Photography / Features

Podcast: Ethics of Landscape Photography, with Ryan Dyar and Adam Burton

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We are living in a Golden Age of landscape photography. Digital cameras and improved software enable the kind of imaging that until recently was only possible via the budgets of large publications and the talents and ambitions of a few select photographers. Ambition and talent remain, and with enhanced dynamic range and color algorithms, higher sensitivity settings, simplified stitching and compositing software, and a network of websites to display work, impressive landscape photography is abundant; however,  there are new masters and the skill set of current practitioners includes not only those of the photographer, but also of the savvy digital graphic artist. 

With the ability to pull details from shadows, augment colors, and combine distinct files into a single image now easier than ever, we must ask—is it acceptable to represent nature without natural characteristics, to merge photos from different focal lengths into one image, or add a blazing sunset to a foreground taken hours or days apart? Can images composed in such a way even be defined as photography and does an ethos, akin to that in photojournalism, apply to nature photography?

These are some of the questions we pose to two incredible landscape photographers, Adam Burton and Ryan Dyar. We spoke with them separately, but prepared a similar set of questions, and asked them to walk us through their in-camera workflow and post-process techniques. We spoke about their approach to a scene, their use of “grad-filters” and plug-ins, acceptable degrees of enhancement, and strove to understand if there is indeed an ethics to landscape photography.

Guests:  Ryan Dyar and Adam Burton

Unprocessed image (left) and post processed image (right)Adam Burton
Adam Burton
Adam Burton
Adam Burton
Adam Burton
Adam Burton
Unprocessed image (left) and post processed image (right)Ryan Dyar
Ryan Dyar
Ryan Dyar
Ryan Dyar
Ryan Dyar

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Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: John Harris
Producer: Jason Tables
Executive Producer: Lawrence Neves

Discussion 6

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I am by no means a professional photog  but I have sold some of my Prints at galleries and art festivals.

I went from film to digital in its infancy and now in its prime years.

I have always show my work and labeled as photopgraphy or Digital art.  When the print required techniques that could not be done in the darkroom days I labeled it digital art. And I think that's i very important today. People want spectacular and surreal prints that just do not happen in nature, over saturation, blending, compositing make great art and that's is no less amazaing  but they are not photographs. I think people need to be reminded of the subtlety of nature and the fleeting moment. I see way to many landscapes that there just is no way they looked that way in person even with in camera and darkroom tricks.. people say oh that's amazing I've never seen anything like that. No one has until the artist saw it in their mind and digitally created it.  Label it for what it is. And let's be fair Ansley Adams spent many more hours in the darkroom "dancing" as he called it, burning and dodging and getting it to look as his minds eye saw it. So there is post click artistry that has always been a part of photography. But keep it real.

Thanks for your insight J!  These are the kinds of thought provoking comments we hoped to spark with this episode. 

Interesting podcast with two different landscape photogers. With these podcases, I keep a note of points that I want to contribute.

I treat my 5D III as if it were a film camera. I set my white balance to Daylight as if I were shooting Kodak Portra or Ektar; I also turned off image review. I've been asked to photograph a work event and I need to remember to set the white balance to Auto.

HDR isn't bad as long as it's subtle. If it doesn't look like it exists in nature, then it's probably right.

Max Parrish: If I saw a stunning sunrise or sunset, yea, I'll shoot it. 2012 involved discipline; that was the year that I photographed the year exclusively using B&W film. Did I have regrets? Absolutely, particularly when I saw a gorgeous sunrise or sunset. But it was a year of growth for me to use B&W contrast filters. One year long project was photographing the sunrise on the equinoxes and solstices over Columbia, South Carolina from the Lake Murray Dam.

Weather is not that cooperative for photographers. For my solstice/equinox project, I've been blessed with good cloud cover that enhances the sunrise for three of the four shoots. For Winter, the wind was brutal coming off the lake and completely blew away any clouds. The wind was gusting to 45 MPH.

My wife and I were at a rock concert, Trans Siberian Orchestra. Their show involves lasers. She heard the shutter fire and said "You nailed that shot". I used Kodak TMAX 3200 pushed to 12800.

Yea, that moment is time is gone forever! My sunrise/solstice prject wasn't marred by rain. My full moon project of moon rise and moon set couldn't happen on two or three occasions because of cloud obscurity and/or rain.

For my C-41 B&W film scans, I will desaturate to make the image look more traditional B&W.

For macro photos, I will remove grass, leaves prior to using my Canon Macrophoto 20mm f3,5,

Thanks Ralph for engaging with the conversation...always appreciate your input.  (Love the B&W project idea...real discipline!)

Really great to hear Adam Burton on the show :-)

Adam was a great guest, engaging and open about his work, which is of course, is stunning...  Thanks for the feedback Mark

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