Image or Art?

Cape buffalo with oxpecker sepia toned

Cape Buffalo and Oxpecker, Nakuru, Kenya

So what is it that takes any given image from the category of photograph and elevates it to the category of art? Chris Orwig in his book Visual Poetry says that “good art entails pulling together little fragments of the world and putting them together in a picture.” He compares that process to the writing of poetry. A poet carefully selects a few words and and sets them in just the right sequence in order to communicate and idea, feeling, or emotion. Any word that does not enhance the poem is ruthlessly stricken from the poem. “Poems require a distillation which concentrates and intensifies their meaning and effect.” Chris goes on to say that great artists know how to tell just enough of the story to achieve maximum impact. I really appreciate Chris and have learned a lot from him through his writing and his training videos. He is an awesome teacher and a great inspiration for me.

So, when it comes to my PhotoArt, I evaluate my images in Lightroom and tag any that speak to me in some way. I look for some element or aspect to snag my attention and hold it for a bit. I then start looking for ways to enhance that one thing; to draw attention to it. The picture below of a cape buffalo lying on the beach in Lake Nakuru Park was pleasing to my eye. I was drawn to the muted colours and the docile expression on the powerful beast’s face. It seemed to be a contradiction of the powerful and the peaceful. I was intrigued. Then, I noticed the little oxpecker bird peeking out from behind her ear. That was the clincher for me.

Cape Buffalo with oxpecker RAW file

RAW file - 1/640s, f-5, 70-200mm@200mm with 1.4x

After making the standard Lightroom BASIC adjustments to exposure, black point, contrast and clarity I had an image that I liked, but as far as I was concerned it was not yet art.

Cape Buffalo with oxpecker edited file

with Lightroom edits

In my mind there were still too many distractions detracting from the image. The colour was nice but not captivating so I dropped down to the B&W panel and pushed the yellow, green, aqua, and blue sliders over to the right to brighten up the background that was not adding anything to the composition. That was nice, but the buffalo and bird needed a stronger presence so I went back to the BASIC panel and pumped up the brightness and blacks. I was careful to maximize the lighting on the eyes. Now the image was starting to speak. I wanted to restore some of the gentle warmth and richness to the image so I used the SPLIT TONING panel to warm up the shadows.

There you have it. Did I manage to to take the image from a documentary representation of an animal lying on a beach and elevate it to art? Let me know what you think.


About Mike

An Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop who loves to see what can be drawn out of a RAW file.
This entry was posted in image editing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *