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As I write this post I am emerging from a self imposed break from photography. It is necessary I have found to help recharge the creative batteries. My grandmother once told me that too much of a good thing was, well it’s too much. I certainly did not understand that as a child as I just wanted all that fun to keep going. This is not to say that I don’t like a lot of good things as an adult, but when all of the adult pressures mount up it is hard to retain the necessary focus.
For me photography is a lot more than just taking the image. It is more than just the camera, the equipment, and the lenses. What I have come to realize in the last few months, and in fact through all of the past few years of experimentation, is that I love the craft of not only taking the image but bringing it to life through an artful process. To that extent I have rekindled my love for the digital darkroom, much in the way I loved the analog days of film processing and making the print.
The tools to do this today are very sophisticated and crafting the final file can take many paths. And it is the exploration of these paths that has come back to me. I have always exercised a fair bit of control in my images but the rush to process and post has often left the image not fully realized. Some might argue that in today’s world of social media my efforts are wasted, or that clients won’t really see the subtlety of tones. But I do. When I train my camera into the scene I am responding to a personal visual connection and my ultimate desire, and joy, is to fully realize that in the final masterfile. If I have put in the effort and cost to carry one of the best cameras and lenses made it would stand to reason that combining this with the best tools in post processing and developing the skills to achieve my vision are important. It requires patience in the field, something I have plenty of, but it requires the same attention and practice in the darkroom - a place where patience has been abandoned.
Several of my recent images have been about exploring those new lines of thought where practice and patience merge. The image above is one such exploration and was ultimately realized by carefully looking at the tones and shapes and using the very specific tools found in luminosity masking to bring them out. It required creating multiple masks - an aspect that requires extreme patience - to do this. The difference was subtle and profound. When I processed this file in 2018, in my rush to just get it done, I completely left beautiful details buried in the file. I think these distinctions are important. I think they are important to art and the craft of art. In some ways I have been afraid to admit this to myself, to take a personal stand to what I believe about making images. The funny part is that I believed this wholeheartedly in my days of shooting film and even in my early days learning digital methods. At some point I stopped believing in the process.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step and eventually ones journey will come full circle. The explorations along the way are important but not so much as trusting the path you are on. To all who read this just get on the path, trust the journey, and be in the moment of what each discovery brings to you. Find connections to all parts of the craft and seek to find the balance that brings them all together. Study the works of the masters, study composition and light, and learn how to bring these elements together to create your art. The camera is your brush, the landscape within your frame is the palette, and the darkroom is where the vision is achieved. Dive into these tools and enjoy the process.
Thanks for stopping by today. RHC
IMAGE NOTES: The image was shot with a Fujifilm GFX50s and a Fujinon GF 32-64mm f4 R WR at 50mm. The final masterfile was created from blending a 1/2 second exposure with a 13 second exposure. This was done to achieve a smoothness in the water and freeze movement on the icebergs. The subtle tones on the glacier were achieved through building careful luminosity masks to dodge or burn in the details.