Art Beyond Technology

For those of us who use a camera to create art (even in a broad sense of the term ‘art’), there is a need to have technological tools and expertise.

As a boy on a basketball team, I practiced lay ups, jump shots, foul shots, ball handling, passing, and other fundamentals ad nauseam.  I imagine that even the great players did this.  However, by the time Kobe Bryant started playing for the NBA all of those fundamentals had become so second nature that he mixed and matched and violated those fundamentals into something approaching art in motion.

How important is technology to art?  As an engineer, I am definitely obsessed with specifications.  So when Tony Northrup, in his recent YouTube video, broke down the various 2014 full frame, APS-C, and micro 4/3 cameras based on DXOmarks quantification of optimal image quality I was dazzled.  I also wasn’t surprised to see that at their base ISO sensor size dominated.  I was further not surprised to see that Nikon won the full frame sensor class with the D810 and the APS-C sensor class with the D3300.

But there are photographers shooting with Canon sensors who do work at a level I don’t ever expect to achieve.  Canon sensor technology is outdated and generally brings up the rear in every class of sensor when it comes to image quality.

If our goal in photography was only to accurately store the data of the image in a realistic way, it could be argued that we should all be shooting Nikons.

But many portrait artists shoot Canon.  There is an indescribable feel to the appearance of Canon images that is exactly what they are going for.  The same could be said for Fujifilm sensor images.  McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” comes into play with our sensor selection just as much as it would when Winslow Homer decided whether a painting would be oil or water color.

After pouring over Northrups reviews and thinking about them for days, a lightning bolt struck.  My favorite pictures aren’t even the photograph that comes out of my camera.  My favorites are ones that I have post-processed to look like water colors in Photoshop.  Just as an oil painting isn’t better because it is higher resolution than water color so a Nikon image isn’t better because it more realistically stores color data.

The artist is reflected in his or her choice of camera, lens, lighting options, etc.  But there is infinitely more to our work than even those technical decisions.  I especially enjoyed reading this article by Oded Wagenstein on why less tech can be more.  Oh, and he shoots with a Canon.

My favorite statement?  “I strongly believe that the camera is just a tool to meet new people and to create new experiences. ”

As I have recommended in the past, if you are considering upgrading your camera kit, I would recommend looking at a comparison of works created with that equipment.  Then determine which equipment is already being used to create art that feels the most like what you are interested in creating.  I really like Flickr’s tool for this, The Flicker Camera Finder.

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