My Influences Part III: Continuing Influences

February 10, 2022

In my last two blog posts, I discussed some of the major influences on my work, especially the early influences. Part one featured the painters of the Hudson River School. This first American art movement influenced many 19th century Americans, but for me, and many other photographers, those epic landscapes depicted in the paintings became a roadmap of sorts to follow when looking for landscapes to photograph. In part two, I focused on 20th century landscape photographers, and one photographer who chose to mold the talent of students, while documenting his own view of the world. In part three, I'd like to turn the focus a bit to continuing education, as well as those I work a bit more closely with.

I have always maintained that the processing of a photograph, whether it be in a traditional darkroom or in a digital darkroom such as Photoshop, is as integral to photography as an art form as the click of the shutter. You can find online debates about this point everywhere you look, but the fact is, just as someone had to print the negative, someone has to tell the computer how to make those pixels look. It can either be a software engineer in Japan or Germany, or it can be me. I choose me.

Sunset at Turret Arch in Arches National Park.
Sunset Through Turret Arch

The sun sets behind Turret Arch in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. The fin that Turret Arch is carving out is currently 100 feet wide, and the arch itself is still fairly young.

An HDR edit of the sunset at Turret Arch in Arches National Park. I was nevr quite happy with this edit so have continually tried...

An HDR edit of the sunset at Turret Arch in Arches National Park. I was nevr quite happy with this edit so have continually tried to find a way to improve it.

So, if I'm talking about contemporary influences, why am I mentioning that I like to process my own files? Because that is where I have seen my greatest growth over the past several years. And that growth has come from downloading tutorials from some of the best landscape photographers working today.

In the two images of Turret Arch above, you can see what I'm talking about. I shot both images a few minutes apart- they are not the same image processed two different ways. But you can see the difference in the processing in the two frames. This was taken in 2015. It was a problematic scene with high contrast, so 2015 Rick Berk went with a process called High Dynamic Range, or HDR processing. I was never really happy with the processing at that time, but having tried several times, it was the best I could do. You can see that in the second image.

For years I relied on Adobe Photoshop and various plugins to process my images. These plugins were handy but tended to be heavy handed in their approach to things, affecting the overall scene. Some plugins allowed more local fixes but still lacked the nuance I sought in my processing. But a few years ago I began learning more about luminosity masking for processing. I don't want to get overly technical, but to explain quickly, luminosity masking allows you to work selectively- on a certain tone such as the brightest areas, the darkest areas, or one of the many shades of gray in between. Or, you can select a color to work on, without affecting other colors in the scene.

So after taking several tutorials, most notably Nick Page's "Mastering Luminosity Masks", I felt like taking another stab at the editing process. The result is the top image. You'll notice a few things. The image itself is not as crunchy looking, has more depth created by more natural light and shadow, and has no halo around the arch (note the upper left of the second image around the turret). I've watched and rewatched Nick's tutorials several times. Nick is an excellent teacher (just going by his tutorials) and he produces some incredibly beautiful images.

I follow Nick's work quite a bit and am happy I found his tutorials when I did. I feel like they've taken my processing up a few notches and helped me achieve the types of images I always wanted to.

The sun rises over the rocky coastline of Ogunquit, Maine along a path known as Marginal Way.
December Sunrise in Ogunquit

The rising sun burns through a marine layer of fog on Marginal Way in the coastal town of Ogunquit, Maine. As the sky above glows with yellows and oranges, a long exposure artistically captures the movement of water around the rocky shoreline as if painted by an artist's hand, showcasing the wondrous natural beauty of the coast of Maine.

Another one is Michael Shainblum. When I want to learn something new, I try to learn from multiple instructors if possible. The reason for this is that different teachers have different ways of getting things across, or different methods that suit them. Michael is another who had some editing tutorials that I happily bought and downloaded. His "Start To Finish Photography Editing Tutorial: Creating Dark and Dramatic Moods" tutorial opened my eyes to certain techniques that while I was aware of them, I never considered them for landscape photography. Sometimes you just need someone to point out the obvious. Michael's tutorial did just that for me.

The last photographer in this group I'd like to mention is Mads Peter Iverson. I purchased his "Photoshop for Landscapes" tutorial and find it to be a wealth of information. His was the last of these three I downloaded, so I found it mainly reinforced what I learned from Nick Page's and Michael Shainblum's tutorials, but again, there are a lot of great points made, and techniques taught that I have learned to incorporate in my own processing.

Sunlight streams through the cloud-filled sky over Pemaquid Point Lighthouse on a spring evening in Maine.
Gathering Clouds Redux

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse stands under a cloud-filled sky on a spring evening on the coast of Maine. I first captured this image while teaching a workshop. I noticed the clouds moving in and decided the lower vantage point down the rocky headland from the lighthouse would give us the opportunity to capture the lighthouse backed by the dramatic sky. The clouds parted just enoough to allow the sunlight to stream through. I call this one "Redux" as it is a new edit. My original edit was a bit flat and heavy-handed. As time has gone on my skills have improved to allow me to bring the photograph to life.

Finally, I'd like to shout out to a few of my friends. The nice thing about having talented friends is being able to bounce ideas off them, learn techniques from them that they've learned, or just watch how they approach a subject in a way I might have considered.

I met Andy Crawford about 2 years ago online via a Facebook group we were both a part of. We talk a few times a month, text often. We'll bounce around ideas for our businesses of selling fine art landscape prints, we'll discuss subject matter, processing, anything creative. And once in a while, we even manage to get together. Last year's excursion to the swamps of Louisiana with Andy as my guide was one I'll never forget. And I made some of my most recent favorites there as well!

Kristen Wilkinson and I met when she took a workshop I was teaching. Over the course of the workshop she'd asked if I would mentor her. I was honored to be asked, and we began discussing what her goals were. Over time we began photographing together and traveling to distant locations together. Kristen's meticulous planning and research of locations has had a huge effect on the photographs I'm able to capture, as often I wouldn't even know where to start at some of these locations, and she already has her research done for when she gets there! In addition, while we use many of the same techniques in processing, we have different styles. Often she'll get a dreamy look to things that I really admire, so I start picking her brain on how she got there. It's a professional friendship that has worked well for both of us.

Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse at sunrise in South Portland, Maine.
Sunrise at Spring Point

Spring Point Ledge Light Station stands watch over Portland Harbor and Casco Bay as the sun rises on a summer day in Maine.

The point of all this is that the learning never stops. I want to acknowledge those who have helped me whether they know it or not, and I continue to look for other opportunities to learn new things. All of the photos in this journal entry are photographs that had been previously processed, but I always felt were lacking somehow. With the recent project to redesign my website, I went through older photographs and decided it was time to re-edit some. I feel like they have really been improved on and will make outstanding prints for someone's wall someday.

Here's to learning new things!