Tip #53: Punish Your Pixels

Yellowstone Dawn - Yellowstone National Park
Enhanced Processing to Accentuate Color and Detail in Pre-dawn Light
Canon 5D MarkII + Canon 17-40L f4.0

This Week in Photo (TWiP) host, Frederick Van Johnson, likes to claim that “Pixels were meant to be punished.” Metaphorically, he argues that photographers should feel free to manipulate, distort and play with their digital images. For some this is heresy, while to others, it is art. The degree to which I manipulate a given image is dependent on the context. Whenever I wear my nature-photojournalist hat, I am a scientist. On these occasions, my goal is to illustrate the reality of a moment, capture a behavior or relate the character of an ecosystem. As a photojournalist it would be a breach of ethics if I were to do more than routine color correction and image sharpening. 
Here Comes the Sun - Selva Verde Reserve, Costa Rica
This is a 5 shot HDR-Processed Image. The Image Accentuates Color while Capturing the Details in the Shadow and Highlights
Canon 5D MarkII + Canon 15mm Fisheye

On the other hand, whenever I dawn the artist cap, I liberate myself from my scientific tendencies, and freely alter the character of my images. While I am not one to add new elements or remove objects that distract, I will push the limits of color, contrast and composition as a mode of self-expression. In truth, every photograph is a form of altered reality. The photographer’s choice of aperture and shutter defines the depth of detail and amount of motion, while choice of lens can be used to include, exclude or compress distant objects. Acclaimed for his unique ability to capture the essence of a place, Ansel Adams was the grand master of manipulation. Trashing color from a scene, defining the character of light and controlling contrast with chemistry are just a few of the many ways that he enhanced his images in the name of art.
So there it is, Tip # 53
Don’t be afraid to punish your pixels in pursuit of artistic expression.
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