Vision vs. Technique

SmileMake Art – My Interpretation of Graffiti

I recently read a blog post “Wow, how did you do that?” by Cole Thompson, an amazing photographer.  If you have a minute, I encourage you to read it.  For those who don’t have time, here is the part of the article that really spoke to me.

“However when I see people focusing on technique first, I find they usually never get around to putting that same energy into finding their Vision, and as a result their work is technically perfect and masterfully imitative. Technique alone misses the mark.

So instead of focusing on Photoshop and its hundreds of features or following the latest fad technique, put most of your time and energy into your Vision. I promise you that this approach will yield better images and much more satisfying results.

Technique is not the key to a great image. Vision is.” – Cole Thompson

I am so thankful for Mr. Thompson’s words of wisdom! I have had so many conversations recently through which I have been told that I need to master Photoshop and manipulating images because that is the way to go. I have always held to my belief that shooting to capture my vision is the best way to work – I suppose I am a purist, but I want to capture what I see, what I feel, and what is inspiring me. I want to use the light to make my images, not have to go back at the end of the day to try to make what I thought I saw by using a technique that someone else is using.  To me, that would then become me using a vision that belonged to someone else.  I don’t want to lose my vision, or myself to what others think I should be doing to be successful.  Success will come with patience and through hard work and sharing my vision.  The beauty of working with my vision, and using manual settings on my camera and not focusing on a technique, is that I can successfully use a film camera or a digital camera to capture my vision.  Kind of cool, I think!

I’ve been told by photographers that they shoot with the purpose of using the image for an idea they have in PS, or other editing software. To me, that is digital art vs. photography. To call it photography don’t you have to be using the camera to capture light and use your artistic vision to compose the image and use the light to successfully create your vision?

To be clear, I am not opposed to post processing a digital image, after all, isn’t the software for digital imaging like the darkroom to film photography? In fact, you have to process an image to some extent, don’t you?  Some images are fabulous straight out of camera (SOOC), but others need a little processing – a color burn, a dodge, a color balance, etc., and there is nothing wrong with HDR work when done effectively so that the subject doesn’t look fake.  The reality is that no matter how hard we work to achieve the perfect image in camera, the camera doesn’t always see what we see.  My goal is always to get as close to accurate as possible with exposure and white balance and the best possible composition – do the very best at what I can control and edit what maybe I couldn’t control as well.

I think that Mr. Thompson’s  insight is accurate as far as differentiating artistic vision using photography vs. the art of digital manipulation and creation.  A little dodge and burn, etc. are post processing tools that even the greatest photographers used in the dark room.  But the over saturation and complete manipulation of an image to the point that the original image is lost, to me, is another art form – digital art, which, in and of itself, can be amazing when done right, and should not be discounted as an art form, just designated as digital art vs. photography.

Another link to check out is the website of Jerry Uelsmann.  He is a film photographer that has been called the father of Photoshop, not because he uses Photoshop, but because he uses tools, techniques and expertise in the dark room to develop his negatives.  Through his years as a photographer he has overlaid negatives, and done amazing, and sometimes crazy, things to create images, often using multiple negatives to do so.  His work is thought-provoking and time intensive.  But, his work was all created through his vision captured in the form of photographs.  He often combined his visions to create new visions, but because he used his vision and captured that vision in the form of photographs it still falls into the realm of photography, to me at least.  The title applied to his techniques; “the father of Photoshop” certainly applies as he inspired the digital art world to become what it is today.

Realizing this post has the possibility to be controversial to some, I want to note that I am in no way trying to offend anyone or discredit the work of any photographers or their techniques.  I’m just stating my opinion and explaining my thoughts and letting you, the reader, know how I work.  I thought Mr. Thompson’s article was very valuable and may perhaps inspire and help others to find and use their vision and grow as photographers vs. attempting to do the work others are doing.  The reality is that none of us can truly copy another’s work when it comes to photography because photography is capturing a moment in time using a vision that will never exist with the same light again. I think the key to successful photography is knowing your vision, knowing how to use your camera to capture your vision through manual settings, and following your heart to further develop your vision through post processing.

Another link I’d like to share with you is the website for the International Center for Photography in New York City.  One of the current exhibits is titled “What is a Photograph?”.  I can’t wait to see it and hope that some of you make your way to visit the museum as well.

Enjoy going out and creating “your” art this weekend!

Shoes for the Fight

This is my mom, Kathy.  We did a photo session when she visited in September.  What does she have to do with shoes?  Read on.

The Artist

The Artist

Who took the opportunity to give smiles when the opportunity knocked.

Who took the opportunity to give smiles….

Mom retired in May of 2012 and has been actively volunteering and spending time with her three daughters and 9 grandchildren.  She is doing anything but being idle and is helping so many people in so many ways.  Her retirement is far from the dreams she had of  her and my father spending these years traveling and enjoying life together.  Despite his absence as a result of loosing his battle to cancer almost 8 years ago, she is taking the best out of her time and using her gifts to spread love and joy.  Her latest endeavor, the one I am writing about today, is painting sneakers for children with cancer. She is working as a volunteer for Peaches Neet Feet, an organization that strives to put smiles on the faces of children undergoing cancer treatment.  Converse ( donates sneakers to Peaches Neet Feet who then sends the shoes to artists such as my mother to paint according to a child’s specifications.  To learn more about Peaches Neet Feet and their incredible program visit their website at:

Or their Facebook page at:

These are the shoes Mom painted this week for a little boy named Miles.  He likes the San Francisco Giants. What joy he will have when he sees these custom painted shoes that he can wear into battle, to fight the fight of all fights – cancer.

Sneakers for the Fight

Mom sent the three images of the sneakers to me today.  I did a little editing to them, but they are her images, not mine.

Mom sent the three images of the sneakers to me today. I did a little editing to them, but they are her images.

It’s Never Too Late to BE

It is never too late to be what you might have been. – George Eliot

Go out and BE before another day dawns, another week passes by, another month reaches out of your grasp, another year becomes history without you BEing.

Old, Faded Photographs

“Still, if you set your heart on God and reach out to him, If you scrub your hands of sin and refuse to entertain evil in your home, You’ll be able to face the world unashamed and keep a firm grip on life, guiltless and fearless. You’ll forget your troubles; they’ll be like old, faded photographs.” – Job 11:13-16 (MSG)

When I saw this Bible verse a week or so ago, I immediately thought about posting it.  The question was how to do so. I decided to post an old photograph, that I did not take, in addition to an image I did take.  It is probably obvious that the term – old, faded photographs in the verse caught my attention.  However, the remainder of the verse has even more meaning.  Words to take to heart.  If only I could muster the strength of Job.  He is a Biblical icon and a true inspiration of strength and faith.

An old faded photograph of my mother on her horse, Topaz. Needless to say I did not take this photograph. But, I found it quite appropriate to post with the verse above.

A photograph I recently took that, in black and white, looks old.

Spread Kindness

Spread love everywhere you go: First of all in your own house … kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness. – Mother Teresa


The Climb

Ever feel like life is an uphill battle with no end to the frustrating climb?  This image reminds me of the climb to something exciting.  Perhaps each step is like a piece of the puzzle of life and behind the door is change.  Let’s not think of negative change.  Life is too full of bad news and stress factors to allow an image such as the one below to lead us down the path to negative thoughts.  Let’s think pleasant thoughts and dream of what could be behind the door at the top of the stairs?  Something worth the climb? Something wonderful?  A surprise?  A piece of history?  A special someone?  Want to keep climbing to find out?

“The Back Stairs at Fonthill”                                                                                                                                                   Keep climbing and you’ll reach your destination, your surprise, your reward, your peace.

It’s OK to Believe in Ourselves

We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. – e.e. cummings

Spread Love

“Spread love everywhere you go: First of all in your own house … kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness.” – Mother Teresa

Purple Petunia

Good Advice – Pass it On

“The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on.” – Oscar Wilde

Create a New Ending

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson

I saw this quote today and thought of an image I recently took.  The image includes a wall of an old barn.  The barn will never again be in it’s original state – built in the 1800’s, but it can certainly be refurbished and be used to create new endings.  The quote above reminds me to think positive, not to focus on the past, or on mistakes, nor to look back.  It won’t do any good.  I can’t go back and start over.  What I can do is renew my mindset and make a fresh start today, and every day.  It’s never to late to create a new ending!

A New Ending