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Monday, June 11, 2007

Art Wolfe - Master Of Illusion

World-renowned nature photographer Art Wolfe is moving in a new digital direction

“Sometimes, I'll storyboard an image,” Wolfe says. “I have a vast library of books and ideas, and I look through those books and sometimes I see something that somebody else has done. Of course, I'm not going to copy it, but I'm going to be inspired by it and put a different slant on it. I'll literally draw out an image that I might want to try to do. I've got probably 40 ideas that I'll actually turn into photographs for this book project down the road.

“I'm not changing my style because of the technology,” he continues. “I go with a focus in mind, and yet my mind is also open enough—as it should be—to respond to the unpredictable.”

Down the road Wolfe, also expects that much of his work—including nature photography—will be photographed digitally. The biggest change will be how he and his staff handle digital files in place of transparencies, he says.

“I'm sure I'll be shooting 70-percent digital,” Wolfe says, forecasting the next few years. “Where we're probably going to struggle is in converting this new technology to what we do currently. We have virtually 700,000 to a million slides in our archive, and most photography is sent out in that format. We're beginning to scan images in more and more cases, though, and send them out as image files on CD.

“The digital images that may not find their way into a book for a number of years therefore are less likely to be in front of our own editors as readily as a slide would be. Normally, you'd just go to a drawer, pull out a stack of slides on elephants, put them on a light table and there you'll find the one you want. It's less of a natural thing to find the CD that the image would be on and then put it in the computer and start looking that way. So we're not quite there yet, but it will happen. And I'm going to continue to take the pictures until we catch up with it.”

Although he has fully embraced digital technology for both the shooting of this project and the image management aspects of his business, Wolfe doesn't generally make much of the manipulations allowed by a computer and the right software. He'd rather get everything right in-camera. There are a few basics, though, that he considers essential to making the digital shots look more like the chromes he has shot for decades.

Says Wolfe, “Typically, what we do with any image when it's in digital format is to boost the contrast a little bit and saturate the color on everything. They always look a little better to me. That's the process we do with every digital image, and that's all.”

Ultimately, it seems that technical matters aren't nearly as important to Wolfe as creative ones. As long as his new equipment allows him to keep progressing with his artistic and professional goals, and as long as it continues to improve upon his previous generation of tools, he'll be happy to adapt.

“I love bringing to life something that has waited a long time for its turn,” Wolfe says. “It's not really anything to do with age, or going weird on anybody. It's really exposing how weird I've been all along. And it's also showing that an old guy can learn new things.”

Art's Equipment
Camera & Lenses
Canon EOS-1Ds
Canon EF 16-35mm ƒ/2.8L USM
Canon EF 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L USM
Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS U
Canon EF 500mm ƒ/4L IS U

To see more of Art Wolfe's photography, visit www.artwolfe.com.



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