James M. Hamilton | Fotolosophy



Photography is both a science and an art. In order to be a good photographer one must understand that. Scientifically, one needs to be willing to learn as much as one can about the workings, properties and operations of cameras, histograms, filters, gizmos, color space, post-processing and, most of all, light. The art part takes practice and time and the constant striving to interpret in a two dimensional picture not only what you are seeing in three dimensions, but also what you are experiencing at that moment and then creating an image that will allow your viewers to experience a similar feeling. Although there are a number of basic rules that can help photographers develop as artists, it is up to the individual to perfect his or her own photographic style in order to attract a viewing audience.


In my pre-retired life I practiced internal medicine. I always liked to say that the term "practice" was appropriate because as doctors we are constantly trying to improve our skills and perform them well. The science of medicine is always in a state of flux and keeping up with all the advances is a major undertaking. The art of medicine includes dealing with people - patients and families - often when they are at their worst, sick and dying. Again, this is an art that takes years to develop and, even then, there is always room for improvement.


So, photography and medicine share two big aspects in that they both involve science and art and, therefore, require input from both the left and right brain. As with medicine I am still very much "practicing" photography and  continue to try to learn and improve, even after decades of looking through a viewfinder. I consider myself an "advanced amateur" who avidly reads the writings and studies the works of many professional outdoor photographers. (Of course, I also try to keep current on topics in medicine and continue to teach; I can't totally give up my profession!)


Photography went through a major scientific advancement with the introduction of digital imaging, and the advances keep coming. In the past when film was king controls on cameras were relatively simple compared with today's point-and-shoot, digital single lens reflex (DSLR), tranlucent mirror and mirrorless cameras which have computerized menus allowing a vast number of settings from which to choose prior to pressing the shutter release button. Even our cell phone cameras have such menus! But that is only the beginning. Most photographers today then use a variety of software programs to "post-process" their work and fine tune their images (sometimes overly so) to achieve what took film photographers - or their commercial labs -  hours and days to do in traditional darkrooms.  Moreover, these "digital darkroom" programs allow changes that could only be imagined in the film days. After all that manipulation the only thing that remains to be done is click on the "print" icon and hope that the printer will reproduce reasonably well what was seen on the monitor. With all of these computerized camera and post-processing abilities there is a steep learning curve to be able to utilize them effectively. And then there is always some new technology that gets released the next week! Most casual photographers have neither the time, patience nor desire to learn how to use these tools even though they may invest hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in a medium to high end camera.


Digital imaging also changed the art of photography. Photographers used to spend a lot of money buying film and paying to have it developed and printed - as contact sheets or prints -  then paying more to have  special shots enlarged. Due to those expenses that person would often be frugal with the number of pictures he or she would take. Therefore, many photographers would spend more time setting up, composing and checking light meters before snapping one or two exposures. Today, once someone has invested in a piece of digital film, that person can take literally hundreds of shots and then look through them to find the best ones, upload them to a computer hard drive, erase the digital film and start over. Those who are serious about their photography will still take time to scout a location, compose the picture and be aware of the lighting as well as a number of other adjustments before snapping off multiple images. That is what will differentiate a photograph from a snapshot.


Does listening to an old song take your mind to a certain place, event or time in your life? A good photograph should also be able to do that. It may be of a place or remind you of a place where you have lived, visited or vacationed. What I am trying to do with my landscapes and many of my other images is to transport you into that scene so that you are a part of that picture. Although many scenics can be aesthetically quite beautiful not all will be able to accomplish this. I shall strive toward the goal of having you feel that you are standing where I was when I tripped the shutter release. Also, I would hope that my picures could instill in you a feeling: the sun on your face, a breath of clear mountain air, the cold of a winter's day, a walk through a sunlit aspen grove, the calm after a storm, the serenity of an evening's sunset, the solitude of a forest, the dampness of a rainy day, the sound of a rushing stream cascading through a canyon, the thrill of seeing majestic wildlife and a myriad of other  emotions. To do that I try to incorporate both the science and art of photography, or, at least, practice it.


I would very much appreciate knowing if my images do, indeed, bring you into those scenes. Please use my Blog on this website to do so if you wish, or use the Contact link to email me personally. This will give me some idea of how I can continue to improve. I shall try to respond to all communications.