think he was serious, but I called him when I got the film. He came over to my apartment and bought a 20X24 print. It was my first print sale. I made several hundred bucks and I thought, “Wow, this is pretty cool.” I established with Galen right away that I was completely up front. If something came up involving me doing photography, I always ran it by him first. I did not want to cross the line or create more stress than he already had. One day after I had been working for him for a number of years and been on several trips, as my photography was improving by the nature of being where I was, I don’t recall where he was, maybe the Himalayas, Galapagos Islands or South America. Forbes Magazine called the office and said they needed, “Ugly, trashy images of Yosemite Valley. They’re changing concessionaires and we want to show all the negative impact.” I said, “We don’t really have much of that.” They asked some question about what Yosemite Valley looked like right at that moment. By coincidence I was scheduled to go up with my wife to Yosemite Valley that weekend. So I said, “I’ll let you know on Monday.” They asked, “Can you shoot it for us?” They never even bothered to ask if I was a photographer. “I have to ask Galen.” Galen called the office and somehow he said OK. So I called the woman at Forbes back and said I could do it. I spent three days in Yosemite National Park for Forbes Magazine running around taking pictures of gas stations, garbage cans, lines of people at the hotel, the cafeteria, the messes. It was the first editorial assignment that gave me a chance. As I got further down the road and started making more images that were salable, it started to creep into my mind that I could be a photographer. I liked it, but I wasn’t going to step on Galen’s feet to do it. I could do my own print sales if I found my own clients without doing anything in conflict with Galen. What finally made me take the leap, was my wife getting pregnant. We knew we wanted one of us to stay home with the kid and she had all these major company benefits. If I stayed home maybe I could sell a few photos. I became a photographer by nature of choosing to be a stay at home dad.

HYDE: Is it a nice fit for that?

Morning Mist Along The Mendocino Coast Near Elk, California, copyright 2010 by Gary Crabbe.

(See the photograph full size, “Morning Mist, Mendocino Coast.”)

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, except I don’t get to spend weeks and months traveling. I do know people that sacrifice their family to follow their photographic passion. That wasn’t going to be part of my consideration. I stayed close to home and fortunately all of the subsequent book projects were in California. I can be anywhere in the state within 8 ½ hours. That’s a day there and a day back.

HYDE: Well, now that you’ve developed a little more success, do you think you’ll go a little further afield, maybe, for future books projects?

GARY CRABBE: My kids are getting older. As of January, they are now old enough to walk home on their own and spend a few hours on their own during the day. That’s freeing me up much more than when someone needed to be there to pick them up.

HYDE: When the stock photography industry imploded, how much did that affect you?

GARY CRABBE: That was about the time of my fall. The changes in stock did have an emotional pull on me, not so much in my business personally, but in the broader sense. I couldn’t believe that photographers themselves were devaluing their work to commodity status. That was the part that I’ll still continue to say was difficult to see. I know the market shifts, you can’t stop the market, supply and demand and all. Digital did make the world much more accessible. It used to be with slide film, you had to get it right. If you were more than ½ a stop off, it was a disaster. I was always a proponent for photographers valuing their own work. Watching people think it was no big deal to sell unlimited commercial use of their images for say 10 bucks. That was the sad part. I still don’t sell my work royalty free. I don’t have a negative reaction to the sales model of royalty free. My main objection is to the rate people charge. If a national company wants to use one of my images royalty free, I want to see at least four figures for that. I want them to pay what I think is an appropriate value.

HYDE: Royalty free means selling the rights to an image forever for any use at a one time fee, right? And it is becoming more and more prevalent, correct?

GARY CRABBE: Yes, correct. Originally royalty free first came on the scene in the mid-90s as a reaction to regular stock photography, which was value based on use. It became price based on file size. You turned your work into a widget. Then suddenly photographers were offering widgets for 1/10th the cost of what the widgets were originally selling for, which became micro stock.

HYDE: Did your income mix change like many other full-time photographers during that time period—that is, the mix between stock photography and fine print sales, what would you say the ratio is and was?

GARY CRABBE: The ratio has remained relatively consistent, maybe around 70/30, 60/40, sometimes 80/20, somewhere in that neighborhood. But in a down economy, I still sell my work as only rights managed, value based on use. I may have fewer sales, but I’m still insisting on what I consider is a fair value for the use of my work. In a down economy, the first budget to go is an arts budget. People will still buy jewelry before they’ll buy something to put on their walls. As the economy ebbs and flows, sales tend to ebb and flow in relation, but in a down economy, prints may relatively dry up for a while and  then come back as people think, “Oh I have a little more expendable income.”

HYDE: My business is nearly 100 percent prints and I noticed that I was starting at the wrong time, but it is starting to pick up again.

GARY CRABBE: I will say, since the beginning of the year, I’ve had a considerable number of print sales.

HYDE: Is there anything else that you feel people ought to know about you Gary that maybe they couldn’t read somewhere else?

GARY CRABBE: All I can say is that I chose my company name, Enlightened Images, because I consider myself spiritual, especially in terms of nature and the universe. I have this big interconnected picture of how we as a species on a planet are in the universe.

HYDE: I really like the name. Thank you so much for your time Gary.

GARY CRABBE: My pleasure. David, have yourself a wonderful day and thank you.

Monday Blog Blog: Greg Boyer

May 16th, 2011

Monday Blog Blog: Greg Boyer Photography

Raised on ranches as a boy and now living in Bishop, California in the shadow of the Eastern Sierra Nevada, Greg Boyer first became serious about photography in the early 1970s. He first began making landscape photographs at age 12 when his father gave him an Argus C3. In 1960, a trip to Yosemite National Park helped spark his creative inspiration. By the time he reached age 13, he had been to 18 states.

Moonrise Over Mono Lake, Eastern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2008 by Greg Boyer.

(View the photograph larger Click Here.)

(What in the world is Monday Blog Blog? To find out more read the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog Celebration.”)

Greg Boyer’s father was in the Army Air Corp which became the US Air Force. He later became a safety engineer for a the U.S. government and in the Missile Industry. The family began ranching in California and then moved to Idaho north of Boise along the Payette River. Greg Boyer worked on his father’s ranch while also photographing and hiking the mountains and back country of Idaho.

In the mid 1970s and early 1980s, Greg Boyer worked as a well driller and did construction work building irrigation pumping plants along the Sacramento river in California. At the zenith of Greg Boyer’s early photography life, he recently explained, he dove in more deeply and then faded after a camera catastrophe and other life changes:

I was about the same age as Galen Rowell. He was in all the magazines. He was an outdoor hero. I was doing mountain climbing and some of the same things he was but on a smaller scale. I was always an explorer as a kid. The last year I was very serious about photography was 1975 when I was photographing on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, a wild and wooly place. I was using a Nikon F2. I had a 500 mm lens on and I was getting ready to change the focusing screen. I set the camera down and it fell off the rock perch I set it on at the edge of a deep gorge. I was rummaging in my camera bag trying to find the focusing screen and all I heard was the first clunk of my camera bouncing several times down in the ravine. I turned around and the camera was gone. On the second bounce I saw the body go one direction and the lens go the other. Soon after that my ex wife and I moved back to California in 1975. I was drilling wells and the work was demanding. I didn’t have the time to devote to photography that I wanted to. I was raising a family. I still made snapshots of my kids and family vacations.

Greg Boyer worked for Campbell Soup for 14 years as a maintenance planner. When an opportunity to go back to school came, he took it. He attended UC Davis in Multi-Media Design, where he learned about video production and Photoshop, which he had originally started to learn in 1992. He worked in Video Production from 1997 to 2005. Around that time the video business began to change. The video company he worked for and many others were casualties.

In 2004 Greg Boyer bought a Nikon D2X digital camera. With his extensive knowledge of Photoshop, he also began digital printing. Thus began a whole new experience with photography:

With digital photography I found out how to express the way I saw a scene. I couldn’t do that with film. Digital landscape photography was everything film photography could have been to me but that I never had with film. I never had the tools to do what I really wanted to do until digital came along.  It’s the immediacy of the digital image. You can see right away what you have. You can look at the image and at the histogram and then do something different if it doesn’t work. In the film era you didn’t know what you had until you had the rolls processed. Then you might never make it back to the same place, or you had to get back there in the same conditions.

In late 2005, Greg Boyer was diagnosed with Emphysema. When he told his son, his son said, “Well, you better quit wasting time.” After thinking about it, Greg Boyer realized his son was right. He decided to change his lifestyle and do what he really loved, which meant getting back in touch with nature and taking up photography again. Soon afterwards he moved to Bishop, California to be near the Sierra Nevada in a small-town atmosphere and clean air. Greg Boyer described his experience of connecting with nature and the philosophy behind it:

Krishnamurti was an influence on the way I look at what I’m doing in landscape photography. I go out and get absorbed by my surroundings. When I’m out taking photographs it is a spiritual experience of that moment in time and space when it is all yours. You are it and it is you. Krishnamurti wrote about seeing and not categorizing. His philosophy was that by defining something you separate yourself from it. He gave me a new way of being out and connected to nature. Civilization’s mistake is in separating from the natural world.

In the Eastern Sierra Nevada Greg Boyer now goes backpacking at least twice a year. He still carries 50-60 pounds of gear on backpacks including cameras and lenses. Greg Boyer said he is ‘living the dream,’ but he is glad he doesn’t have to rely on photography for a living in today’s conditions. He has the freedom to pursue landscape photography as he likes:

I’m enjoying life and having a good time. This is the way life was meant to be. I’m blessed to be doing what I love in a beautiful place. At Campbell Soup some people had been working there for 35-40 years and hated every minute of it. I feel bad for people who are stuck doing something they have no idea they can get out of. Many people are not doing what they love to do. I like sharing what I’m doing in photography. I like the interaction with other photographers in the photo blogosphere. Besides, I live a few blocks from Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery.

Take a close look at Greg Boyer Photography and his blog, which offer an inspirational perspective on landscape photography. His blog posts about Photoshop and other post-processing tools and techniques provide an experienced presentation of simple and advanced methods.

Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?

May 12th, 2011

Did the “over-saturation” of landscape photographs start with digital printing and Photoshop, or did it originate well before that in the film era with the advent of Fuji Velvia Film and Kodak Ektachrome E100VS Film? Is “over-saturation” a myth?

Urban Railroad Distortion, Reno, Nevada, copyright 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Post-processed in Photoshop.

In his 1993 book Galen Rowell’s Vision: The Art of Adventure Photography, Galen Rowell wrote a chapter called Velvet Media in which he extolled the virtues of Fuji Velvia film, with some cautions. Galen Rowell wrote:

After twenty-five years of using Kodachrome film whenever sharpness was of the utmost importance, I abruptly gave up on it in February 1990 after seeing tests of an amazing new slide film from Japan…. Fuji’s introduction of ISO 50 Velvia at the Photo Marketing Association show in Las Vegas… After I returned home, I ran controlled comparisons of Velvia against Kodachrome 25, Kodachrome 64 and Fuji Pro 50. On my own light table the next morning, I clearly saw the end of an era. Velvia was the best of all existing worlds. Its resolution exceeded that of Kodachrome 25 and the other test films in high-contrast tests simulating daylight and equaled Kodachrome 25 in soft light. Its color saturation and separation of tones exceeded those of Fuji Pro 50 and the other films. I was aware that many photographers would prefer Kodachrome’s relatively muted colors, but I believed much of this was due to a conditioned constancy illusion that Kodachrome slides accurately represented the natural world. I knew better and fully expected Velvia to establish a new constancy illusion with picture editors and the public… I wanted to see the world freshly through this new tool and to push it to the limit to see what it would do. Over the years, the limitations of other films had caused me to consider certain kinds of subject matter and lighting as impossible. Murky renditions of greens in shadow under a blue sky on Kodachrome became vivid on Velvia. Fuji Pro 50 renditions of delicate foliage have very strong color, but also a lack of resolution that calls attention to itself, especially when compared with Kodachrome 25. Velvia holds both color and sharpness.… I soon began asking, ‘Is anything wrong with this film?’ not only to myself but to other users. The few negative answers had to do with too strong colors and a slower film speed than the advertised ISO 50.

In early 2010, in the comments on Steve Sieren’s blog post, “Ever Wonder About The History Of Landscape Photography?” large format landscape photographer Michael Gordon commented about how Fuji Velvia film had changed Landscape Photography. Michael Gordon first did a blog post about Velvia in 2008. In his 2010 comment, Michael Gordon said, “Want to be shocked? Compare Hyde’s “Drylands” photos to the current crop of Velvia-ized desert landscape photographs. Porter too. Not many years have passed, and despite the drying climate, the desert sure got a lot more vibrant in photographs!” Other comments on Steve Sieren’s blog post addressed the effect Velvia film had in the hands of various landscape photographers and its general impact on all landscape photography.

Many galleries, museums, photographers and others blame “over-saturation,” if it exists and can be defined, on the advent of the digital age and Photoshop, but here we see much evidence that “over-saturation” began long before. Also in 2010, outdoor, documentary and landscape photographer Carr Clifton offered his thoughts and possible explanation as to what happened in landscape photography from 1990 through the early years of the new millennium. Carr Clifton said, “When we first started printing digitally, we were used to trying to get the richest and even the hottest color out of whatever film we were using. Many films didn’t have the rich color palette that we now see. The same thing happened back in the 1990s with Velvia. Velvia was different because for the first time, it offered too much color, more than you see in nature. When everybody started scanning film and making digital prints, even the scans of Velvia were too gaudy.”

On reading Galen Rowell’s Outdoor Photographer features, Sierra Magazine articles and several of his books I discovered that he wrote more eloquently about photography than perhaps just about anyone else ever, with the possible exception of Robert Adams, Charis Wilson, Edward Weston, Minor White and Ansel Adams at times. That puts Galen Rowell at the top of all writers on photography. He is also admirable as a landscape photographer because he was self-taught. My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde has been said by many of the who’s who of photography today to have influenced a generation of photographers. See the blog posts, “How Color Came To Landscape Photography,” “The Golden Decade: California School Of Fine Arts Photography,” and the series beginning with the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism.”

Notwithstanding, Galen Rowell also influenced a generation, the next generation, our generation, the landscape photographers just coming into prominence now. Galen Rowell was also one of the most talented photographers who ever lived. He was the master of “fast and light” and capturing unusually powerful landscape photographs. When we showed the Philip Hyde exhibition at Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery, I found through talking to guests and staff that Galen Rowell was also known as a life-changing mentor, a generous mountain guide, a driven activist for various conservation and social causes and a dynamic leader of an organization of top quality people who continue to inspire the world. However, some segments of the art establishment hardly recognize him because they feel he overdid the color. Carr Clifton, who also greatly admired Galen Rowell put forward the theory that when Velvia film first emerged on the scene and also in the early days of digital printing, that Galen Rowell went a little far with the color, but never lived to rein in when other photographers did.

“It was around 2003-2004 that everybody started to pull back some and bring their color back into the realm of reality,” Carr Clifton said. “All except for a few blatant examples that remain. Galen, unfortunately for all of photography, died in the plane crash in early 2002. We were all very sad about it. Now Galen’s prints are frozen in a state of too much syrup. He never made it to the time in 2003-2004 when everyone backed their color off.” Because Galen was so admired, there are now many photographers who try to do what he did with sunrise-drenched mountain tops, brilliant reflections and ultra-vivid colors. Other landscape photographers agree with Carr Clifton. They believe that Galen Rowell might very well have pushed his own work back down the color saturation scale if he had lived. It’s all conjecture, but an interesting theory and something to consider in view of how much landscape photographers try to emulate Galen Rowell’s work. For more about other concerns over the direction of landscape photography today see the blog post, “Is Landscape Photography Thriving Or Dying?” For a new way to look at it and other remedies see the blog post, “What Urban Exploration Photography Learned From Nature.”

Travel and landscape photographer Richard Wong wrote on this subject in November 2010:

…Galen did have a large audience probably due to several factors, one of which was a long relationship with Outdoor Photographer Magazine dating back to the beginning from what I understand, but even before that he had “street cred” in the outdoor community for being a prolific adventurer and rock climber. There were photographers just as good if not better out there at all the different things he did but he was able to connect with and convey his philosophy to his audience much more effectively than most. He was a great writer. And also someone who was always striving to innovate. Looking at his body of work, you can clearly see the evolution over the years. You also have a good point about the color. I was told that his staff worked on those digital masters from his slides in the years prior to his death and probably against advisement, he wanted to push the envelop on the saturation. You can tell by looking at some of his prints up close at his gallery and also in some of his books that some highlight detail was probably sacrificed due to saturation. His Evolution Lake image for example. With that said, I have always overlooked that phase of his career because that doesn’t define his body of work. One thing I’ve always pondered is what Galen would be doing now on the Nikon D700 if he were still around. Breaking new ground for photography I would imagine.

Fuji Velvia film was not the only film that amped up the saturation. Galen Rowell provided a warning against overdoing the color saturation in this quote also from the 1995 book, Galen Rowell’s Vision: The Art of Adventure Photography:

 

Much of what people were saying when Velvia first came out applies to Kodak E100VS today. Sometimes it looks garish, sometimes it looks great, and much of the time it will produce the image that editors will choose. Kodak E100VS often produces bright colors closer to what you believe you saw in flat light or at a distance, but if you use it all the time, you risk having the sum total of your style appear garish and suspect. In direct light this film doesn’t just come near the edge of the color saturation envelope; it moves beyond into a realm that requires the same sort of restraint as the use of color-enhancing filters does.

Probably the same could be said for the color saturation adjustment slider in Photoshop. What do you think? Is “over-saturation” an overblown issue? Is it a myth? Is over-saturation a problem in landscape photography today?

Monday Blog Blog: Photoshop For Pros

January 24th, 2011

After School Redux, Reno, Nevada, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. "Hey, wait a minute: was that image Photoshopped?"

Whether you love or hate Photoshop, it is transforming photography and how photography is perceived. Many of you reading this may be more experienced with Photoshop than I am, but you might gain insight from the Photoshop masters who have helped me in the digital interpretation of my father pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde’s photographs, as well as the journey I have been on in the process.

“Most of Ansel Adams’ iconic images required greater printing skills than most photographers possess,” John Sexton said in the newly released book, Ansel Adams in the National Parks. (Be sure to catch the upcoming Landscape Photography Blogger review of this excellent new book about arguably the best black and white printer of the 20th Century.) John Sexton is a master black and white darkroom printer and was Ansel Adams’ photographic assistant in the 1970s. Landscape photographer Carr Clifton and other acknowledged Photoshop masters such as Terrance Reimer of West Coast Imaging, Kim Reed of Reed Photo Imaging, David Staley, Jr. of Outdoor Plus Digital Photo Lab and Ed Cooper, who was also a pioneer mountaineer and large format photographer and now works mainly on restoring his own color shifted early Kodak large format film, these Photoshop experts have all helped me work on Dad’s photographs. Future blog posts will feature some of them. These five gentlemen have a combined Photoshop experience of over 60 years. Even so, matching the printing of my father’s black and white silver gelatin, color dye transfer or color Cibachrome and Ilfochrome prints, has been a challenge for even these very best in the business.

Fortunately Carr Clifton was a friend and neighbor of Dad’s for over 35 years and a photographic protege as well. With the color prints that Carr Clifton has made, we have improved on a number of Dad’s prints, a large number are essentially nearly as good or equal and a small number of Dad’s prints just can’t be matched without whole days of time invested tinkering in Photoshop. Typically in our process in the last two years, after Carr Clifton finished his master work on Dad’s images, I took the finished prints and put them in front of some of the top gallerists in the world representing landscape photography and Dad’s professional landscape photographer friends. Then I often returned to Carr Clifton for more tweaking. However, from now on I need to do more and more of the Photoshop work myself rather than outsourcing it. I also intend to do all Photoshop work on my own photographs. This puts pressure on me to learn 10 years worth of skills in a year or two or less. I have to become one of the best Photoshop masters ever in crash course fashion, to have what it takes to work on Dad’s photographs. In the midst of fulfilling my many other obligations, over the last year I have been looking around and learning, gearing up for an inevitable transition to me doing most of my Photoshop work. I will share here some of the resources I have found that I like. If I forget any resources that I ought to have included, please chime in and tell me about those that have helped you.

Carr Clifton himself recommends Lynda.com because he says it teaches all levels of Photoshop skills, even the most advanced fixes to difficult problems. Lynda.com also sells a video called, “Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography.” After meeting Bob and Betty Reed of Reed Photo Imaging in Denver, who print for John Fielder and David Muench, and meeting their son Kim Reed, the technical backbone of the business and a Photoshop genius, I bought Kim Reed’s Photoshop course called, Inside The Master’s Circle Training: Adobe Photoshop Edition. Kim Reed and John Harris, the course’s instructors, according to the DVD’s back matter, “have been retouching images for renowned fine artists and Fortune 500 companies since the early pioneering days of digital imaging.” I have only started the course and had a few short lessons from Kim himself, but from what I have seen so far the presentation is easy to follow and covers A to Z everything photographers need to master. (See a future blog post for a specific review of this DVD set.)

At the end of 2008, I first started learning to use Photoshop by purchasing Elements and attending a three evening basic class through the Boulder Valley School District’s Life Long Learning For Adults program. The teacher recommended the Classroom In A Book series for learning Photoshop. I also bought Teach Yourself Visually: Restoration and Retouching with Photoshop Elements 2. In time I graduated to Photoshop proper and now have a large list of e-books that my computer guy downloaded for me, but I have not yet had a chance to read. I also have several printed books on Photoshop Lightroom 2.

Speaking of Lightroom, recently I was browsing around on blogs and ran across Rob Sheppard’s new blog called Nature and Photography. I remember him as the former Editor and now Editor At Large of Outdoor Photographer who had published articles about Dad numerous times and without hesitation paid Dad’s rather high minimum licensing fee for using Dad’s photographs. Ah, how times have changed, and Rob Sheppard has too. He is producing a range of interesting new books and materials as he freelances and photographs. In one blog post he discussed the use of Photoshop 9 with Lightroom. What he had to say is surprising. Here’s a taste:

Adobe just announced Photoshop Elements 9 last week, and this is a very significant upgrade that does affect digital photographers, including nature photographers. It now allows us to do some things that make work easier for certain techniques, such as double-processing RAW (really an important technique for nature photographers — more below). I have been working with the beta for a few months as I worked on a book about it, Top Tips Simplified, Photoshop Elements 9. I believe that most photographers using Lightroom and Photoshop Elements work on images more effectively and more quickly than any but the most proficient users of Photoshop…

That is a strong claim and well-substantiated by the rest of his informative post. Also in the Lightroom vein, Mark Graf on his Notes From The Woods blog, posts a link to a site called Lightroom Killer Tips as well as an extensive resource called Photoshop News. Robert Rodriguez, Jr. on his Beyond The Lens Blog, posts great videos on various Photoshop methods and other topics. Here’s one called, “Controlling Exposure and Blending in Photoshop.” Jim M. Goldstein keeps us informed with dozens and dozens of posts on Photoshop, it’s uses, techniques, and darker side. Master landscape photographer Lewis Kemper teaches Photoshop classes through several organizations and offers a superb Photoshop Training DVD set. For more on Lewis Kemper and his expertise see the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog: Lewis Kemper.”

Guy Tal’s Web Journal On Landscape and Images, often holds forth more on the philosophy of digital print making and landscape art, than on specific methods or strategies, though he covers those too. He is a crusader on behalf of the good that can be done with Photoshop and its possibilities versus old printing and developing technologies that a nostalgic minority work to hold over from the film era. Michael E. Gordon wrote an excellent review of Guy Tal’s new e-book, “Creative Landscape Photography,” that shares more on Guy Tal’s approach. Stay tuned for the soon upcoming Landscape Photography Blogger review of “Creative Landscape Photography” as well.

One of the finest teachers I have seen yet of digital landscape photography is Michael Frye. His popular and entertaining blog posts called the Photo Critique Series offer some of the best advice available today on how to whip your photographs into shape. They also encourage a lively discussion that is the most energizing and interesting aspect of all, particularly with Michael’s experienced moderation. Here’s one recent post in the series and another here to give you a sense of how it goes.

If you choose to go beyond landscape photography there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of resources out there. I will share one top quality one here: Chromasia. Anyone who wants to be impressed by a professional, high-traffic photoblog, go see this expression of the new era in which we now live. You may not even like what David J. Nightingale can do to photographs, but you will know you are seeing something that not many can do, though he does offer a full range of tutorials and coaching, so look into that too if you like too.

If I know you or I don’t know you and you provide a significant or even minor amount of Photoshop teaching, tools or some form of skill development, please don’t take it personally that I did not include you here in this post as I am typing into the wee hours and going bleary-eyed. Please do take two minutes to add a link and short, tastefully helpful blurb about your offering in the comments below.

My Favorite Photos Of 2010

January 7th, 2011

Mirror Lake, Mist, Winter, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

For the next 10 or more years, in some ways the rest of my life, I have my work assignment: representing my father, prominent Western landscape photographer Philip Hyde. Also, you may or may not notice from this blog, but I consider myself a writer first and a photographer as a sideline, at least for quite some time to come.

Edward Weston’s Darkroom, Wildcat Hill, Carmel Highlands, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

My secret to making it into print in the past was to edit several more times than I do when I write blog posts. However, I haven’t made any print or online magazine submissions recently.

Fall Color, Summit County, Rocky Mountains, Colorado, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Even though I am still interviewing people for my book, I hope to get a chance to do more regular magazine writing this year. Perhaps I will even write about other interests besides my father, his photography and life, as is my focus here and during the majority of days.

Mission San Miguel De Arcangel, Paso Robles, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Meanwhile, I have been inspired by photographer and fellow blogger Jim M. Goldstein, who seems to have instigated nearly every photo blogger in the photo blogosphere to post their “Best Photos of 2010.” To see more “Best Photos of 2010″ from all around the web see Jim M. Goldstein’s blog post, “Top 10 ‘Top Photo Lists.'” Also, the Nature Conservancy just posted a great slide show of its, “Best Nature Photos of 2010.”

Neighbors, San Francisco, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

I am discovering that I greatly enjoy the photography blogosphere. The community is diverse yet generally friendly and helpful to each fellow blogger. Each photo blogger benefits from the network and contributes as well. Each blogger has something to teach and something to learn. Like minds tend to come together and those who differ widely also cross-pollinate methods and ideas and friendships develop. Through the process I am catching a more serious case of the photography bug all the time. I make photographs in my spare time, about five minutes a month.

Reflection Detail, Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

I photograph a combination of subjects and do not limit myself to a certain genre or type of photography like many “experts” suggest. My father knew how to specialize. His type of landscape photography was ideal for him. His work was also part of one of the biggest changes in photography to come along, besides perhaps what is happening now and when negatives changed from glass plates to film. Digital photography today, besides being much easier than film, is also more freeing, providing the flexibility and opportunity to pursue various branches of photography and often combine them in new ways.

Fast Food Traveling Band, Travel Stop On Interstate 5, Northern California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

The Road To Mt. Hough, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

I was fortunate to grow up in the wilderness. I find because natural surroundings are my roots that I naturally photograph the natural scene. However, I also notice that I am drawn to photograph people, and people in nature. I am attracted to social activism as well as environmental activism. If I were to pursue photography full-time rather than writing, or more than writing, the ideal life for me would be as a freelance photojournalist. I would be on the plane as soon as news broke of the BP Oil Spill, down there right in the oil slick with the workers and dead birds. Or I could see photographing inner city poverty and homeless people, or the dot com collapse, hurricanes, earthquakes, environmental disasters, as long as I wasn’t sensationalizing other people’s misfortunes, but doing something to help them.

Colorado Cleanup Demolition, Downtown Denver, Colorado, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

These photographs show where my vision is at this time after making digital photographs for just under two years and film photographs off and on for most of my life. Most of the images here are camera raw or close to it with only a few minor adjustments. One of my favorite photography quotes not by my father is, “To see color as form means looking at the image in a new way, trying to free oneself from absorption in subject matter.” –Cole Weston. This quote is part of what I’m about in my photography and will substitute for my own artist’s statement until I write one.

Summit Sunset, Loveland Pass, Rocky Mountains, Colorado, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. I remember the evening I made this photograph. I had just that morning been commenting that sunsets are cliche and voila: one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen was waiting for me just as I emerged from the Loveland Pass Eisenhower Tunnel. I was in the fast lane and literally skidded to a stop in about a foot of snow and flying powder on the center median to make this photograph. Fortunately I was in my 4X4 truck or I would not have made it back onto the pavement without a tow.

“Freeing oneself from absorption in subject matter,” is nearly the opposite of what my father was doing with a camera. His photography was primarily about place and as Emerson put it, “the integrity of natural objects.” I would expand my statement to include the integrity of all objects, as well as the breakdown, disintegration and rearrangement of all objects. Not to mention the celebration of place without attachment to place or to subject matter in the photograph.

Another photographer, I don’t remember who, said something else I like that applies, “Photography is not about what objects look like, it is about what objects look like when photographed.”

Snow Cornice Detail Along Highway 50, Nevada, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Sometimes it pays off to be out driving across several states after a fresh snowfall. Amazingly, even though I drive back and forth from California to Colorado a few times a year, I still drive fewer than 8,000 miles a year, significantly less than the average American at just over 12,000 miles a year.

Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Something about fast food, the Catholic Church and all those electric wires powered by San Francisco’s electricity grid set me onto going for an apocalyptic sky look.

As long as I’m borrowing phrases from other photographers I will quote my favorite pioneer landscape photographer and hero, my father, from his Artist’s Statement to close this post. To me this is one of the wisest statements he ever made and part of what drives me, “A mind at peace may be found in any individual or people who have kept touch with what the land is saying and who lack the benefits of instant dissemination of the human troubles that make news. After reading Gandhi, I see that what we need now is a peaceful environmental revolution. The Earth will survive, but will man survive on the Earth?”

To read an introduction to what else I learned from my father see the blog post, “Memories Of Finally Working With Dad.” For more of my photographs see the blog posts, “David Leland Hyde Archival Prints Pre-Launch” and “Best Photos Of 2011.”

 

Breaking New Ground With Digital Photography Creations

April 2nd, 2010

Art derives a considerable part of its beneficial exercise from flying in the face of presumptions.”    – Henry James, 1888

Calathea #2, 2003 from the Photo Synthesis Series by Huntington Witherill. Photoshop creation from a Canon 10D original made in Huntington Witherill's Studio in Monterey, California.

Though this blog is primarily about landscape photography, it will cover other forms of interest. Landscape photographers such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Brett Weston, and Philip Hyde were known for their landscapes, yet it is well-known that they practiced other forms. Philip Hyde, like the others above made portraits and a significant portion of his work is considered documentary. He avoided commercial work for advertising but made a large body of architectural photographs for corporate and government clients. Today no genre of photography has more merit than any other, as long as the work is produced with the same artistic rigor as taught by the early masters. (For context, see the series of blog posts, “Photography’s Golden Era 3,” “Photography’s Golden Era 4” and others in the category “History of Photography.”)

Calathea #2, 2003, original digital capture with a Canon 10D by Huntington Witherill in his studio in Monterey, California. (Before Photoshop "Digital Transformation" process)

In the blog post “Photography’s Golden Era 2” I drew from several authorities to address a question asked in a comment on “Photography’s Golden Era 1” about the current time period and whether it is also a “Golden Era.” The discussion heated up, but several landscape photographers pointed out that because the current conditions are not conducive to making a living from photography, the period is not liable to incubate as much great art. However, even though photography is going in a million directions and what we see now is chaos, we may be in the beginnings of a new Golden Era. See the blog post “Man Ray On Art And Originality.” Also relevant to this discussion, are the words of discretion by Paul Strand in the blog post, “What Makes A Photograph Art?”

After some looking around, I found a few striking examples of fine art photographers that are doing truly new and innovative work. One of these is a young lady, Natalie Dybisz, who calls herself Miss Aniela. Her tastefully exotic digitally re-constructed self-portraits have reportedly developed a record-breaking following on Flicker. Another fine art photographer, Huntington Witherill, has practiced straight photography for 35 years but is now breaking new ground in creative digital photography with a series he calls Photo Synthesis.

“Absent the proper self-restraint,” Huntington Witherill said, “Working with Photoshop can be a bit like using a chainsaw to make Christmas tree ornaments. Photoshop is a marvelously powerful tool. But unlike a chainsaw, Photoshop is also capable of extremely intricate and detailed work when used with finesse.” Huntington Witherill has made some remarkable creations that measure up artistically to his earlier film photography.  The steps he takes in the process of one creation can be viewed in a video by Clicking Here.

“The perpetuation and validity of straight photography has already been well established,” Huntington Witherill said. “Edward Weston’s photographs remain every bit as valid as they were prior to the digital age. However, in my opinion, it is the aesthetic quality of the work itself which will tend to perpetuate and continue to validate the practice of straight photography.” Huntington Witherill and my father, Philip Hyde, both taught photography workshops at the University of California Santa Cruz Extension, along with other luminaries such as Ruth Bernhard, Cole Weston, Morley Baer, Wynn Bullock, Al Weber, Steve Crouch, Dave Bohn, Ralph Putzker, Glenn Wessels, Milton Halberstadt, Pirkle Jones, Dick Garrod, Henry Gilpin and others. Philip Hyde and Huntington Witherill were roommates once at a workshop teachers gathering and also spent time together at the Rendezvous, a meeting of photographers organized by Al Weber. Huntington Witherill recently had more to say about my dad’s landscape photography and how people see it today:

Were I to feel it necessary to argue the validity, importance or relevance of your father’s work, I would be doing so on the basis of the overall aesthetic quality and visually unique character and style of his photographs, and to a certain restrained extent, upon the context in which they were made. I would avoid the old “us” versus “them” argument which pits “straight” photography against all other types of photography (an argument which largely centers upon the chosen tools, materials, and methods, and the relative level of perceived manipulation used to produce the work). First, I think it’s beneath the dignity and importance of your father’s work to be forced into such a seemingly shallow argument. And second, I think the argument itself is completely unnecessary. Your father’s work was made at a time when few others were producing similar work. It could be superficially categorized as “straight” photography, yet aesthetically, it stands on its own even today, regardless of the specific kind of photographic characterization or classification one wishes to apply to it.

Your father used his heart and mind to produce images that met his own unique sensibilities. He saw the world in a way that others did not. Who cares how or in what style, or even when his photographs were made? To argue the “validity” or relative “importance” of a Philip Hyde photograph based upon the tools, materials and methods he used to produce that photograph, is beneath the dignity of the work. We’re all in the same photographic boat and we’re all working on differing forms of artistic self-expression. When your father’s work is considered in the context of photographic “art,” it must be compared with all other forms and manifestations of the art, not simply advocated because it happens to be “straight” photography. Edward Weston’s photographs are great because they are great photographs. It doesn’t matter to what style or method you compare them. Edward Weston’s photographs are not great simply because they are “straight” photographs. And… neither are your father’s.

All photographers and purveyors of photography working today are in the throws of negotiating the many changes in the medium brought on by digital cameras, Photoshop and other digital era methods. Everyone has a different approach. Some photographers have not only navigated the changes, they are thriving by leading the way. “Witherill has embraced the new technique and run with it,” Rick Deragon said in 1999. Rick Deragon is a painter of the natural scene, museum curator and art teacher. Rick Deragon also said of Huntington Witherill, “He’s run right into a new reality that he is able to define, unfettered by photography’s past, but still full of his reverence for the natural source.”

Railing, Fort Stevens, Washington, 2006 by Huntington Witherill. An example of his straight photography.

One look at Huntington Witherill’s photography and anyone can see it is not to be confused with much other photography today that suffers from heavy-handed Photoshop use that has somehow tainted and made the images look slightly overcooked. He himself describes the majority of the photography displayed on the internet today as low quality. The change to be feared is not the departure from straight photography through Photoshop. Nor is there harm in exploring new ways of making images that use methods or philosophies completely different from straight photography. The degrading of the medium lies in the vast quantities of aesthetically inferior work and the overuse of Photoshop to try to save otherwise tasteless images.

Photoshop is a wonder in the hands of talented creative artists such as Miss Aniela or Huntington Witherill. The problem lies not in new forms of photography, but in landscape photography that consists of what my father, Philip Hyde, called “pretty pictures for postcards.” In his artist statement he said, “Black and White is excellent experience for color work because it encourages sensitivity to form, texture, tonal gradations and the quality of light. Color photographs that lack these qualities and rely too much on the shock value of color alone will not sustain interest.”

In a 1979 letter to retired Outward Bound river guide and landscape photographer Chris Brown, Philip Hyde wrote that many landscape photographs tend to have too many elements in them and are “not tightly enough organized.” Philip Hyde went on to say:

Because it is big in scale does not mean that it can’t have impact as an intentional photograph. The camera only sees one frame at a time, and unless you get into some of the multiple-image techniques, you’ve got to rely on one image to make the impression. I tend to be careful in my own work, not to yield to the easy temptation to over-dramatize things just to make this impression—and as a corollary, I also tend to be less impressed with the group led by Ernst Haas, who make their point by highly romantic over-dramatics. They go too far, I think, but certainly something more than pointing the camera and making a snapshot is indicated. Snapshots have their place, but I assume at the outset that you want to make a deeper impression, create something that communicates a little more powerfully. The only recipe I know for it is a four-letter word: work (experience, practice).

Take a look at the following videos of Huntington Witherill, by Douglas Ethridge, posted on John Paul Caponigro’s blog. They show not only a new vision but also a depth of mastery of the medium, that developed through many years of experience and practice in straight photography, but that has now found a new direction through new methods and techniques that go way beyond those of the past. Welcome to the future, or at least one form of it…

To read more about cutting edge Photoshop methods see the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog: Photoshop For Pros.”