But Is It Art?

We photographers often suffer from labeling issues. Folks often say, you’re a photographer, not an artist. True, some photographers are not artists, and vice versa. But new technologies have blurred those barriers. I spend a hefty part of my life working in Photoshop and have reveled in some of the incredible add-ons created by various software manufacturers. I started life as a painter, taking years of “art” classes, which means I studied sketching and painting. I think those classes built valuable skills for what I do now. I learned about lighting, color, composition and so much more.

I think some of the misconceptions arise from the fact that there is a lot of technical skill involved in operating both the camera and the software. So one might think that you have to be a technician to be a photographer. Yes, you need to know a few things, but I really dislike that side of photography. I just want to express my personal vision, share some of the beauty and magic of the world that I see. Sounds a bit grandiose, but it is my passion, and I enjoy my role as teacher so I can help others express their own visions.

I have many friends who are technical virtuosos, can disassemble/assemble a camera and know the function of every part of it. They can talk software all night. However, they can’t always take photos. For example, there is a difference between taking a photo of a flower and making an image of a flower that captures the magic of a flower. I call the straight photo of a flower a “record” shot, or an “ID” shot. Great for a flower guidebook, but more importantly, what do you feel when you look at a flower? The same occurs with wildlife photography. The great wildlife photographers capture a sense of the animal that is more than a static subject. Landscapes? Same thing. Of course, everyone will feel these things differently, and that’s where the fun begins.

For over a year now I’ve been returning to my painterly roots in a sense, using software to express my visions. The melding of photography and painting feels great.

There are few things more majestic and powerful in the wildlife world than seeing a bull elk in rut. My workshop students and I had an opportunity to see this event last weekend. But how to capture that power in an image? In the image here I melded the elk photo with a gritty metallic texture. Not everyone will like this, but it does capture how I felt about the moment. Enjoy!

Bull Elk in Rut