Sticking With What's Real.
I can sit and look at photographs for hours. There are so many beautiful places in this world that I will likely never see, but other people will, and through them, I can enjoy seeing those places as well.
I have recently discovered an unbelievable gift, available to us all. A most amazing treasure chamber with tunnels running off in so many directions that I'm starting to think it has no end. Its name, Instagram, sort of falls flat in conveying the wealth of wonders that lie within. Stunning landscapes from around the world, animal life, plants, cultures. Everything is there, and everyone is invited to come and feel the joy of discovery. I had an account for the longest time but never really used it. I thought it was just people posting pictures of their daily lives, the picture equivalent of Facebook. One day, I took a closer look at the National Geographic pictures in my feed and realized that if I followed those leads down the rabbit hole, to the Instagram home of the various photographers, I could pass through one wondrous area after another. By following all the photographers I enjoy, I’m seeing the world on a daily basis.
It’s interesting how you can learn something about the photographers from the types of images that seem important to them. It’s funny how after seeing a series of similarly themed images, an anomaly appears and you recognize it as such. Discovering a picture of a photographer’s dog among the stunning landscape images that populate the rest of the page, you enjoy the simpleness and the humanity of an adventurous life that still needs the presence of a best friend.
Without words, these images convey what is most valued, most important in someone else’s life. It’s absolutely beautiful. By following your favorite photographers you find others with the same interests, or, if you’re lucky, you’re introduced to beauty in things you never noticed before.
For those who want to play with their images, Instagram provides some really cool filters. It’s fun to wrap your image in a different mood. I’ve played around with the filters and used them a few times as well. It’s strange though, I get an uncomfortable sense of misrepresentation when I post those pictures. There are plenty of photographers who edit their pictures in such a way that they acquire a completely otherworldly look. This is photography as art and I admire the ability to envision a scene with the same underlying structure but a much different look. Then you have the images that often seem to find a home on Pinterest. Mountains that appear to be much taller than they actually are, buildings that are much more colorful than they actually are. Using Pinterest as a source of ideas for things to see is not terribly reliable. It doesn’t qualify as art and it doesn’t help anyone.
I recently got a subscription to Photoshop and Lightroom. Lightroom made it very clear to me that professional photographers always edit pictures. My own often frustratingly washed out images suddenly became crisp and clear with slight adjustments. This makes all the sense in the world when you realize that what you saw with your own eyes was definitely clearer and brighter than what the camera captured. Then there’s photoshop. I must say that I haven’t had the time to learn much about it yet. The ability to overlay an image with text seems very useful, but it can do so much more than that. I was fascinated, and a little shaken, by how easy it is to remove unwanted objects, even a person, from an image. You can also completely realistically insert someone who was never there.
On a more practical level, every little detail of a picture that doesn’t conform to the ideal of a perfect image, can easily be adjusted. Is there an area of fur on your dog’s side that isn’t conforming with the rest, because your kids were hugging him and causing this unsightly mess? No problem, just push it down with the little circle tool and your dog will look picture perfect. I know, it’s not terribly important in the great scheme of things, but is it necessary to change the reality of that moment? The altered image will be all that remains of it, not a comment many years down the road of “Remember how his fur always stood straight up like this after we cuddled with him”?
I think that when I’m fortunate enough to be told by someone that they liked my picture, I want to feel happy that someone else enjoyed seeing the exact same scene that I first saw through the camera lens. I think that rather than being tempted to play around with my pictures to create something that looks better than it was, I will leave them minimally edited. I like honesty, so I’ll apply it to my pictures as I do to everything else.