New Technology for Fine Art Photographers


In this fast-paced world in which no one wants to wait for anything, digital photography accelerates the process of image development for today’s professional photographers. Certainly, downloading pictures from a digital camera onto a computer screen and choosing those one prefers is much quicker than the process used only a few years ago. No longer must the photographer spend hours in a dark room, exposed to hazardous chemicals to produce fewer photographic options than those available digitally.

Well-known photographer Peter Simon, whose Simon Gallery is on Main Street in Vineyard Haven, takes a wide range of photographs including landscapes, marine shots, and portraits. He was working for Riverdale Press by the age of fifteen, became a photojournalist, and developed his images in a darkroom.

In 2002, Mr. Simon began the transition from film to digital photography. He watched for the advancements needed to satisfy his needs and aesthetic. As printing improved, and with the advent of better lenses, he moved his art into the digital age. Mr. Simon talks about the usefulness of new technology, the ease in making changes to photos on screen, and the ability to take many digital pictures at a much lower cost than with film.

He cautions, “It is now easier to become lazy about pushing for quality in all of the work, because so much can be changed or enhanced on the computer,” and adds, “On the plus side, there is less waste and photographers no longer need to breathe or put their hands into harsh chemicals.”

Jeffrey Serusa of Seaworthy Gallery on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven, is known for his dramatic images of boats, everything from to his black and white shots of skiffs, to his large almost mystical photos of the steamship ferry.

He builds the camera he will use for each photograph and often uses a wooden camera. He may wait months for the light to be right or the moon in the position he wants to shoot, but he gets his shot and his piece.

Mr. Serusa appreciates the advancements in technology. He purchased a 24-inch giclée 9900 printer, which allows him to cut out the middleman in producing prints, reduce overhead costs long term, and create larger prints on both watercolor paper and canvas.

Mr. Serusa says, “I’ve always been good with computers, but there was about a year-and-a-half learning curve.” He smiles and says, “I’ve never had so much fun in my life.”

Mr. Serusa, who is colorblind, must print out a color profile on each printer for the different types of paper he uses. After a color chart is generated he decides which combinations work best before the pictures are printed. He upgrades his software each year to keep pace with industry standards and ensure the high quality of his work.

He insists he does not experience any disadvantages to utilizing new technology in his work. However, he always has the next nautical image in his mind.

Louisa Gould, a specialist in marine photography and lifelong sailor who crewed aboard the pace boat in the 1999-2000 America’s Cup campaign in New Zealand, operates her Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven. She recently founded Martha’s Vineyard Workshops, a program of workshops taught by professional artists during the summer and fall months.

Ms. Gould, whose cameras, both film and digital, are Canons, came late to the world of digital photography, because she loves film. She explains, “I love the look, the feel and the grain of different types of film.”

She goes on to say that it is no longer only photographs that are digitally rendered; paintings are frequently scanned into a computer to make the final product digital.

Without hesitation, Ms. Gould says the technological advance she holds most dear in the area of photography is, “the file transfer protocol site, because it holds so much information, allows the sharing of large files, making it faster to send and receive photos.” On the other hand, she states, “The greatest obstacle to the effective use of these new technologies is our Island Internet connection.”

While the photographers utilize a number of different methodologies and software, the one similarity they all subscribe to is Adobe, which seems to be the standard for photo artists today.

Elizabeth Cecil of Pep Art creates compelling landscapes of Island scenes. Her work has a painterly quality that expresses atmosphere and mood.

Ms. Cecil, photo editor of Edible Vineyard, says that she is still learning the fine points and possibilities of digital photography. She prefers using film, and makes her own emulsions for coating her papers — usually working with vellum and sometimes, watercolor paper. She uses a dark room where she produces black and white, and blue- and brown-tinged photographs.

As a teenager, Ms. Cecil began using a Nikon 35mm camera. Currently, she uses a Hasselblad digital camera and is considering the purchase of a Canon 5D Mark II, new lenses, and lighting equipment for shots in low light situations. Like Mr. Serusa, Ms. Cecil is always thinking about the next shot, and paying attention to the changing light as it affects the environment.

Ms. Cecil started working in the darkroom at the age of 15, and now teaches darkroom classes at the Artist in Residence Program at the Charter School. She ensures that the darkroom is well-ventilated, and precautions are taken for child safety and safe disposal of darkroom chemicals.

When asked whether she has concerns about the photographer’s ability to manipulate images with digital technology, she smiles and responds, “There are just as many tricks of the trade in the darkroom. They are just different.”

In thinking about advanced technology and the way in which it enables the photographer to enhance or change what was “real” in a photograph, it is interesting to note that as far back as 1860, one of the most famous renderings of Abraham Lincoln is actually a merging of President Lincoln’s head with John Calhoun’s body.