When I look in the mirror, I see a man with secrets.
You see, I have broken the rules.
Not only do I consider Alister Benn a good friend, I also consider him a mentor; if I have learned anything from Alister, it is to take control of the image-making process, from visualization to capture to processing in the digital darkroom. The more I work to embrace this philosophy, the more I realize it involves breaking the rules. But it also requires a strong understanding of my own vision, as well as the technical capabilities of my equipment.
I have heard the argument several times that photographers should “get the composition right in the camera,” or “get the exposure right in one frame.” To some extent, I completely agree with the opinion that one should not make a frame with the intent of cropping out an annoying foreground element, or bracket haphazardly, without much thought–these behaviors are often regarded as laziness or a display of lack of knowledge. As an analogy, this is similar to a student choosing every possible answer on an exam because, “one of them has to be correct.”
However, the other side of the coin dictates that a strict adherence to these “rules” (and others) severely limits the artist’s creative process. For instance, the image I visualize in the field may not fit perfectly into a 3:4 or 4:5 aspect ratio, and exposing multiple frames for stitching later may not always be practical. Similarly, if one understands the technical limitations of their camera in exposing for a scene with a high dynamic range, it should be perfectly acceptable to bracket exposures.
In other words, when breaking the rules is in line with vision and an understanding of what the scene demands, it should be encouraged. Be rebellious.
So, how does an image evolve? When I was recently in Zion National Park, I was driving along the road and saw a scene that jumped out at me. Sometimes scenes really present themselves to you.
It was mid-morning, and I loved the way the clouds contrasted against the cliffs, and the way the buttresses in the rock created layers. I wanted to emphasize this in the final image, but was presented with a few choices as to how to do it.
In my next post, I will go through my thoughts in the field and a few of the processing steps that led me to the final product.