Did You Photoshop That?

     In my experiences, one of the most common questions I get centers around the truthfulness of my work. Did you Photoshop that? Were the colors really like that? Was it really like that? Deep down, I get it. There's work out there that's been discredited, there are those who aren't honest in what they're presenting, and in the digital age it's easy to be skeptical. At the same time, it's hard not to take it personal when someone questions the integrity of your work. My viewpoint when it comes to all this is pretty simple. As long as you're honest about what you're doing in processing, then I don't have a problem. Unfortunately, to many have taken to much creative license in the digital age and tried to pass it off as reality. This week, I'm going to share a bit about what goes into my process of creating the art you'll find here on my website.

     First of all, I think it's important to remember that the work I'm sharing here is my best. I won't be trying to sell you all those sunsets, landscapes, and wildlife shots that didn't work out as well. And believe me, that's most of the shots I take. Currently, you'll find a couple hundred images here that cover years of work. Only what I consider to be my best work. All those shots that didn't pan out, most of them I didn't even take the time to process the files. But what happens when I am processing my files?

     My style of shooting plays a big role. I found early on shooting digital that my final edits came out best when I shot a certain way. I try and capture as much detail as I can in camera. For me, that means shooting in RAW format, shooting in the standard mode for my camera, and trying as hard as I can not to clip the highlights and shadows in my original capture. This often means my RAW files have pretty flat color, not a lot of contrast, and don't really accurately portray what's in front of me when I shoot. What this allows me is to have some elbow room to work with in processing to bring things back into line. After I adjust the white balance, set the black and white points, and if necessary adjust the brightness, I'm usually back where I need to be. I've found though that if I try and use some of the other modes that come in cameras that things can get off track real quick and it can be more time-consuming to get them back into line. My goal is to not spend more than 10-15 minutes processing an image in my computer. When I'm done processing the file, what I'm presenting to you is true to what I saw before me when I clicked the shutter, even if it looks a little different from that RAW file I started with. Some may still look at that as untrustworthy, but to me what's important is how truthful you are about what you're presenting. Yes, I use Photoshop. I think it's safe to say almost all professional photographers do. I use it to create spectacular art that shares the spectacular scenes I've seen in nature, as close to how I saw them as possible. I want the viewers of my work to have a connection with what they're seeing, to find something in it that speaks to them. That's not going to happen if what I'm presenting is a lie.

     The photo I've shared with this post is a great example of this process. It was taken near Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Maountains National Park. In the fall, this is the place to be in the park for sunsets. I went up there many times in the years I lived close by. This evening was one of those nights when it all came together. It had been raining all day, but as it neared sunset the rain clouds started to break up a bit. This is prime conditions for a great, colorful sunset. I was fortunate that the clouds held together enough to catch all this wonderful reflected light from the sun setting, but opened up enough to let that light come through. Yes, this sunset really was this colorful.

     It's a special thing for me to share these special moments I've seen with all of you. I want you, my followers & my customers, to be confident that the art I'm presenting to you is a real representation of something I saw. I want you to have confidence that, even in the digital age, you can believe what you're seeing. If you see it on my site, know that yes, I was there and it really was that beautiful.

     I'm not here to judge others who are out there creating their own interpretations and are honest about what they're doing. They have their place in the art world too. I just belong in the group that's sharing images of the moments that were special enough to stand out on their own. I hope you enjoy my work, and thatnks for following along!