On Being A Photographer Versus Any Other Type Of Artist

By |2014-07-12T19:21:24+00:00Feb 6th, 2012|

So apparently there was some sort of football game on yesterday… :)

While the Giants were going on to win the championship (w00t New York!), I was meeting up with my two newest friends, Karen Hutton and Ben Canales, to shoot sunset atop Crown Point at the Vista House. I have to say that these two photographers are just fantastic to shoot alongside with and exude creativity and tons of comic relief. It was an absolute pleasure and I look forward to more encounters with these characters.

I cannot begin to accurately tell you how strong the winds were up there last night. It was almost comical – laughing so hard while your eyes involuntarily stream tears from the whipping cold air. And the thing was that if you didn’t brace your tripod down with your own weight, it’d simply blow over. But that’s what we, as photographers, do to get our shots, right?

I pondered this a lot last night over coffee at Stumptown with Karen and Jeffrey Yen. We were discussing the differences and similarities of photographers versus other type of artist. Now, this isn’t meant to be a debate. I am not trying to deliberately spew incendiary opinions, so please don’t react as if that was the case.

My point is pretty simple – as photographers, if we want to create our work, we have to go out to where the work is and create it. If that means hiking through chest-deep water, blistering cold, or across some sandy desert dunes, that is what we have to do. It’s a pay-to-play art form. Whereas a painter, for instance, has the freedom and the luxury to create wonderful and epic work from the comfort of a controlled environment. If a painter wanted to paint the Grand Canyon, he or she isn’t required to be sitting or standing on the rim to do so. If a photographer wants to capture the same place, there really is no other option but to be there. We need to study and master our cameras and the environment all while knowing how to manipulate the camera to best exploit whatever the current environmental conditions are. And really, would we want to have it any other way?

It’s a fairly straightforward opinion and as I was standing atop Crown Point, trying to keep my camera from blowing over in the middle of a bracketed sequence of exposures, I was reminded of just how lucky I am to be a photographer and how much I love my craft.

This is a nine exposure tone-mapped HDR image using Photomatix. I processed the image primarily in Perfect Effects 3 by +onOne Software. Not much done, though – mostly accentuating the warm tones in the building and sunset horizon while cooling off the rest of the sky. I also selectively added some tonal contrast to the Vista House itself to bring out some more texture. I toyed with applying a FocalPoint layer to the sky but I ended up losing a bunch of that gorgeous shape to the clouds and opted to delete that layer.


  1. Kenny Grimes February 6, 2012 at 9:19 am - Reply

    if i didn't like you enough before i apologize…………i do now

  2. Nate Parker February 6, 2012 at 9:22 am - Reply

    It was a good game. Even if the Pats lost-

  3. James Shearer February 6, 2012 at 9:22 am - Reply

    Great photograph!

  4. Erika Thornes February 6, 2012 at 9:23 am - Reply

    well, besides my friend in New Mexico who is a plein air artist… but when she's home, she does paint in a garage studio with a glass of wine… I'm so much more in love with Photography than painting…

  5. Chris Lazzery February 6, 2012 at 9:23 am - Reply

    Sickness. Those textures are rad. I love how you thought to get the sun's reflection in there.

  6. David Stoddart February 6, 2012 at 9:25 am - Reply

    lovely HDR shot :)

  7. christian richter February 6, 2012 at 9:26 am - Reply

    nice hdr work and great light……..<

  8. Patrick Ottoy February 6, 2012 at 9:27 am - Reply


  9. Shelly Gunderson February 6, 2012 at 9:28 am - Reply

    Very nice shot!

  10. Karen Hutton February 6, 2012 at 9:37 am - Reply

    Ohhhhh +Brian Matiash… that day goes into my vault of "treasured memories of a lifetime"! I even look at this photo and start giggling again. That WIND!!! OMFG!!! Hahahahahahahahahaaa!! What a joy to hang with you and +Ben Canales… I cannot WAIT to do it again. And that shot of this spot from across the valley I took? Duuuuuude. Wait'll you see it. teehee.

  11. Karen Hutton February 6, 2012 at 9:37 am - Reply

    Ohhhhh +Brian Matiash… that day goes into my vault of "treasured memories of a lifetime"! I even look at this photo and start giggling again. That WIND!!! OMFG!!! Hahahahahahahahahaaa!! What a joy to hang with you and +Ben Canales… I cannot WAIT to do it again. And that shot of this spot from across the valley I took? Duuuuuude. Wait'll you see it. teehee.

  12. Tisha Craw February 6, 2012 at 9:41 am - Reply

    Beautiful shot, +Brian Matiash. The HDR treatment is fantastic. :)

  13. Tisha Craw February 6, 2012 at 9:41 am - Reply

    Beautiful shot, +Brian Matiash. The HDR treatment is fantastic. :)

  14. timm burgess February 6, 2012 at 9:52 am - Reply

    really impressive A favorite

  15. Brian Matiash February 6, 2012 at 10:07 am - Reply

    Oh wow, thank you everyone! I love it when the company on the shoot exceeds the shoot itself.

  16. Jeff Dowell February 6, 2012 at 10:12 am - Reply

    Absolute awesomeness!

  17. Michael Lawson February 6, 2012 at 10:15 am - Reply

    I just spent a cold rainy day on the MIssissippi waiting for Eagles to show off. It was cold, windy, no eagles to speak of. I was with 16 other photographers from a group I go out with and I loved every minute of that day regardless of coming home with only a few shots. The company was awesome!

  18. Brian Matiash February 6, 2012 at 10:18 am - Reply

    +Michael Lawson Awesomeness. Isn't it great to have a great consolation prize with good people? :)

  19. Karen Hutton February 6, 2012 at 10:19 am - Reply

    Oh and +Brian Matiash … this image is NOT a consolation prize… it's fabulous dot com!!!

  20. Michael Lawson February 6, 2012 at 10:20 am - Reply

    You bet it is! Also makes it easy to open up and try new things, fail at new things, and ultimately master new things when you enjoy the people AND the art. Great shot by the way.

  21. Ben Canales February 6, 2012 at 11:05 am - Reply

    This is sweet +Brian Matiash ! I started processing one that looked cool and then saw you posted a shot, came over here and immediately felt intimidated to go back and be a bit more picky in the picture I posted from the day! laughing
    This is gorgeous. The color, warmth, tone, crunchy contrasty detail- love it. Add in intentional use of a fisheye distortion and good composition to boot- NICE take on the Vista House.

    Yeah, yesterday was a blast. It's always a privileged honor to escort a visitor to some of our treasured landscapes close in to Portland, and doing that with +Karen Hutton – that was fun :-)
    Karen, love the wild and free sense of humor- thanks for being such a fun and appreciative guest to our corner of the country! As an East-coaster, I really value some sarcasm and edgy humor, love how it's just natural for you. I am excited to see what your first post of the trip will be, Karen.

    Brian, in regards to your thoughts above- it's an interesting point. To further the line of thought, a writer dreams up a reality from the comfort of a desk and a musician crafts a fantastic journey in rooms isolated from outside noise and intervention. Granted, all artists usually pull MASSIVE and mutual inspiration from the beauty outdoors, but photographers do seem to have a unique requirement of having no choice but to go to the subject to get the beginning material. As technology improves and our one camera becomes more and more dynamic (video, HDR, time-lapse) then we are able to carry incredibly powerful media gathering potential in a very mobile package. There has always been adventureres going to the farthest, highest, deepest reaches, but never has it been so simple to record and then showcase back to the masses what is experienced in these places so far away.

    My Crown Point picture is taking up way too much time of my day, but I can't stop geeking out on it!

  22. Karen Hutton February 6, 2012 at 11:27 am - Reply

    GREAT points +Ben Canales (oh and you're welcome for the edgy humor… it's just always there, waiting to come out and play. I loves me a likewise edgy pair of East-coasters to enjoy the moment with!)

    I love your corner of the world and can't wait to come back! Need. To. See. More! And you know I'm going to… ;-))

    About the artist thing… I think the only other artist that comes close to what we do is the plein-air painter. They do go out in the world and create right then and there… it's very dynamic and in-the-moment, just like us. And with such lovely results! Wind knocks 'em over worse than it does us though… so yesterday's blusterfest would have been a big ix-nay on the ainting-pay. But photogs really are part artist, part adventurer. Can't wait to see what cameras bring our way in the coming years to do it all more dynamically than ever!

    In the meantime, can't wait to see what you're creating over there from our Big Day Out. I'm ready when you are… heh.

  23. Vicki Wilson February 6, 2012 at 11:45 am - Reply

    Awesome image, looks like a lot more fun than the football game! Of course my team wasn't there this year :o)

  24. Sebastian Ruhs February 6, 2012 at 11:51 am - Reply

    I like the colors and the fish-eye effect!

  25. Ben Canales February 6, 2012 at 11:57 am - Reply

    +Karen Hutton I am playing around with exercising some artistic freedom, so need a little more time…

  26. Karen Hutton February 6, 2012 at 12:03 pm - Reply

    As we WELL know, there is simply no rushing creativity and artistic freedom!! wink. Can't wait to see what you come up with… WHEN you good 'n ready!

  27. Mark Tyler February 6, 2012 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    Great shot and it sounds like a fun time shooting! I shot film up there on Crown Point when I was a teenager, but that was about 35 years ago! Probably time for a return visit …

  28. Ben Canales February 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm - Reply

    +Brian Matiash +Karen Hutton Hmmm.. interesting question to you and others on this post considering the thought on photographer "vs" other artist- I'm processing this image and I'm thinking about modifying what was really there. Is this photography or should it be classified as something else?

    At what "line" do we go from photographer to "media artist" more like a painter or illustrator. The question of whether or not HDR is photography is long dead. But, what about cloning out a car or sign post?

    Do we have to call ourselves something different such as "Photograher Artist" if our images have elements physically changed from the physical reality of what was there?

  29. Lance Rudge February 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    Really beautiful take on Crown! I was headed up there, but stuck downtown because of the high winds.

  30. Joe Ercoli February 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    I was thinking the same thing about our sacrfices to get the shot, +Brian Matiash, as I was huddled in a little foxhole on the side of a hill overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday morning at about 6AM…

  31. Karen Hutton February 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    Do we really have to label what we do +Ben Canales? I'm of the opinion that as artists PERIOD we do what strikes us as beautiful/fulfilling/whatever, in order to create our vision. If that takes us into our own personal uncharted territory…so be it. Others will label it soon enough, saving us all that effort…& in the meantime we'll have moved on to our next creation…maybe into some other uncharted, wondrous land that we'll leave for others to label. Our hearts…and the art it expresses in its own signature manner…will really never be tamed by mere labels anyway.

    This philisophical opinion brought to you by My Opinion.
    Typos courtesy of the iPhone.

  32. Brian Matiash February 6, 2012 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    +Karen Hutton +Ben Canales et al. – A very good question, indeed. Now, obviously, this is just my interpretation and opinion on the matter but I break it down like this:

    Photography is the means that we employ to create our art. What we do with the image once it has been exposed on film or on our digital media will vary based on the person who captures it as well as the intended purpose.

    More likely than not, a photojournalist will capture images that document a person, place or thing. Other than some basic exposure correction, nothing else will be adulterated. That is the best way for this photographer to remain true as they present their brand of art.

    Now, the fine art photographer. The portrait photographer. The landscape photographer. They may take many more liberties to achieve a certain result that is driven by their vision. They'll take these liberties and achieve their vision by effectively using the tools at their disposal, both in the field and in front of the computer.

    Take this image above, for example. In the original photograph, there were two parked cars that I found to be very distracting from the image. My vision did not call for having two cars there. So, I used the masking software and abilities that I have to remove them as effectively as possible so that, at first blush, there wouldn't be any indication that two cars were there to begin with.

    Does this make my image any less of a photograph? Well, if that is the case, then what is it? A photographic image? Or maybe just an image? What about a still frame of my imagination?

    It's one of those things that has no factually correct answer. No one should feel confident enough to definitively say so one way or the other.

    We're artists. We're photographers. We're creators. And I'm lucky to be amongst the two of you, along with the rest of this G+ community of contemporaries.

  33. Brian Duncan February 6, 2012 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    This is a great shot Brian…I have been meaning to evaluate the onOne suite….I just finished up looking at Nik….both you and Topaz are on my list! Thanks for the inspiration!

  34. Kelly Shipp February 6, 2012 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    Nice article and photo. What football game?

  35. Andy Tomasello February 6, 2012 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    Great shot! I was there in November and yeah, the winds were crazy! Makes me want to go back into my photos and see what I got there. I was spending too much time trying to photograph the vista and forgot to turn around and get that great building!

  36. Santiago Fisher February 6, 2012 at 8:30 pm - Reply

    Just great. 15mm focal length? It turned out perfect.

  37. Brian Matiash February 6, 2012 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    +Santiago Fisher Cheers!

  38. Patricia Davidson February 6, 2012 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    Very cool – love it!

  39. Kirk Norbury February 7, 2012 at 5:44 am - Reply

    great shot! :)

  40. Iza February 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    I could argue with your perception of photographer. There are different types of photographers. Some, like you (and me) go out against elements looking for the view which is already there, work to capture it in best light and at best angle. But how about studio photographers like food shooters? They not only stay safely inside, they also have to come up with the subject to photograph, set up the scene, propos. I find it very challenging. Yet the final product is the same – a photograph. And it probably opens the doors for entirely different discussion…

  41. Diego Cattaneo February 9, 2012 at 3:00 am - Reply

    +Brian Matiash really amazing!

  42. Donald February 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    Nice very nice !

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