How I do it

Just a short blog post to describe the mechanics of making art via photography.

Photography requires a camera and a lens (Doh!). They don't have to be very special, but it helps. There is a whole school of using marginal lenses and detectors - simple pinhole cameras and the like, but that's for another day. I have gone digital because, quite frankly, it's easier and cheaper than film and even since 2005 the quality of the images surpasses 35mm film. And that was with pretty high end 35mm equipment. Nikons and the like. I currently use Sony A7 series cameras - an A7 III and an A7R IV. The later has 9500x6000 pixels which is equivalent to top end gear 10 years ago.

The move from film to digital increases the linearity and sensitivity of the detector. It's just possible, if you're a really skilled film person, to squeeze a tiny bit more range out of film with quite weird development techniques, but it comes at the cost of a much less linear response. Most of the time, though, digital is simply better at accurately capturing the light which enters the camera. 

High accuracy causes an interesting artistic problem. Neither our eyes nor our perceptions are linear.  Digital images, straight from the camera tend to be a little ... well ... flat, for want of a better word. 














This example shows what I mean. It's slightly underexposed, to preserve the detail in the clouds, but it is a flat, unexciting image. Even if it is on the beach in Hawaii.

After very minor processing (contrast and midpoint adjustment if you must know):














The sunlight catching the clouds and sails now lights up the image. (Admittedly it's not great art, but it shows my point).

This manipulation was done with a semi-bootleg copy of photoshop from my university. The Adobe programs I use are photoshop and lightroom, but the free software GIMP, raw_therapy, and Darktable are excellent replacements - which I also use, especially on my linux box. Raw_therapy is pretty much what Adobe uses for raw images. I use Topaz image enhancement software when needed (I don't know of anything free that comes close). It's also important to have a great display when editing - I use an HP laptop with a 4k display and an Nvidea chip.