Tuesday, August 21 , 2018, 11:49 am | Overcast with Haze 70º


Henry Schulte: Digital Technology Changing the Focus of Photography

When digital cameras became readily available for everyone and the quality of picture-taking improved, it changed the dynamics of photography forever. In short, it allowed everyone to become a photographer.

Where once the top names in the industry would spend hundreds of hours seeking out the perfect light and then countless more hours in the dark room refining their prints, it's now instant. And where once photographers could make a living on their efforts, many have turned toward offering workshops around the world to share their knowledge.

But what has always been true is that if you are going to stand out, you have to be different. Sometimes you can use a little luck, but you also need to make the effort to find that distinctive perspective someone else hasn't taken. Just pretty pictures won't do it. Light and composition have always been the key components to a great photograph, but even that is changing.

Once you've determined what you think is the best composition, you click away. I've found that what I thought was the perfect arrangement in the field didn't come out that way on the computer. So, taking a number of shots from different angles is important and gives you options later on.

Since this is my first column on photography, I'm not going to get into exposures, which will be a separate discussion in the future. For this time around, the key before anything else is getting a composition that encapsulates the image, is interesting and would make someone look twice.

In landscapes, that isn't always easy. We get caught up with pretty colors, waterfalls and blue skies, and a lot of the time we try to put in too much. Although on one hand adding more to your image isn't a bad idea because cropping may be necessary later to refine the photo, zooming in closer to the subject to hone in on what exactly it is you're trying to show can make things much more interesting.

How you see it is entirely up to you and your creative process. There is no right or wrong, but try to see your photos how someone else may see them.

Schulte sheep
Sheep at sunset outside the ghost town of Bodie. The original version of this photo came out black, but in this digital age, even the seemingly bleakest shot can be salvaged. (Henry Schulte photo)

As I mentioned exposure, is another topic, but sadly in some respects, exposure isn't as critical as it used to be. With such fantastic software available these days, you can fix almost anything within reason.

The nearby example of sheep at sunset just outside the ghost town of Bodie I thought was so appealing. There was no place to turn out, so I stopped the car in the middle of the road and clicked away without checking my camera settings. While I was trying to shoot, a couple sheep dogs approached the car and started barking like mad and jumping on the truck. Between being parked in the middle of the road and the dogs, I became flustered and drove away.

A few miles down the road I pulled over, excited to see how the picture came out (another benefit of the digital age). The camera had been on the wrong setting and the picture was nearly black. I was really bummed because what I saw in the field had blown me away. When I turned around and went back to try again, the sun had set and it was all over.

I chastised myself all night for being stupid, and when I downloaded the image in the computer my worst fears were confirmed. But as you can see, digital technology has changed everything.

Click here to visit my website to see more photos, or stop by Coastal Collections at 527 State St. to see my photos firsthand.

— Henry Schulte of Santa Barbara owns and operates Dos Pueblos Ranch. He has been politically active in the community for years. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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