Taking a deep dive……..

11 months, 3 weeks ago 16
Posted in: Uncategorized


In the last few monhs I’ve been wrestling with some new issues, no, not health, but photographic!  As most of you know, I teach with Jack Graham and we have been having a number of pretty deep discussions on where photography is going, and where it started, at least for us.  Very recently Skylum announced their new Luminar 4 which will include, among many new features, including a sky replacement, AI feature.  The bottom line is it will allow you to replace boring skies with any number of impressive skies from a library of choices.


I’m pretty sure I won’t be taking advantage of that feature, but let me explain why.  First let me say that compositing an image is a legitimate art form, and I highly admire the work of many folks that are masters at combining elements from different images to create a new one.  My problem is that it is still called “photography” and I think, personally, it should be called “Photography Art”,  not just a Photograph.  To me, a photograph  should be something that is essentially a subject or scene that is captured as it was.   When we shoot an image and we quote, “clean it up”  meaning remove a telephone pole, or darken a bright area, is that considered manipulation?  I don’t know and I’m not sure who can set that standard!  I, like many of you, will take those steps without feeling too guilty.  I’m honestly not sure where I think the line should be drawn.  Let me provide and example of what a photograph is to me.


fuji x system


This incredible image from my dear friend,  Jack Graham is what I consider a “magical moment” captured at the perfect time, in great light, of a wonderful subject. It didn’t need any extra special processing to make it more affective.  My point is that, for me, photography is all about those magic moments that we are privileged to be there, when they happen, to have even a chance of capturing them with our cameras.


Here is another example;



This stunning image from Guy Tal is, for me, a beautiful example of a photograph.  A magical moment, in perfect conditions that the photographer had to find, and then carefuly compose to produce a beautiful work of art.  You could go to this spot in all four seasons and maybe never see these specific conditions and even then you would have to masterfully compose the image, as Guy did, to make it work like this Photograph!


So what is my point?  I’ve spent a lifetime going to beautful places in the hope that the light would be great, the conditions would be wonderful and then that I would not mess it up and be able to craft a wonderul image.  The joy I feel when I’m fortunate enough to have all those things come together and then I was able to make the shot, is the pleasure I get out of photography. It doesn’t happen every time or most times, but that is the magic,  and when it does happen, it’s special!!!!


I used to wear an wrist band that had the initials WWJD, and it stood as a reminder of the question I needed to ask myself when I was faced with a question of a behavior or an action, What Would Jessu Do?  I’m going ot get another one and when asked what it means I will answer; If it is regarding  morals or character it means, What Would Jesus Do?,  if it refers to photography I will say “What would Jack do?”  Since Jack Graham and I are seemingly on the same page about photographs, that is a good enough standard for me!


I hold to this standard, “Do what you want, and always be honest about what you did, then let others decide how they feel about it!”



Photograph what interests you, and then enjoy what you shoot!




the pilgrim




16 Responses

  1. Stan Burman says:

    Bill thank you for teaching me so much about all the elements needed for a good photograph. I, too, love it when the light and conditions come together at frequently visited sites that have great subject material. These moments can be a path to the soul.

  2. Carl says:

    Might want to consider my current thoughts on a wristband to replace WWJD

    WIHSTMTDITS – What Is Holy Spirit Telling Me To Do In This Situation?

    This moves the question from history (thinking what Jesus “would have” done) to current time when Holy Spirit lives within us and is our “current” helper – ready to assist us in every decision!

    Of course you might run out of wristband space before getting all the initials on it!!! Just a thought…

  3. Bill Fortney says:

    Sure wish someone would have those made!!!! My only problem would be memorizing the new longer reminder, but that is dead on! Love you brother!

  4. Donna Martin says:

    Great topic! As you know, I am a big fan of digital editing and consider it an essential part to the overall process. But I’ve never gone so far as to replace a sky. I routinely remove pesky things in a scene, and sometimes move a rock or leaf to a more strategic location. When I do photographic art with an applied textured, for example, it is obvious. But for slight changes, I don’t share those tidbits with viewers. I’ve had some folks tell me that they think that using Photoshop is “cheating.” Well, it is absolutely required when shooting RAW! I think we all see to satisfy our inner artist with our creations, unless one is a photojournalist. I set my personal boundaries and define my own art. And I fully expect others to do the same! Photography is a wonderful, creative medium!

  5. Jerry Reece says:

    I have no problem with digital manipulation, even to go as far as changing out skies. (Jack has rolled his eyes at my work many times.)In other art mediums the artists interpret as they create. I feel, other than when doing a work of photojournalism or documentation, I can too.

    However, I don’t represent it as to what the reality was. I consider my work as more of a photo based impression rather than just a photograph. Some of the work is done in the camera and some on the computer. I don’t “cheat”, I just work in a different way to accomplish my art. I am truthful about what I have created and I enjoy the process.

    There is room for both approaches – straight out of camera and digitally altered (and kinda in between). Let the controversy rage on as we each enjoy our various approaches.

  6. Johnny Boyd says:

    I agree with you Bill about swapping out a sky…..I just can’t bring myself to do it. Have a good friend who does it all the time and I have reminded him on more than one occasion that he should mention that when posting those images on FB…….kinda like a disclaimer. I have come to recognize customers really don’t care if the sky was changed or not….they are focused and like the image. And to that I just shake my head and say good for you. After photographing wildflowers one evening with Tom Mangelsen the next morning he let me know how he felt about it. We had driven a half hour to see if we could find some nice Bluebonnets along the Colorado River (which was a bust) and he gets out of vehicle and says did you see what so and so posted…..look there weren’t any horses in that field and the sun wasn’t over there. I said yep…… that is just what old so and so does. In this image there was no mention of the scene being fake and numerous people were commenting how they wanted directions so they could shoot that scene with horses in the Bluebonnets. Every once in a while I still have to remind him to post a disclaimer. He is getting better……. he is a good photographer but a master photoshoper.

    Funny you mention the WWJD……at the 2nd Summit I told Tony Sweet the same thing after he asked about a particular image I showed him in the review……I said I was out there and had already decided to shoot it in B&W and wanted the moon in a certain location…..so I just walked around looking and said…….What Would Tony Do….lol….he got a pretty good laugh out of that comment.

  7. Glenn Barlow says:

    I’ve ‘disappeared’ little things I felt were a distraction to the subject of the image. I’ve enhanced colors that were already there but not to the point of madness. I’ve done what I could to reduce highlights and/or change contrast in a sky, I’ve brought out detail, or used to until my Nikon D850 did for me. I blend exposure bracketed photos to present the best possible dynamic range to reflect on screen what I saw and felt when I took the photo.

    But I’ve never changed a sky, never moved something from one place to another, never moved an object from one image to another. I guess my boundary is to not insult my original composition, to not create things or colors that don’t exist in nature (people that find how far the saturation slider goes to the right amuse me) and to bring the best I can out of the original composition while keeping it an original composition and not have it become a composite. That’s the line and rule I follow for me, I respect that its to each their own.

    I once had a comment on my Facebook business page (www.facebook.com/glennbarlowphoto) about a sunrise over Torres del Paine in Patagonia that “it was a great photo given the fact that it was created in Photoshop from any number of different photos.” I thanked the commenter for appreciating the image and felt even better about my photo – it was but a single image taken in a magical place. That’s what it’s all about.

  8. Michael Dziak says:

    I guess the question is does this alter the integrity of the image. Our photographic council wrestled with the issue of whether adding a texture screen/effect produced by someone else was cheating. We decided that if the texture screen became the dominant element of the picture and was not produced by the photographer it was not allowed.

  9. Bill Fortney says:

    I like the standard: “Does the post work change the integrity of the image.” For most situations that sounds about right!

  10. There is no camera that has been made that capture a scene as the human eye sees it. I will use whatever combination of framing, tools and techniques that will allow me to take what the camera capture and create the image as my “mind” saw it.

  11. Bill Fortney says:

    Additional comment: A very dear friend called me to discuss this blog entry, and I want to share his thoughts and to agree with him. As I stated, I came up through what we affectionately call the John Shaw Era. When we shot slide film, we had the final product when we looked at our slides on the light box. It was drilled into us that we had to get it right in the camera because that is what we saw when we opened that box of slides!!! It is very hard for our generation to accept, “I can fix it in post!”
    It’s not wrong to think that way but just sloppy and, once again, being sloppy was drilled out of us! It truly is a generational thing.

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