Art and technology

I've always struggled a bit with identifying photography as art. If I'm lucky enough that my eye catches a thought-provoking scene, am talented enough with my camera to capture it properly, and talented enough in post-processing to "develop" the image to my liking, I can end up with a final product that, hopefully, instills wonder, curiosity, or other emotions in the viewer. Still, that's not the same as Rembrandt, Monet, Escher, Magritte, or any other talented painter doing all of that with their hand, paint, a brush, & canvas, or a potter, jeweler, sculptor, or other artist actually creating something with their hand. I, for one, cannot even sign my name legibly, so wouldn't ever attempt to create something worthwhile with my hands.

That said, I won't deny the creative aspects of photography: seeing something where others don't, capturing it in a creative way, and processing it to "create" the finished product I envisioned when I clicked the shutter. Here, though, especially in the digital age, photography is more of a blend of art and technology. The eye needs to see something unique (art), the camera needs to capture it (technology), and the image needs to be processed (art and technology).

Much of this came to mind for me recently when I purchased a new camera body in anticipation of a bird & wildlife shooting trip. I shoot almost everything in manual (exposure and focus), so had never given much thought to the technical aspects of the camera beyond what I utilize (sensor size, megapixels, and iso range, primarily). I knew which autofocus (AF) setting to use for a particular setting when I needed it (AI Servo, One Shot, AI Focus), but never gave it much thought beyond that.

My new camera has one of the most advanced AF systems available. As I started what I thought would be about a one-hour project to familiarize myself with the settings, I realized how complex AF can be. After a day of studying, and several hours of practice, I'm starting to get the hang of it. In the process, I've needed to delve into much of the nitty-gritty behind types of focus points, focus tracking options, AF zones, etc. I find that it's almost like learning photography all over again.

Which brings me back to my earlier point. Photography truly is a marriage of the creative and technical, and the greater knowledge on has of each, the more consistent will be the results. At the end of the day, the whole "what is art?" question is not that important to me. I do know that I enjoy looking at terrific photographic images, and enjoy both the constant learning curve and the challenge of trying to create a few of my own.

Echo Trail in a climate-changed winter


Spent the past few days in Ely, MN, off the Echo Trail in the BWCAW. In January, this is typically a safe bet for winter recreation. These days, however, nothing is assured. We did have a couple passable days, and used one to explore the Hegman Lake area and find the famous pictographs there. If you've not seen them, check out the image in the "Lake Superior" album. The moose depiction is really something.

In spite of the cold the first couple days, we encountered some open water on Hegman, as well as LOTS of slush just under the snow cover. This made crossing the lake a challenge. Fortunately, we'd gone sans snowshoes, so didn't have to deal with them getting weighted down by the slush. On our last full day, we attempted the Secret/Blackstone Lakes trail. Very packed for the first half mile, so we again left behind our snow shoes. After that first distance, however, the trail got less & less traveled, and, with the warming temps, we were sinking in up to our knees with every step. The snow was becoming heavier seemingly by the minute, particularly in the sun, so we abandoned the loop about half way in. "Back in the day", I never would have expected such a warm day in January.

My partner on the trip is just getting into photography. It was interesting to see her learn from the same mistakes all of us have made. She was quite disappointed in soft images due to her aperture being too large. Fortunately for her, we didn't encounter too many great "photo ops", so the price of learning was low. It never ceases to amaze me how we can understand a concept on an academic level, but applying it seems to be the only way to really learn. I can't count the times that I've made a foolish photographic mistake when I'm anxious to get a shot. Experience seems to be the only antidote for that. Not a bad thing, as it's a good reason to just get out and shoot.

Although there were not many great opportunities, a few images could be salvaged by converting to monochrome. Check them out in the album.