Oh for pete’s sake just say yes already!

I like to think that I’m a thotful guy. If you ask me a tough question, I’ll often come up with an interesting perspective (at least to me) or I’ll admit if I don’t know. My problem is that I often get stumped by easy questions.

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The tiny trees at the bottom give a clue to the vast expanse of unmarked fresh snow on the side of the mountain. My camera insisted on taking this shot and practically took it by itself.

When people look at one of my photos and ask if a scene really looked like that, they are not looking for great insight or a long, complicated treatise on the nuances of photography. The answer they expect is implied and short – yes. It should be an easy one since I was there. But it’s not.

On a bad day I can over analyze anything but this question has left me stumped. If I say no, the person wants to know what it really looked like it. If I say yes, it seems like I surrender all my photographer skills. If I explain that if you crawled inside my camera, stretched yourself over the sensor and looked out the lens and allowed yourself to be adjusted by the camera … then it would begin to look like the scene. At this point I start being viewed as the crazy person!

I recall viewing the pictures of the condo we rented in Hawaii years ago. It looked nice but modest which made sense given the reasonable price. When we arrived, I was surprised at how much nicer the place was than what I expected. I even tried to figure out how they managed to make photos that accidently undersold the place but I never quite figured it out.

My photos of mountains end up the same way. Oh sure some of them are beautiful enough but not one of them ever shows the grandeur of being there. I don’t recall anyone else’s images doing that either. It might be the simple problem of trying to reduce thousands of feet into a photo. I just can’t capture the feeling of being so incredibly small looking at a photo of a mountain and that’s really the best part for me.

Depending on the skill of the photographer, photos can accidently make things better or worse all the time. Photos don’t lie, according to the old expression, that skillfully neglects to mention that they don’t tell the truth either. It is a rather inconvenient obstacle when trying to answer a simple question. So what do I do with the question? After much consideration, I have come up with a new, pithy answer – yes.

Let the chips fall where they may.

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Latest Comments

  1. Girl Gone Expat says:

    I would have to agree with you. When it comes to the rockies none of my photos shows the grandeur of being there. It is just impossible to capture in one picture! I mean, the pictures are good, but you’d still be amazed when you get there and see it for yourself!

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  2. Gunta says:

    Ahhh… and I so love the way your chips fall! 😀

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  3. Dick Trew says:

    So, let me see if I got this right. ‘No… Kind of, in a technical way… well, sort of. All things considered, yes! (allowing for shades of variance…) That’s it–definitely a maybe, depending on the meaning of the question (allowing for the questioner’s perspective) and the way the photographer’s mind is inclined to approach at the moment of questioning (and subsequent ruminations).’

    Thanks, Lyle! It brought a smile and a fuller appreciation of some lovely landscapes.

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  4. Toasty Strings says:

    Yes! I’m always so disappointed when my landscape photos seem so “small” and never properly capture the obvious grandeur of a place.

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  5. donna213 says:

    I really love the last image. The tiny trees really show how big the place really is. I know a pro garden photographer that say.”s the camera always lies.” While I get the reasoning, it still is the photographer that makes it all the more what was felt rather than what was seen.

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  6. krikitarts says:

    Ah, the never-ending dilemma. You’ve captured it quite well. Since we all know that the camera cannot “see,” with one “glance,” what the human eye can see, and since we’ve also learned that we can bring out what we saw (Ansel would have said “visualized”) when we made the image, we’re not presenting to our viewers anything that was not there at capture, so the “yes” answer is fully appropriate–unless we take after-capture processing to extremes, which opens up other worlds of fantasy and expression. But that’s another story.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Though it is a dilemma, the way you described reminds me all over again why I enjoy photography. There’s something about finding a scene and making it my own that is really special.

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  7. Steve Gingold says:

    That has become among the toughest of questions we have to answer now. I take it just a tad further and say “Yes, it looks just as I intended”.
    What you say is quite true. Nothing, at least nothing yet, can replicate the actual experience of having been there. Even the new technology’s ability to reproduce with such clarity along with now time lapse and sound cannot truly bring us there.

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  8. Vicki says:

    I know exactly what you’re talking about.
    And while I am an amateur (photographer) and limited by certain health restrictions in walking and eyesight, I occasionally make a great image which seems to show what I am seeing. Sometimes I suspect it’s the words I write in the post that contribute to ‘telling the story’. I guess the best way to reveal the majesty in a mountain, it to include some small details to give it some perspective. Like a figure or house.

    I find tweaking the mid tones in post processing also helps. It may improve the image where my lack of skill as a photographer fails.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      It’s great to have those tools to help create the feeling of a photo. I only wish I was better at that but I keep plugging away. Like you, I also think that words can help set the tone for a photo to make it reach all it can be. I appreciate your perspective.

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  9. Alison and Matt says:

    Beautiful shots, Lyle! I like the bottom one best, too. Which mountain is this?

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      It was one of those days after a fresh snow where every mountain was putting on quite a display. I was at Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park when I took that photo.

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  10. Lavinia Ross says:

    Those mountain scenes are all breath-taking, Lyle. The first one though, gives me one of those “memory” feelings, and I like it best. I can feel the dampness of the fog and “hear” the silence of the mist covered mountain in that scene. It pulls me back to another time and place that still live in one of the corners of my mind.

    A totally different mountain scene also exist in only memory now, but having seen all these beautiful images you capture, I do wonder how you might have captured it through your lens. On our way to our closing in Oregon back in 2003, the last day of a 7 day journey in winter, we came up through Shasta Pass at sunrise, just as the rising sun came up on the peak of Mount Shasta. That snow-covered mountain was bathed in a fire of red, orange and bright gold which seemed to emanate from the ancient volcanic peak. We had to make time and couldn’t stop, and sunrise continued. The moment came, and left as quickly. This scene is a treasured one.

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  11. David says:

    Most of the time (except for insect photography) I am not just trying to document what something looked like but what I felt when I saw it. That means that at the time of capture I may intentionally under or over exposure, set the mode to vivid, or make other adjustments in camera. Then there a multitude of things I might do in post processing to convey the feel of what was seen so the photo does not really look like what I saw, but what I felt.

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Yes that’s exactly right – you described it well. The documentary part of photography is a start but the jewels come when the feeling comes through.

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  12. Seenorway says:

    I think I like the last one best, Lyle. Magnificent!

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