Postcard from Camogli, Italy

In Travel, Workshops and Events by David48 Comments

I almost feel bad about this one; this is a pretty nice place. So I’ll spare you the details. I was going to tell you about the town of Camogli, and that I shot this sitting on a patio drinking a glass of white wine while eating cheese and salamis and watching the Italy Within The Frame team do the same. It’s rough here, but these folks are troopers – they take their daily dose of pasta and coffee and wine without complaining.

This morning we took the 8am boat to San Fruttuoso on choppy seas under moody clouds, arriving at the abby without another tourist around. Lovely.

Hope you’re all well. The new eBook – Vision Is Better – is now done and sitting on the server reader for release on the 29th of April. And the follow-up to Andrew S. Gibson’s first eBook about Black and White photography will come out as the May release, it’s already on its way to layout. Other than that, it’s day after day of chasing our muses, wherever we are. Grab your camera and go make some photographs. πŸ™‚

Wish you were here. – David.

PS – The image above, as well as the one on the post previous was shot with a Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer, and an ND grad, with almost nothing done in post. The Gold-N-Blue Polarizer is a magical thing, the closest I’ve yet come to the mythical Un-Suck Filter, and I’m dangerously close to over-using it. But I’m OK with that.


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  2. @Scott. Interestingly there is a line of ND filters from Singh-Ray that were developed with Galen Rowell,
    just saying.
    Again we come to the journalistic/documentary photography vs photographic art discussion. There’s room for both, and more. Who says someone who engages in one cannot cross into the other to fuel their creative juices.

  3. Pingback: The expressive print and the question of honesty. « Visual Storyteller

  4. While transcribing the paragraph on Ansel Adams’ description of the expressive print in my previous post above, I missed a line. The complete quote follows. Sorry. The point still being that photography as art should be boundless when it comes to creativity and applying the artist’s visualization of the image he/she is creating. Honesty is not the issue when artistic interpretation is being applied to create art.

    β€œWe should know what we desire in our print before we expose the negative. Then we expose and develop the negative to achieve the required sequence of opacities that is the foundation of the visualized print or enlargement. But we must remember that the print need not be a literal transcription of the negative any more than the negative is a literal transcription of the values in the subject photographed. And the print, of course, cannot be a literal transcription of the subject.”

  5. The Camogli image is spectacular. I have downloaded the file David has graciously offered and it greets me every time I boot up my computer. Thanks David.

    Now here are my two cents on the discussion about ‘honest” photography. I think a quote from Ansel Adams’ book, The Print, sums my view best:

    “We should know what we desire in our print before we expose the negative. Then we expose and develop the negative to achieve the required sequence of opacities that is the foundation of the visualized print or enlargement. But we must remember that the print need not be a literal transcription of the values in the subject photographed. And the print, of course, cannot be a literal transcription of the subject.”

    Ansel was talking about ‘the expressive print’ as art. Art, by definition, has no boundaries or rules that stifle creativity. ’nuff said.

  6. David, I love it when you take time to send postcards of your travels! I’ve had a week full of dealing with teenage turmoil, so I’m especially thankful for this bit of beauty that you’ve added here.

    After reading the comments, I am reminded that I have the choice to see my life through the lens of reality or through the filter of optimism. Both have their place and both can be advantageous; but where I hope to create beauty, I might need the filter of optimism!

    If the polarizer has been discontinued, perhaps you can get them to create a Special Edition David duChemin Gold-n-Blue-Vision polarizer for those of us who would welcome an “almost” Un-Suck Filter.

    then perhaps we can find a way to apply it to –
    teenagers whose attitudes suck,
    blog posts that use the word “suck” a few too many times,
    and blog-post comments that suck.
    …just a thought.

    safe journey!

  7. Pingback: David duChemin’s Postcard from Camogli, Italy

  8. @ Cathy, Thats a great story. You know, I have heard similar things from others. It’s crazy when most of my friends are digital point and shoot owners. EVERYTHING they take has been adjusted by their camera more so than the SLR owners who shoot in raw.

    I guess this really comes down to an argument on photo journalism versus every other form of photography. One of them you shouldn’t adjust anything, with all of the others you can do whatever you want. But, the photographer still “chooses” whats in the shot with photo journalism, and as such is cheating anyway.

    Interesting to hear everyone’s point of view regardless.

  9. Wow….stimulating post to say the least. I have just got to get my thoughts in on this topic…..

    First off, David, your image is nothing short of spectacular. Well done, perhaps the wine assisted your artistic vision for the day, eh?

    Secondly, art/photography is but one’s interpretation of a vision is it not?

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion/judgement of an image or piece of work. However, it also takes some maturity to provide criticism in a palatable way, some have learned this. Others haven’t.

    Now when it comes to photography in the 21st century, unless you are using straight film without filters there is always going to be some degree of pixel/light manipulation whether it be at the lens, from within the processor of the camera or the post processing software we use.

    The end result is that of the artist’s choosing and no one else’s.

  10. David, what a great shot. I personally have never been to Italy, but would love to go. Photos like this one make me want to go even more. My wife and I are currently travelling in Peru and there are some great photo ops here too, but there is something special about Europe. Great post and a great photo!!

  11. @ Enrico…sorry, I wasn’t responding your comment. It was more to someone further up who said…”Am I the only one who thinks the use of color filters can lead to a picture that is… um… dishonest?”

    It’s always an interesting topic, and one that gets many of us rather passionate about our stances it seems. πŸ™‚

    @Stephen…I was with a friend on a shoot one time, and she has a passing interest in photography, and so I was explaining a little bit about RAW files to her. Maybe I did a bad job of it, but I was talking about (amongst other things) how there is more leeway with a RAW file to ‘fix’ exposures without degrading the file. Her response? “Oh, right…so it’s sort of cheating….”

  12. I don’t know who is dishonest now: the folks over at Nikon who make my camera’s raw compression algorithms or me for adjusting the raw file once it’s out of my camera. My mates monitor drives me crazy too, it really makes me look like a dishonest chap, while on my screen it looks natural. What can we do Dave do you have the answers? Anyone?

    David, on a side note, what programs do you use to create your fabulous little pdf booklets? Can you get away with Apple pages if I want to make them print ready? Thanks in advance.

  13. I am really sorry but perhaps I was misunterstood probably because I am not an English language native and my phrase was not clearly expressed.
    I did not intend at all to say “not honest”. On the contrary, my saying was just expressing against the fact that some people tend to show pictures as “natural” and not revealing the particular nature under some effects with the intention to express some particular “art” they know underneath. I did not inted at all to say that this is a case of David.
    I just wanted to say that I liked Camogli picture as it stands out among many just for the particular resulting effect and it is nice to do different pictures in many ways and therefore and furthermore I liked David explanation.
    It was not my intention to trigger a discussion on “honest photography” (who will ever reasonably think that Adams or Salgado or the other ones are dis-honets…. and after all even the very famous Capa “marines” or “Paris war ending kiss” photos are universally known as masterpieces even if they were not really “natural”) and nothing at all to raise doubts about the pro work of David which I appreciate and I would have liked to meet and know.

  14. I agree with David that this whole idea of photography being ‘objective’ and a means of telling a ‘truth’ is wildly overstated. Even (or especially?) in photojournalism.

    A story being told within a frame is never the full picture. Photographers use techniques to add resonance and meaning; from changing aperture, shutter speed, point of view, flash and yes…filters.

    And what about composition? What you choose to put inside the frame, and what you choose to leave out. An image is never telling a truth….it is always a subjective interpretation by the photographer.

    What makes a GOOD photographer is how he or she uses equipment and techniques and an understanding of light and composition to tell a story, or capture an emotion or describe a scene or place.

    Photography is many things to many people, but I’m not sure worrying about images being ‘honest’ is a particularly useful stance. Living in the world and photographing that world are not the same thing. Never has been and never will be.

    OK. I’m done!

  15. All this over the use of a filter? Fine, it may not be ‘pure’ enough for some, but what is ‘pure’ anyway? Pure = no Gold n Blue, no ND filters, no ND Grads, no polarisers, no Photoshop, no B&W (that’s not how the human eye interprets light) blah blah blah. It was how David duChemin saw that image. Nothing more. To question his professional integrity because he used a filter might be a mildly provocative debate but in every other sense is utterly laughable.

  16. Photography is different to different people. Personally I like the photo and think the filter added a cool effect. I think sometimes we take all of, well, everything a bit too seriously. For me photography is fun and I think it would be fun to try out a filter such as this. I honestly did not know there was a filter that could do this. I tinker in Photoshop a bunch and do not feel dishonest or misleading. I am making photographs/art and having fun learning a skill. To each their own. I especially do not feel this is dishonest because the filter is discussed the picture is there. Imagination is a fun thing. Capturing an it in an image is a good feeling. Keep it up.

  17. David
    Congratulations on the birth of
    Vision is Better.

    I find your writing and work honest, full of character, and like a fresh spring of clear mountain water, continually refreshing!


  18. Hi David
    I wish I knew you were coming over here .. I would have liked to know you… as I am generally staying in Genoa.
    As far as the filter matter is concerned I remember once a clever photographer frind of mine that said to me – in a period I discovered Cokin filters and I bought dozens of them..: “do the picture as it is, natural. You can add all the filter you want then”.. and there was no post pc work at the time.
    I did that way since (apart from using pola filter) but in any case I think everyone is free to experiment what they want the important thing is to be honest to say the procedure with no fakes.
    In this respect your photo of Camogli (seen from here in thousands ways) is very nice.
    All the best from Enrico. Ciaoo

  19. I don’t mind a photo being colorized (though I’d prefer that being disclosed), but don’t agree with “Apart from photo-journalism, a picture is a picture, not a poor substitute for reality, and anything that makes it a better picture is fair play.” As the Art Wolf example illustrates, I agree it is deception as the photo is represented as something the magazine reader would have believed was photo-journalistic truth-telling.

    This discussion reminds me of an article where photographers were offered the suggestion to take sky photos to incorporate into another photo that needed something with a little extra oomph. Perhaps photos should come with a disclaimer about images being fictionalized accounts of events much like as is done with novels?

  20. @ Scott – ( I spelled it right this time) – I completely agree with you when it comes to Photoshop collages and drop-ins…to me – excuse my Chicago, but that’s bullshit. That crosses my line.

    It’s one thing to bend light with filters or bend pixels with PS, but to dissemble and re-assemble several pictures to make one ceases to be “photography” in any sense. It may be “image making” but it doesn’t belong next to things we all agree are photography.

    There was a cover on Outdoor Photography shot by Art Wolf of delicate arch where has a beautiful full moon inside the arch. The problem is that as shot, the moon was quite small. He took another shot of the moon with a longer lens then sandwiched that moon inside the arch to get his “look”.

    He says he “had no choice” but yes, he did. It makes for a nice image, but it isn’t photography to me. I sure some will disagree with me and that’s fine. We all have our line.

  21. @David – Let me see if I can explain. Say the next advert from World Vision arrives in my mailbox with prominent pictures from world-class photographer David duChemin. The images show a shriveled child in front of a village that is aflame. Now, if I believe that David duChemin is a man of integrity, I would never for a second wonder if the entire scene was contrived, posed and not real. But if I don’t know where he stands as a person on honesty with his photography, I would not know whether to believe the image or not. It may be “emotionally real” but is it reality?

    There’s nothing wrong with being “artistic” and striving for “emotional reality.” But it comes at a cost, and that cost is that every image – by every photographer – becomes questionable.

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  23. I personally like the David’s photo. I have seen enough of them to the point that I could tell the difference between a DuChemin and another photog. I like his style. It appeals to me for many reasons. The only thing missing from the above pic is a couple of blurry birds. πŸ˜‰

    David uses techniques and gizmos to interpet his vision. He draws his own line in the sand. In the age of photoshop, there are many ways to interpet vision compared to the old days of film. Even in the old days, photogs manipulated photos in the dark room… not to the extent of digital but they still did, regardless. What if Ansel Adams had photoshop?

    I would think it near impossible to take an image straight from the camera, no filters ect. and have it truly resonate what you want people to see and feel.

  24. Author

    @Scott – I think we’re in agreement that if this raises questions we need to find answers to then it’s a worthwhile discussion. Art is not made to create concensus – that’s propaganda. So long as we’re all willing to approach each other with respect, I think that’s a good thing. I still contend that the issue is with the age-old premise that the camera never lies. Even Galen Rowell used ND filters extensively, and it’s a fine line from that to the HDR-look so popular today – if there is a line. This craft has never been objective and the need to pretend it is only blocks our creativity.

    I’m OK with people not liking the look of this image. I’m OK with people not using filters or a specific technique in their own work. I’m not OK with the inference that my work is dishonest merely because someone else began with a faulty premise. My work, in this case, is MORE honest for the use of this filter, because it expresses how I saw and felt the scene in front of me.

    Still, the discussion is an important one if it’s done with respect and without the need to force others into our own particular art ethic, which I think we can all agree is still, at its best, merely a line drawn in the sand around our own particular preferences.

  25. Seems I hit a nerve with some of you. If I sparked some thoughts, so much the better. I became very sensitive to this topic reading Bryan Peterson’s work. He had a beautiful photo of a cabin at sunset, and then in the text he explained how the window had been dark, so he photoshopped it to make it look like the light had been on. The photo was very successful commercially, but what he did struck me as wrong.

    I suspect that the “cows have already left the barn” in regards to literal photography. We can no longer approach a picture and trust that it was as the photo represented it. Some tools, like HDR, try to recreate how the human eye works rather than how the camera works. Others, like Black & White (a personal passion) are obviously impressionistic and therefore are not confused with reality. There is no clear-and-definite line between what is obviously not representational and what is literal, but we all know what “magic light” looks like and it becomes harder to defense it when we routinely “trick” people with color filters.

    “That looks so fake” is a heartbreaking critique after you have spent the time and effort to find the natural colors rather than slapping on a piece of glass.

  26. @Scott. I don’t accept your underlying premise, that “people need to believe that what they see in a picture corresponds to reality”. Apart from photo-journalism, a picture is a picture, not a poor substitute for reality, and anything that makes it a better picture is fair play.

  27. This is an attractive picture of a nice location but I don’t actually like it – sorry. The attraction factor comes from the colour. Personally I don’t care how the colour is achieved. I am tempted to look for the magical Blue-N-Gold filter myself having seen this. But the image itself doesn’t convey anything to me, unlike most of shots by David.

  28. I think sometimes we forget that photographs are more than just what we see; they are also what we feel. Not being there with David and Jeffrey, I am left to my imagination what it might be like and what I see here is what I feel it would be like. Warm and magical.

    I don’t have a Singh-Ray filter but I’ve used a Magenta filter ever since Bryan Peterson suggested it to me a couple of years ago. We’d have to add him to your list above, Rob πŸ™‚

  29. Well, no humane has the ability to claim “honesty” or not, on any art form, including photography. @scoot: you are arrogant to think your views are honest. Simply..who are you? I mean that sincerely, not to rip.

    we have choices we can make as photographers and consumers in what we like or don’t like – it’s all good. I’m not a fan of HDR or over-fluffed post production – but, se la vie.

    Some dis-honest photographers come to mind:

    1. Ansel Adams
    2. Jay Maisel
    3. Tony Sweet
    4. David duChemin
    5. Sebastiao Salgado
    6. David Critchley
    7. David Fokos

    I’m sure there are more… πŸ™‚

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  31. Whose reality? Unless we all pop in Gary Gilmore’s eyes we’re going to all see things differently.

    Seeing this view in person did not feel far removed from this photo. Actually, this photo doesn’t quite do it justice – unless you’re enjoying a glass of chilled Vermentino, a plate of tuna tartare and the scent of the sea while viewing it.

    Anyhow, people need to shoot more and read less – except, of course, David’s books! πŸ™‚

  32. Author

    @Scott – Interesting point, but it leads to a whole series of questions, not the least of which is a question of definition regarding what is or is not honest. Is a photograph taken with a wide angle lens dishonest? What about a tight shot with a 300mm and narrow DOF? Photography by nature is selective and in that sense it is always possible that you see my image as dishonest. But if by this image I am trying to say, this place and time felt like this to me, then it is absolutely honest. In fact it’s the unfair assumption that the camera can even be subjective that keeps photography limited to the domain of representation and not interpretation. Would you ever demand a painter be so literal in his perceptions and his expressions? Why then should we be bound by it? Do black and white photographers need to shoot colour? Should be all shoot at eye level with a 55mm lens? What about flash? Should we never use or modify light? Seems like we’re drawing lines for no reason here. Photographs, like any other form of art or storytelling, are only as honest as the photographer behind them. What filter I use is irrelevant and anyone who tells me how I should or shouldn’t create my work is placing themselves in a pretty indefensible position.

  33. Am I the only one who thinks the use of color filters can lead to a picture that is… um… dishonest? Galen Rowell was often accused of using color filters because “real life doesn’t look like that.” He insisted that he would never use one because people need to believe that what they see in a picture corresponds to reality. Disclosure goes a fair way to achieving honesty, but I feel it takes away from the photo because I know that, were I standing there, I would not see that scene unless I wore special Gold+Blue colored glasses…

  34. Hmmm….I’m interested in the ND grad! I’m shopping for a couple myself and haven’t settled in on the number of stops. hard versus soft, size, etc.
    But…I am constantly “seeing” and visualizing scenes where I want to use one. So, I’d better act fast!
    Just wondering…what are you using?
    (And I love what you’re doing with the gold/blue polarizer…not overdone at all! Very tasteful and appropriate. And inspiring.)

  35. *Will* be there – soon (three weeks to go and counting…)

    Nice work – get us sucked in by another doo dad to buy (ohh – look …filter …yum) only to find they’re no longer available πŸ™‚ Ah well – good thing – gotta save my pennies for vino rosso…

    Please, please oh please keep the photo’s coming – I’m so looking forward to seeing what comes out of Venice ….. except stay away from the Bridge of Sighs – it’ll break your heart to see what they’ve done to it …..

  36. We were exactly where you are last June. I only wish I had read Within the Frame before I had left so I might have taken some better images!! Today I had to pretend I was in Italy having lunch at Il Giardino in Vancouver (where it is a bright sunny beautiful day).

  37. Ah, Italy. One can’t take a bad shot in Italy, can one? Maybe if one over-imbibes…

    Boy, you have a rough job.

  38. David – I was just going to ask you what in the he!! you were doing in post to make these pictures look as they do – not being a big fan of over-bending pixels – I was going to tell you that your color pallet is too cool and I want to un-ashamedly copy this “look” – then you mention the blurb at the bottom about the Singh-Ray filter, as you have before in your writings…

    “Gear is good, vision is better, and when all else fails…a Singh-Ray”? πŸ™‚

    Sweet work.

  39. That’s just mean. Giving such a glowing review on a product that is unavailable anywhere online! Gloat some more why don’t you! (I’m being slightly sarcastic, but it does seem this filter is discontinued?)

  40. This is truly a beautifully made photograph David. I could stare at it for hours over a cup of cappuccino :-). Glad to hear things are going well for all of you and looking forward to your new eBook. Thanks for including us in your trip to Italy. You’re a great inspiration…


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