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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Create The Old Masters Look With Modern Gear

Using the latest in software, techniques and hardware can provide you with imagery that will rival the masterpieces of nature photography

Labels: How-ToTechniques

This Article Features Photo Zoom

old masters
The literal trailblazers of nature photography—Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Eliot Porter, Carleton Watkins, Edward Muybridge and others—carried heavy and sensitive equipment through miles of unpaved wilderness in order to bring back photographs of the world that they saw. These images have withstood the test of time to become the classic prints that we know of today as the work of photography’s Old Masters. Now, thanks to digital, we have gear that’s lighter, smaller and more capable, and accessing many of the remote locations these photographers explored is easier to do than ever before.

While digital photography offers photographic potential that far outweighs the limits of old orthochromatic films and finicky optics, many nature shooters have been stymied in their efforts to re-create the breathtaking vistas and sweeping drama of a Master’s print. So if digital offers so much more potential than the analog processes of old, how do we make photos that will be as good as the definitive examples of the past and someday become the classic prints of the future? Mastering the craft of photography takes time, practice and patience, but using the capabilities of modern gear, we can take full advantage of the image potential and build on the Masters to create new masterpieces of nature photography.

old masters
Tiffen Polarizer
We feature the photography of David Muench in this article. One of today’s modern masters, Muench has bridged the era of photographers like Ansel Adams to the present digital revolution. His photography provides an excellent example of the old style, as well as how to use modern gear to create the same look with current equipment.

Take It Slow
Because of the technology that was prevalent in the era of Adams, Porter, Watkins and others—that is, cumbersome equipment and complicated, time-consuming development processes—the Masters worked with single exposures of large-format sheet film. The almost meditative process of taking a photograph with this gear forced these photographers to slow down and contemplate the scene they were trying to capture. While the fast-paced lifestyle of digital has brought with it countless advantages, it’s a side effect of modern photography that we no longer have to stop and smell the roses.

To take wonderful images of the scene before you, slow down and ask yourself what it is about the scene that attracts you and what it is that you want to share with others by taking the image. Taking your time and perfecting a careful composition is an integral part of capturing any scene successfully, and when photographers can experiment with hundreds of disposable exposures, we tend to forget that. While immediate review and large-capacity memory cards and hard drives are excellent tools, these advantages to digital have encouraged photographers to stop paying attention to one of the cardinal rules of nature photography: slow down.


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