A few days ago, I was asked if I photoshop my images. It did stirr up some rather strong feelings I have on the matter about manipulation, but perhaps not in the way you may think I mean. Before reading the rest of my post, I encourage you to watch this video first.
Ok, so you watched it? I'd love to know what your feelings are on the matter. But before you rush off to post an entry to me, I'll tell you mine, straight to the point.
I really deplore people who use the word 'photoshop' to imply cheating, like photoshop is bad. It's not. I also don't agree with people who feel that photography should be truthful. In their minds, they have this concept that when the shutter is clicked, the unmanipulated image contains truth. That is incorrect from the start because if it were true, the image would be 3-D. It would also have the same dynamic range that our eyes are able to record, but the simple matter is that cameras, sensors and film do not see the way we see. And in order to convey what we saw, we have to use things like Neutral Density filters and dark room techniques like the ones you saw Ansel doing in the video.
I use photoshop techniques all the time. I'm a big fan of layers and masks. I like to add localised contrast to elements of the scene. I also like to 'suggest' to the viewer aspects of the image by controlling brighness and darkness.
But there is skill in what I do out in the field too. I cannot turn any old image into a good one. I have to have good light, good subject matter and above all else, a sense of strong vision.
I feel I am very much in tune with how Ansel approached his images. He was a master printer. But he had a strong sense of vision and when he saw a scene, he knew how he wanted it to be realised.
It's pretty disparaging when people say 'oh, you photoshopped that', as if to say 'you cheated'. It demeans the value of the work.
Let's put it another way. If it's as simple as just getting a copy of photoshop and playing around with images, we'd all be making great images, but we're not. The subject is a whole lot more complex than just assuming that if you have a really expensive camera or a copy of photoshop, you're going to get great results.