Reflections of Creation

One of the greatest things that God has given humans is the ability to see beauty in the world around us. I have never noticed my dog stop and stare at the beauty of a forest or the incredible colors of a sunset, but these things have the ability to stop me in my tracks in wonder and awe. This website is my attempt to capture some of the beauty and glory of an indescribable God by capturing reflections of Him that I see in His creation.


the state of photography today

Ok, I am going to go on a rant today, so I must warn you: don't read on past this picture from Antelope Canyon if you don't want to be bored:

Ok, Alison encouraged me to share all of this with you, so here you go. You can blame her for my ranting today. :-)

An added note: I want to make sure that I point out that my post today is about landscape and nature photography. While there are points you might want to apply to portrait photography and the like, that is not what I am doing. I am a nature photography guy, and that is what I am focusing on today. Thanks!

Early on in February, I got disgusted with the state of photography today and I quit posting regularly. And when I did post, it was only because I forced myself to. I stopped on the day I got a magazine in the mail. I had never read a photography magazine before, but I recently have subscribed to 2 different mags (one was an awesome Christmas gift). I had gotten my first copy in the mail early in February and excitedly flipped it open to a random page. On the page was a gorgeous landscape picture of some flowers growing in front of these beautiful mountains. I was mesmerized by the pic. It was really beautiful and I couldn't understand how it was so crisp-the flowers inches away were just as in focus as the mountains miles away. It wasn't until I read how he took the picture that it made sense: I had made the mistake of thinking he took one picture. This one picture in the magazine was a composite of several pictures. He took several pictures all focusing on different spots and then merged them all together so everything is in focus. That was seriously impressive work. I thought the picture was impossible and it was: the human eye cannot focus that way much less a camera.

So, here's what gets me. I always saw photography mainly as capturing what we see, not going beyond what we see. And let me say this upfront: I am an amateur in every sense of the word. I take pictures solely for fun. I have not ever sold a picture. I've never had a picture published (added note: well, I guess I had one in a newspaper photography contest). The only money I've ever made was $250 for a photography show and a $25 gift certificate (to a woman's makup shop no less - ha!) for winning "shutterbug of the year" by our local paper a couple of years ago. And because of my amateur status, I am not a fan of altering pictures. I truly feel that most photography should capture what you see and not go really far beyond that. But that is not what photography is today. I like to look at other pictures and I enjoy seeing photography contests, but I am getting tired of seeing every amateur photography contest won not by the use of cameras, but by the use of professional tools like photoshop. I see lots of amateur photography contests won with mediocre pictures altered with excellent photoshop work. Those two magazines I have subscriptions to spend far more time talking about how to alter your pictures than they do about how to take great pictures. And I am guilty of it as well; that "shutterbug of the year" award? I won that for the middle picture posted here. It's obviously altered and I even cropped it before I sent it in. After I won, I later heard from the judges - it was the photoshop that won the award. They had never seen a look like that; it would not have won unaltered.

Of course, I am not selling pictures. This is not what I am ranting about. I just do not like there being more emphasis on the altering of pictures than the taking of pictures, and that is what I see in the state of photography as it is today. My personal rule is that I shouldn't spend longer altering a picture than I spend setting up and taking a picture. And it should stick true to what is seen. Let me give you another example.

I am writing this post today because of a question I was asked yesterday. There is an amazing photographer by the name of Peter Lik. This guy takes unreal pictures, and I am constantly floored by what he does. He has a new tv show coming on the Weather Channel that I can't wait to see. I think it is great of The Weather Channel to air a photograph show, so on March 31st, tune in and watch From the Edge with Peter Lik. I hope to someday be half of the photographer that he is, but someone asked me about one of his Antelope Canyon pictures they had seen on the website for the show. Check it out here. I was asked how he took this picture to get these great colors, and I want to deal with that for a minute. It is a truly amazing shot. In his description he talks about waiting days for the light to be just right, and I believe him. While the light is great, the colors are not true to life. But I doubt a professional like him is taking pictures to represent what you and I would see if we were in Antelope Canyon. That's not his job. But I do want you to realize this is not what you would see there. I don't really want to get too far off track here, but let me say that he is not adding to what is there, he is just enhancing the colors that are there to help bring them out and not be so subtle.

So, I wanted to experiment. I decided to alter my camera's raw file for the shot I posted at the top of this blog post. I tried to bring out the same colors that the Peter Lik shot shows, and I think I got close enough without spending a lot of time on it. I altered the raw file using the canon software and did not use photoshop. Here is what I came up with:

That is a much more dramatic look than the one I posted on the top of the blog. The colors are gorgeous and it looks really impressive. But here is what gets me: this is not a realistic picture. In my mind, this is no longer a photograph but digital art. Even the top shot I posted is altered. Here is the shot straight from the camera:

So, here is a look at all 3 versions of this picture. The left hand side is straight off of the camera while the middle is sharpened with some white balance work done to it and the right is my attempt at Peter Lik colors:

So, what has led to the norm for photographers to alter their pictures so drastically? In truth I could talk for a long time about it and it's not all bad. But my point with this post is simply this: I believe a lot of what you see today should not be classified as photography but digital art.

And now here is where I get off my high horse and ask, "where the line is between photography and digital art?" I obviously do some sharpening and some post work on my pictures (which dslr people should). Does that take me out of the realm of photography and into digital art? I'm not sure. My favorite tool for a landscape photographer is a polarizing filter, yet isn't that itself already cheating? In a way I think so, yet I am unwilling to quit using it. I have posted a number of pictures altered with the "retro love" photoshop action, and I think they look neat, but I never meant to claim it represented reality. And since I feel the pictures look altered, I was okay posting them. Does that make me a photography hypocrite? Maybe so. I'm just sharing my unresolved thoughts on the issue. I just feel sad for people who travel somewhere to see something they saw pictures of online or in a travel book only to be disappointed with the real thing because the reality is far from the pictures they have seen.

And just because I wanted to try, here is my attempt at post production work with the closest thing I have to the Peter Lik shot. He was using a much wider angle lens that I was (which is pretty obvious to see). I could go on for a while about about how his is superior in just about every way (I would like to see the original-this guy is really good). My focus here was just to get the colors to match without spending a lot of time on it, so I didn't do any work fixing the "blemishes" in the rock.

Oh, and I promise to be less whiny tomorrow. :-)

4 responses

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  • Judy said so, on

    Amen, Brother! There is too much substituting in today's world, and we're loosing our grip on reality. Your photos are great. I brag on you a lot.

  • Mom said so, on

    Understand totally what you are saying & agree w/Judy that "there is too much substituting" -- in a lot of areas!
    I love your nature photos & love that they are real(or altered) -- they are beautiful to look at & I think that is the purpose of your pictures -- to see something beautiful.
    Let's stick to the "real" & enjoy what we really have!

  • dayib said so, on

    Men comb their hair (if they have it), women use make up etc.., photoshop is the comb and the make-up if you like it.
    Crime scene photography and legal documentation photoos are in my opinion the only pictures that should remain photoshop free, artistic photography is not what our eyes see, they are the interpretation of what our minds imagine from the signals that our eyes transmit to our brains, photoshop helps us visualize those imaginations.

  • Anonymous said so, on

    I just stumbled across this, and it's an interesting rant. Modification or manipulation of photos has been around for a long time. Even the classic landscape guys like Ansel Adams did a lot of manipulation in the darkroom. Dodging, burning, contrast adjustment, etc have been around since the invention of photography.

    I think the main difference is between photography as "art" and photography as "documentation". The goal of the artist is to elicit a feeling, or an emotion. To make you think or feel. You can like it or not, but it's their vision. While I may agree that some artists push it too far, it's still their art.

    On a more technical note, try taking one of your Antelope canyon photos in RAW format, and adjust the white balance of it in Lightroom or your favorite RAW editor. If left on Auto, it reads the canyon as more of a Tungsten or Fluorescent light. This gives a lot of purples and blues. Your eyes can adjust and handle much more than a camera sensor. To the human eye, it looks more like the white balance on cloudy, or shade. Which is correct? Even the purples and blues are Straight out of the camera.

    Peter Lik specifically used to shoot on Fuji Velvia, although he does mostly digital now. Velvia is famous for oversaturated colors, which is why it was a favorite of landscape photographers.


the most important part of this website

I enjoy photography and I always find myself wanting more time to be outside with a camera. The idea of posting my pictures was born out of the love for my wife, Alison (, who hates it when I do not take my days off. This website, reflections of creation, is a way to force me to get out of the office from time to time and putting me outside where I love to be. While a creative outlet for me, I hope this is an encouraging site for you, and one which helps point you to the Creator of all this beauty around us. God is so much bigger and amazing than we could ever imagine, and He loves you and me! What an amazing thought! He loves us so much that He was even willing to let His son, Jesus, die as a sacrifice for us. That fact is more beautiful than any picture you will see on this website. I hope you know Jesus, but if you do not, please email me or go to Thanks again for coming and stop by again soon.

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