The following statement is meant to provide an understanding of how I capture, develop, and process my photography. I aim to be transparent about what I have or haven’t done in creating my final work.
My specialty is fine-art nature photography, which has an artistic element to it and in which the raw, out-of-camera images are developed to suit one’s tastes and style. I am not doing photojournalism, historical work, or news/street photography, in which I feel that what is captured by the camera must remain 100 percent unaltered to represent what actually occurred or was seen. Therefore, I consider my work to be photographic art, although my overall goal is still to present the scenes that I capture as naturally as I can, emphasizing natural beauty while minimizing man-made distractions. I then apply my own artistic style in the development of the images.
Regarding wildlife shots, I have photographed many of the animals in captivity. Candidly, and sadly, it’s almost impossible to get these kinds of photographs in the wild any longer. I find the animals beautiful and magnificent regardless of whether they are in the wild or captive. Funds paid to photograph them also help with their preservation, safekeeping, breeding, and restoration to the wild, if possible. Additionally, many of the animals have been born in captivity or are rescues. I’m simply glad to showcase their awesome natural beauty and presence.
In developing the photographs, I perform a number of what are commonly referred to as “post-processing” steps. I try to limit them (generally) to these areas:
Removing the presence of human activity to restore the scene to as natural a state as practical. This may include removing things such as footprints, contrails, park signs, trash, the occasional tourist, and other man-made or man-caused objects.
Making minor adjustments to the image if something is overly distracting to the photo’s main subject, such as removing a branch or piece of foliage or partially restoring a footpath worn by human activity.
Making artistic adjustments of levels, contrast, vibrancy, and other settings from the captured camera negative (the raw file) to show the scene as I saw it and present the final image with my own artistic style.
While most of my shots are single exposures, I do not strive always to capture everything in one shot in camera. I will also use exposure blending (which combines multiple exposures, usually but not always taken in physical and temporal proximity to one another), focus stacking, and panorama stitching to create my final images. This is often necessary due to camera limitations on depth of field, dynamic range, or field of view. In a few cases, I will blend in a sky, realizing that this moves the photography more toward art; I try to keep sky blending to a minimum in order to keep the scene realistic. In cases where I feel the techniques above have moved the resulting image beyond what I think is still a fairly accurate representation of the scene, I may mark the final images as “composites.”
Adjusting the moon to be slightly more prominent, which matches how it actually looked to the naked eye, as wide-angle lenses often make distant objects look smaller than they really are.
Retouching technical imperfections such as dust spots, lens distortions, and blemishes due to various factors. In a few cases, I will repair a small technical glitch in one photo (usually with contents from another photo taken in the same session); fortunately, these instances are pretty rare. Luckily, I haven’t had to paste the tail of an animal back on yet!
Utilizing various filters to modify and shape the light, dynamic range, and sometimes even the coloring captured by the camera.
Altering the color balance intentionally since viewers might find it difficult to perceive the actual shot as real since they were not there. An example is for arctic shots; they are super-saturated with blue in real life, so much so that if left unaltered, a viewer would think they are seeing blue snow. In these cases, I may neutralize the blues somewhat to make the snow white again so the viewer interprets the image correctly.
Finally, it’s my job to be prepared and in the right place at the right time for a photo opportunity—and then let the Lord do the heavy lifting, for it is He who commands nature. I am very blessed to be able to do what I do. —R. John Anderson, Photographer