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.