Tech Behind Art

Old Country Store – Lula, Georgia

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The digital age has created dramatic changes in the world of photography. One, cell phones have made everyone a photographer and darn good ones at that. But the new technology also allows you to do things after an image is taken that you couldn’t even dream of when I first started.

While I’ve embraced the technological advances, many of my photojournalist brethren believe that a great photo should be natural and untouched. In other words, you snap the picture, then print it out. Simple and straight forward. What they sometimes forget, is that the “darkroom” used to be the postproduction vehicle for their photos and many of their photos were “tweaked” during that process. Different processes produce different images.

While I haven’t forgotten my photojournalism roots, using technology can make a photograph more realistic or can allow greater flexibility in creating digital artworks. And therefore, can make for interesting and, in many instances, more dramatic images. All of my creative digital artworks are developed from an original photograph.

One of the methods or techniques I like to use is true High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography. An HDR photo is a series of photographs taken at different exposures or focus points, then stacked one on top of another — to produce one image.

Why do this you ask?

The human eye can perceive an extraordinary range of contrast in a scene, a range far greater than any camera’s sensor can capture with just one picture. If we are standing in a room with bright sunlight streaming through the windows, we can see the details in the dimly lit areas of the room as well as the brightly lit lawn and scenery outside the windows.

A camera is going to have serious trouble capturing both ends of that drastic exposure range with just one image. If you choose to meter for the highlights outside (the bright areas), you’ll lose pretty much all the detail inside the room (the room will be very dark in the photo). Try it the other way—meter for the darker room—and you’ll end up with windows that are completely washed out (nothing will be discernable outside).

Now let’s pretend I take 9 photos of that room, all at different exposures, and combine them together to create one photo with all the detail you can get inside and outside. Would this make for a more realistic image? I think so too. And that’s why I like using High Dynamic Range photography.

Currently, I’m creating two types of art. The first are “original photographs.” The second are “digital artworks” created from the original photographs.

The original photographs tend to be in black-n-white while occasionally using spot color to highlight part of the photograph. However, I like full color photographs too. Depending on the photograph, I try to pick the style or version that brings out the best in the image.

The original photographic images are very limited. Typically, no more than 12 of any original photograph will be made. The “Certificate of Authenticity” will specify the number of the print and the number of prints to be produced. Generally, these are framed prints. But from time to time, I like to use metal or acrylic glass to display these images.

From these original photographs, I sometimes like to create a “digital artwork.” Many of these art pieces take an original photograph and apply a custom overlay which makes it look like the photo was actually painted. Other “digital art” pieces can get much more complicated, becoming something altogether different. 

Generally, these “digital artworks” are produced as canvas prints and produced in limited quantities ranging between 250 to 950 prints. The prints are signed, and the “Certificate of Authenticity” will specify the number of the print and the number of prints to be produced. 

Remember, great images transcend time. They evoke the same emotions years and decades later. Maybe you cried. Maybe you laughed. Either way, an image that makes you feel something is a great photo. Hopefully, you’ll find one in this collection.

Samuel McCall

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