Beach 4 - Olympic National Park
by Mark Goff
United States (WA)
I started pursuing photography in my late thirties after many years of figurative and abstract painting. A failing interest in the vocabulary I developed as a painter motivated me to try something different. With photography, I immediately found that the combination of technical and artistic skills necessary had a strong appeal for me. Despite my life-long pursuit of painting, I have spent the better part of my adult life programming computer software. The analytical skills required for this profession have become an indelible aspect of my identity. Photography has allowed me to reconcile both the creative and analytical aspects of my personality.
I have worked at photographing many different types of subject matter. I continue to experiment, hoping that the variety will help me grow as a photographer. It is safe to say, however, that the wilderness of the United States has a special attraction for me. As a result, I have a larger body of work with this subject matter.
I attribute the attraction to the profound emotional impact I feel when traveling in the wilderness. These places have a power that resonates with me at a bone deep level. I don't mean this in a supernatural way, but simply that something in me responds with joy to these experiences in nature. I return from them feeling relaxed, centered, and happy.
After returning from the field, the process of "developing" the image, if it can be called that in a completely digital workflow, is just as important to me as the process of capture. I strive for the best possible results "in camera" in terms of exposure and composition and utilize optical filters such as polarizers and neutral density grads to enhance the results. This process, nevertheless, is often an exercise of reconciling my memory of the scene with the image that is downloaded from the camera. Invariably my memory is more charged with emotion and meaning. I know that I'm projecting this on the image when I view it and that others viewing it will not have the same relationship with the photograph.
So I view the process of taking the image from camera to print as an opportunity to imbue the final image with as much of that emotion and meaning as my skill will allow. I want to honor the process that went into the capture of the image and the reality of the place and time represented in the photograph, so I avoid techniques that take the image beyond its photographic origins. Done this way, the end result is more meaningful to me and hopefully to the viewer, than an image that owes most of its impact to my command of digital manipulation tools.
In this respect, my workflow involves primarily contrast adjustments, dodging and burning, separation of tones during black and white conversion, and sharpening. All of these techniques are an attempt to increase the sense of depth in the 2D image and apply emphasis to areas of the image that I believe capture the essence of the subject matter.
At the end of the day, it is the immense emotional and intellectual benefit I receive that motivates me to continue working with photography. This is something I hope to share with the viewer of my photographs. Perhaps you will feel something of what I felt when taking the picture. Perhaps you will be inspired to visit the incredible places I have been. Perhaps you will be inspired to pick up a camera and start your own journey.