North Island, New Zealand, 2006
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, Leica-R 19mm, 30 seconds @ f11, ISO 50, tripod-mounted, 10X ND filter
Years ago, while shooting The Pilbara Project, I spent an enjoyable afternoon walking through the Art Gallery of Western Australia with Les Walkling. Les, many readers may already know, is well known in educational and contemporary art circles within Australia and around the world. He’s also a part of our Ninety Degrees Five (ND5) group. You can read more about Les on his website - www.leswalkling.com.
During our trips away, the conversation is inevitably related to photography, especially the way that modern photography fits into the art world.
There are two camps: those who believe a photograph should look like a photograph, and those who say a photograph can be anything it wants to be. I appreciate both schools of thought. Both are valid.
Of course, there can be a great deal of discussion about the definition of ‘a photograph’!
One of the challenges in the digital age has been the use of colour. In comparison to the colours we could capture and reproduce with film, today we can produce much stronger, more vibrant and saturated colours. Should we?
And this is where my walk around the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth with Les was so instructional. We took great delight in looking at the paintings (not photographs) hanging on the wall and observing their use of colour. Talk about out of gamut!
Of course, not all of the works were highly saturated, but many of them were. Artists, it seems, are quite comfortable with colour in many guises.
But photography isn’t art, is it? Perhaps this is better stated that photography isn’t always art. Sometimes photography is a scientific record or a historical document. We expect to see natural colours in some photographs, depending on their context.
However, when it comes to using photography as a means of expression, I think we can afford to be a little more adventurous.
From an early stage, I have enjoyed using strong colour and friends have even called me ‘Mr 200% Saturation’! However, I like to think that while saturated in places, my photographs aren’t just a matter of dragging the saturation slider to the right. Only some colours are saturated, while others are in fact de-saturated.
In the photograph above, the saturation in the water and hills has been enhanced, while the sky has been desaturated and darkened. Simple post-production adjustments of colour balance can have a dramatic impact on the mood and feeling of an image, a choice photographers can make after capture in The New Tradition.
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