Tower Butte at Dawn

Tower Butte at Dawn
Tower Butte at Dawn by I Nancy, on Flickr

I think it is going to take me some time to complete my edits from my trip to Utah and each time I dip back into the well, something else surprises me.

On the morning after The Wave, I opened my eyes just before dawn and saw this incredible scene begin to unfold. While the others stayed at the Quality Inn, Chick and I had ended up at the Lake Powell Resort with a lake facing view. At first I closed my eyes again, then a voice in my little brain said: “You came all this way and here is this beautiful sunrise unfolding, get up and get your tripod out and take some pictures”. And so I did.

I took several images over the course of the 20 minutes or so that it took the sun to rise. I kind of knew that the early pictures were just tests and unconsciously I used them to tweak the composition and exposure. With the bright light coming, I knew I wanted to take some brackets that I could layer together later. A very dark exposure for the sun and brighter exposures for the sky and lake. This is a 3 shot bracket with the sun brought back in from the darkest image. I like the subtle star at f/11 and I am glad I didn’t use anything smaller. The textures on the lake were brought in with the HDR software as well as the subtle layers (perhaps not visible in the small image here) on the buttes in silhouette. The heavy sky was created by smoke from a fire in the Salt Lake region. It provided just the ceiling this sunrise needed to reflect all of its glory.

My Artist, My Geek

Ghost Town
Ghost Town, originally uploaded by I Nancy.

I am in the process of reading David duChemin’s book Within the Frame, The Journey of Photographic Vision. Refreshingly, this book is neither about mastering photographic technique nor photo processing software. Rather, this book is about creating and executing your photographic vision. Early in the book is a discussion of two opposing forces for the photographer: the Artist and the Geek.

You probably know these two personalities. The geek who concentrates on the gear and technique – both in the camera and in post processing. The artist who brings creativity and uniqueness of vision. The point of David’s writing to that we need to find the balance. It is the harmony of the two that provides us our best images.

This line of thinking leads me to two questions worthy of evaluation:

  1. What can we learn from the masters about how they keep the balance?
    I’m not a great photography historian, but I think I can somewhat compare the process of Ansel Adams with that of Henri Cartier-Bresson. By all accounts, both of these photographers were masters of their art. There is no denying that Adams had his technical skills honed to great advantage. Cartier-Bresson, I am lead to understand, was not interested in the process of photography, only the process of capturing an instant drawing.
  2. Who am I?
    Which of these two personalities do I most often bring to the party and what happens when one or the other fails me?

How I choose to study and practice my craft based on the pushes and pulls of these different sides will surely shape my photography. Do I contain the artist, bringing it back on the path after a little too much experimentation? Do I disdain the technician and the possibility of cold, unfeeling, yet perfectly correct, imagery. This defines my own personal photographic journey. Is it a peaceful co-existence or a battle of wills?