Jul 23 2013

What is Art…and what is Fine Art?

2006-9-20 Ingrid Surrounded - Final 10-27-2006

How would I define art or fine art? My short answer is: I wouldn’t. 

I mean, who cares? There will never be a definition that everyone agrees upon and it doesn’t matter to me what someone else thinks about it anyway. If I love an image and then find out that it’s not considered fine art, do I love it any less? 

The only thing that I concern myself with is this: Do I love the image and would I hang it on my wall?

I have a friend who looked at my image above and said: “this is not fine art because people don’t smile in fine art.” This image may or may not be fine art but I don’t think it has anything to do with the girl smiling! 

Another friend told me that work created for money cannot be fine art.  I’m not sure what a person’s motives have to do with it, shouldn’t it be about the image?

I choose not concern myself with such distractions.  I simply know if I like something or I don’t and I figure that if  I’m creating the piece, then my opinion is the only one that counts.


P.S.  For those who know me a bit might ask why the seeming inconsistency between my rhetoric above and my actions?  Three examples:

1.  Go to Google and type in “Fine Art Photography” and see what you get.  I’ve worked hard to be number 1 out of 143,000,000 hits.

2.  If you were to overhear someone ask me “what do you do?” you’d then hear me say “I’m a fine art photographer.”

3.  I am president of “The Center for Fine Art Photography.”

Despite how I might feel about defining “fine art” there is reality: we use words to describe things.  

I target the term fine art with Google because that’s the phrase people use when they are searching for my type of images.

In the past when I told people that I was a photographer, I’d then spend the next 10 minutes explaining that I don’t do portraits, weddings or Bar Mitzvah’s.  

And believe me, we have agonized over the term “fine art” over at the “Center” and wish we could find a better one.  

The reality is that when I use the phrase “fine art photography” people generally know what I’m talking about.  This is why I hate the term, but also use it.

Aug 17 2012

SHUTTERBUG: Fine Art Photography Masters

Joe Farace writes a column for SHUTTERBUG.  I knew I was going to like Joe’s views and attitude when I saw this tag line:

“Ultimately, it’s all about the image…”

You can visit Shutterbug at http://www.shutterbug.com/

This month Joe introduces his readers to four new photographers, see Joe’s comments about my blog and my art below:





Jun 11 2010

Before and After – Lone Man No. 20

I often receive requests to show some “before and after” images to help people understand how much of my work is done in camera and how much is done in Photoshop.  I’d say it’s generally about 50/50 but that can vary by image with some images almost ready right out of the camera and many requiring extensive processing in Photoshop.

Lone Man No. 20 is a good example of a 50/50 image.  As you can see, the image I started with and the final image are both quite similar and yet quite different.  The original shot has all of the important elements; the composition, the long exposure of the water, the clouds and the lone man, but it doesn’t have the dramatic effect of the final image.

Probably the first change you’ll notice in the final image is that the severe vignetting has been repaired.  I was shooting with an extremely wide angle lens and I had two stacked neutral density filters on my lens, as a result a great deal of the filter was included in the photograph.  To repair this I first cropped the image and then I used the clone tool to fill in the missing corners.

Next you’ll notice that the sky in the original image has very low contrast and is quite bland.  To bring out the sky detail I split the image into two halves, upper and lower, and converted them to b&w differently.  In each conversion I used Photoshop’s “Channel Mixer” but in the upper half I used some blue channel to improve the contrast and detail in of the sky.  Next I used some pretty aggressive dodging and burning to bring out the definition and detail in the clouds, this information was in the image but it was almost hidden to the eye.  As a rule you can generally recover image detail as long as you have not over-exposed the image to the point that you have blown out the highlights.

Note: one of the side-effects of using blue channel in the conversion and dodging and burning is that the image can get very grainy.  When using this technique you must carefully balance the good-effects with side-effects.

Next I converted the lower half of the image to b&w, darkened the image and greatly enhanced the contrast.  This dark and contrasty approach is the look that I like and it often has the effect of making daytime look like night time.  The March/April issue of Photo Technique Magazine featured an article on my work and they used the phrase “Darkness at Noon” to describe this look.

All of this produced a basic final image, but it still didn’t have the dramatic impact I was seeking and that I had pre-visualized before I captured the image.  So my final step was to dodge and burn to bring out the highlights and selectively darken blacks to locally enhance contrast.  As I did this I carefully monitored the histogram below:

This histogram shows that I have a good black and a good white, something your eye cannot always discern when looking at the image on the screen.  Monitors are often out of adjustment and our eyes can be fooled, but the histogram never lies.  People often complain to me that what looked good to them on screen, often prints flat and muddy.  Generally the problem is revealed in their histogram; they lack a “true” black and good contrast. 

As you can see from my final image, it does not represent reality.  Reality is not my goal but instead I strive create images that reflect how I see the scene through my vision.  That is why I advocate that photographers work just as hard on developing their vision, as they do on their technical skills and equipment.  The image begins and ends in your mind’s eye.

Jun 12 2009

The “In-Progress” Harbinger Series

When I created my first Harbinger image, I broke the “centering” rule.

When I created the next and the next and the next, I centered them also.  It just felt right.

But about a week ago I created the new image above, and decided not to center the cloud.  I’m not sure why.

The definition of “harbinger” is:

\?här-b?n-j?r\  noun

1. one that goes ahead and makes known the approach of another; herald.
2. anything that foreshadows a future event; omen; sign.

That is exactly what I see when I create each Harbinger image, a foreshadowing of future events.

View the Harbinger Series

Apr 23 2009

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

At 14 years of age, I knew that I was destined to be a fine art photographer.

Even at this early age I found myself drawn to a particular style of image, one that would literally cause a physical reaction in me. They were dark images created by Adams, Weston, Bullock and others. At age 14 I knew that I was destined to create such images.

An important early influence in my life and my art was the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley.

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

for my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of Circumstance,

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of Chance,

my head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears,

looms but the Horror of the shade,

and yet the menace of the years,

finds, and shall find me, unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,

how charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.


For me, this poem evokes dark images which form the inspiration for my photographs. Darkness in my images represents the trials of our human existence while the light represents the strength that comes from the realization that we are the captains of our souls.

Nov 5 2008

Primordial Soup

Primordial Soup – Bullard’s Beach, OR – 2008

I consider this my best image from the Bandon, Oregon trip.  It’s a 30 second exposure of the ocean and a swirling pool caught on the beach.  When using long exposures, you have to try a variety to get that exact right look.

This was taken using my Canon 1Ds Mark III and using my Vari-ND 8 stop filter along with a stacked Mor-Slow 5 stop ND filter.  These 13 stops of Neutral Density (ND) allow me to shoot at 30 seconds under the brightest conditions.  There are many challenges however, including holding the camera still for that long and people walking into your image.

View the other Oregon images