For my personal favorite images that I have chosen to display here, I always like to write an inscription to go along with the photograph. These words are often very personal, and they reflect my thoughts about the image or state of my life at that time.
As one example, it took me about a year and a half to achieve "Moonlight and Misty Waves" from the time I first conceived the image. Every full moon I went to the sea and positioned myself, waiting for the moon to rise above the waves. Always a cloud would obscure the view and my vision would go unfulfilled.
Finally, some 18 months after first imagining the final photograph, I managed to capture it with my camera. It was a very special moment when I knew I had gotten what I sought for so long. The words I wrote for that image are, "Every moment of every day is special... because it will never come again."
I have no intent or desire to try to "re-capture" that image... with a better camera or better lens, to fix what a critical eye (including my own) sees as technical "problems". It was, for me, one special moment in time that will not come again.
What is the difference between photography and art?
Photography literally means "writing with light". Art is "creative expression". I believe that these two terms are not mutually exclusive. Therefore photography can be art.
Of course, photography is not always art. A photograph that simply documents a person, thing, or event and fixes it into an arrangement of dyes and pigments on film or paper is not art in itself.
What makes a photograph go beyond the boundaries of the simple film and paper emulsion to become art? Basically, I think it is the same thing that allows a simple slab of rock to transcend the mundane and show its inner beauty as a carved sculpture -- that is, it is the person who creates art by investing himself or herself in the effort of creating a thing that is beautiful or meaningful or personally expressive.
In my photography, the thing that I want to elicit most is an emotional response in the viewers of my work. If a person stops to look at one of my photographs and FEELS something, then I have succeeded.
After getting into photography quite seriously for a few years in the early to mid-90's, I hit a brick wall that I couldn't surmount for almost 6 years. During that time my photography stopped and I took nothing more than simple snapshots of family and friends for my own photo album.
What was this brick wall? It is the photography of Galen Rowell (http://www.mountainlight.com/) who was a world-class mountain climber and nature photographer whose work I admire greatly.
Galen Rowell was a bit of a photography purist. He believed that his photography should represent real scenes that he experienced and beheld with his own eyes. He was very committed to this purity, and refused to alter aspects of the image for fear of ruining the integrity of his life's work. His was a very admirable goal, and I wanted to take pictures like Mr. Rowell's.
For me, one of the real problems with nature and scenic photography in general that there is more to a natural scene than just what is before our eyes. There is the wind blowing our hair and tickling our skin. On the beach there is the sound of waves crashing against the shore. There is also the smell of salty sea spray that engages our nose. It is an experience that engulfs us entirely... and it is impossible to capture that entire experience on a simple piece of photographic film.
The scenes I found around Hawaii, while beautiful, often made pretty boring, all-too-typical photographs that I wouldn't be particularly proud to hang on my wall. What they lacked completely was a feeling of wonder that I felt, for example, when I was standing there on the rocks by the sea.
I started to experiment and to use "tricks" (often, but not always) to enhance what would be recorded on film and do what I believed was bringing the image into alignment with what I felt at the time that it was created.
So there I was at a crossroad in my photography. My mind wanted to follow the "pure" path but my heart was longing for the other "creative" road. I stood at that crossroad for many years, not going anywhere.
Now that I have picked up the camera again, I think I have come to terms with my own goals in photography, staying true to myself and what I believe I am capable of in producing meaningful photography, I will do what it takes to produce an image that brings out an emotional response in the viewer because that is what I believe is important. I have chosen to go down the creative path. True and pure photography, it may not be. But it is within the bounds of art, and it is my personal expression.
"Emotion is the essential element that allows a photograph to transcend the ordinary and become something truly special."
I wrote those words in 1994, before hitting my personal wall. I think I have come full circle because those words once again have meaning for me and my photography.