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James Kay
Photography
LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE ERA OF DIGITAL MANIPULATION

 

Thanks to digital technology, it is now a simple task to alter any photographic image without limitation. It's possible to insert or delete data and change colors entirely from that of the original image. Where there was once a blank blue sky, clouds can be added. If that mountain scene wasn't quite dramatic enough, a few additional peaks can be dropped in. Where no foraging elk was before, an entire herd can be inserted with the click of a mouse. While these alterations may provide a striking visual image, the result has nothing in common with what was seen through the camera's viewfinder.

This ability to digitally alter images created a new world and greatly invigorated the art of photography. As long as the photographer clearly explains that these techniques have been employed to manipulate an image, the public will appreciate this blending of photography and Photoshop as simply a new art form. However, when it comes to those photographic disciplines which people rely on to understand the world around them, such as photojournalism or landscape photography, the public needs to know that what they are viewing is actually what the world looked like at a moment captured in time.

So where do we draw the line? Long before ditigal technology became available, photographic images were being adjusted and enhanced using traditional darkroom equipment. Using the techniques of dodging and burning, drama could be enhanced by darkening skies or brightening other areas within the image. Overall contrast and saturation could be changed using these same tools. In addition to these darkroom techniques, on-camera filters were used to enhance the colors of a sunset or brighten the reds in fall foliage. Polarizing filters were used to reduce reflections and enhance clouds against a blue sky. These were all techniques employed by the original landscape masters. In addition to these techniques, advances in high-contrast, high-saturation printing papers allowed photographers to enhance colors and saturation well before Photoshop was ever conceived. While these traditional techniques have long been accepted by the viewing public, most people seem to draw the line when it comes to using digital technology to insert data from a scene or to alter it in other ways which render it a completely unrealistic version of reality.

While James employs digital technology in the entire workflow process - from capture to printing - he limits his use of this technology to achieve only those results which would be available to him using traditional techniques. What you see in your print is as close as possible to what appeared in the camera's viewfinder.