One technique for processing that I use not infrequently is something called high dynamic range processing. Imagine you’re shooting the iconic beach scene—you’re visiting Nantucket at the end of the day and the sun is low, you’re shooting a ceiling of clouds, your kid is in the surf in front of you and there’s a great sunset behind him. Even when you pull out the best camera on automatic, the camera has to decide what it is you’re trying to photograph. If it thinks you’re trying to take a photograph of that sunset, it’s going to speed up the shutter speed or close down the aperture in order to capture that light. But it’s so good that there won’t be enough light on your child and they will be a silhouette. Now if the camera thinks you want a picture of the kid, it’s going to allow more light into the camera to get the details and shadows of the kid’s face and his plaid swim trunks, but in so doing, it’s going to blow out the sky and you won’t see the sunset. With high dynamic range processing, you’ll take several exposures of the same scene—maybe one for the child, one for the water, one for the sky—and then you can merge them. If done correctly, that will look more like what you saw on the beach and the memory that you have.
Even though the technique I use is so dependent on the digital advances in photography and computers, I think high dynamic range imaging was invented by Ansel Adams. He would take a photograph out in the field and spend the better part of the day developing it by burning and dodging different parts of the scene in order to increase the dynamic range on the negative to better represent what his eye saw. Now you can use the computer to do that.
I generally don’t really enjoy shooting people that much. I think it’s primarily because I already have a role with people. I think it would be a little weird to have your physician on his knee on Main Street, taking a picture and going, “C’mon, smile!”
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On Nantucket, more than a lot of other places, you’re forced into a single community setting. On my one weekend spent on Martha’s Vineyard, I was impressed by the difference between West Tisbury and Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. And certainly when you drive on the Cape, even from Hyannis to Chatham, you get a sense of the different feel of each community. But on Nantucket, you have a really cohesive feel about what it is to be here, to live here, and what makes Nantucket special in my mind is the year-round residents. There are different locations on the island that come with different views and price tags, and there are quite a few people that use the island seasonally or transiently. But you’re left with this core group of Nantucketers that are here year-round that become your extended family.
I live right in the middle of the island—we sort of jokingly call it the fashionable mid-island district—and I’ve got a friend that lives there as well. He had a Facebook status not long ago that said, “By my calculations, in the year 2259, the south shore erosion will have resulted in me having beachfront property. And that’s when I’m selling.”