Rant: On Art, Nature and Photography

Baru Beach at Dawn
Canon 5DII + 50mm f1.4 


Can photographs of nature become something more than a frozen moment ...more than a data point? 
Let’s face it, anyone can pick up a camera, put it on auto, and frame a subject. Today’s tools are so sophisticated that vision has replaced knowledge. It’s not that technical knowledge ever made the photographer, it’s just that it was once an obstacle between the artist and the art. Our sophisticated tools now allow everyone to express their vision.
Bamboo Orchid - Hacienda Baru, Costa Rica
Canon 7D + 300mm f2.8L IS
Consider the following: iPhoneography. According to the “urbaN DICTIONARY” it is ...the act or practice of snapping quick digital pictures and performing post-processing and sharing from within the mobile phone itself,... 
My take, ...art for the masses; a powerful tool in a portable box that says, “Vision first, knowledge later (or never).”
Some people just get it. They see the light, isolate the details, and convey a feeling with their images. The iPhoneography movement mirrors my observations of the American society at large. It’s all about the quick fix. We have no tolerance for the hard work or the thinking required to solve our problems. As such, we are in need of some serious help, and have chosen, instead, to erect a giant “help wanted ad” on every stoop, wall, and bulletin board. The ad reads: “Help Wanted, ...No Knowledge Required.”
Mantled Howler Monkey - Selva Verde, Costa Rica
Canon 7D + 300mm f2.8L IS
Some other current ads might be summarized as...
Help Wanted, Biology Teacher ...No Knowledge Required.
Help Wanted, Environmental Reformer ...No Knowledge Required.
Help Wanted, Politician to F#$%-up Reputation of Admired Country ...No Knowledge Required.
Frog on a Wire - Selva Verde, Costa Rica
Canon 5D MarkII + 180mm f3.5L
Really, ...Is this what the the future has to offer? No Knowledge Required?! 
Before the digital era, we all shot film. There were no histograms, variable ISO’s or memory cards. This was an unforgiving discipline because it required knowledge about light and how it interacted with particles of silver on sheets of cellulose. In the “Dark Ages of Photography,” art was created with knowledge, not in spite of it. The pioneers of environmental photography, Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, and Clyde Butcher (still alive and working with film), are more than just visionaries, they are artists. Their success followed a simple formula:
Technical Knowledge + Subject Knowledge + Unique Vision = Art
So there’s my rant, inspired by a simple question. When do pictures of of nature transcend photojournalism and become art? We live in a world of quick fixes, mindless solutions, and dreams that everyone can do everything at any time. While, I don’t wish to denigrate those who have discovered a vision without experience, I need to believe that experience matters. In an age when automation is a substitute for knowledge, how do we distinguish the litany data points from the unique vision that makes art?
The Trap - Selva Verde, Costa Rica
Canon 5D MarkII + 300mm f2.8L IS
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