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Great Landscapes

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Assisi, Italy, 2002
Canon EOS 1Ds, Canon TSE 24mm lens, 1/1000 second @ f13, ISO 800, hand-held, no filter

The New Tradition was a gradual metamorphosis. Different genres adopted digital techniques at different times and possibly one of the drivers was affordability.

Advertising photographers were among the first to engage. The art directors and creatives at the advertising agencies were always pushing the limits of technology, trying to create new and exciting work to enthral their audiences. They also had the budgets to access the expensive, high-powered computers that were needed to edit digital files. The Quantel Paintbox comes to mind, although a lot of its work was initially done for television commercials.

However, even before Paintbox, skilled pre-press compositors would merge multiple images together, so when digital arrived, it was really taking over a creative approach that was fairly well developed.

Many people think of digital editing as pink pigs flying through space over an impossible landscape. This is an obvious composite, but what digital editing really allowed was far more powerful and far more subtle. It was allowing photographers a second chance to nail the exposure and colour balance. It was also allowing them to selectively adjust discrete areas of the image, just as they did in the darkroom.

Looking at the entries in the professional photography awards around the turn of the century, there was a big difference between the work of advertising photographers and that of everyone else. Although Photoshop had been around for 10 years or so, few photographers had the skills to drive it properly.

Advertising and commercial photographs would be beautifully edited with Invisible Photoshop. Admittedly, much of this work was edited by expert digital retouchers, not the photographers, but that’s just how the advertising world normally worked.

In comparison, domestic photography entries were poorly finished with lots of rough edges. Awards were given for substandard work because the judges in those categories didn’t have the depth of experience to assess the work correctly – they didn’t know how good digital editing could be because few of them had noticed what the advertising photographers were doing.

In fact, no one really noticed what advertising photographers were doing in terms of technique because it was done so well. It was invisible, but their secrets were quickly revealed and it didn’t take wedding and portrait photographers too long before they were editing work to the same exacting standards.

Digital techniques have transformed photography in so many ways. At Assisi, photography inside the churches was not allowed, which was a pity because the interiors are absolutely amazing.

However, at the little gift shop, you could buy postcards, slides and CDs depicting those amazing interiors, indicating to my prejudiced mind that the church was prohibiting photography merely to make a quick buck on the side.

My photograph shows a committee of monks and nuns discussing how much they can put up the prices for their postcards. I wonder how the church controls photography inside their establishments today?

Need a good read? Like to learn something more about photography? Interested in new ideas? Why not purchase a copy of my book, The New Tradition, which is full of great tales and ideas. It has 100 photographs and accompanying stories guaranteed to enthrall you - and you can save $30 on the purchase price right now - use coupon code TNT30. Check out more on the website.