Nature on Canvas versus Slice of Nature

Nature On Canvas Versus Slice Of Nature
(Click above to access PDF file)


Efren Alvarez Galapon
Manager, Corporate Quality
Mobile Business Company Ltd. (MBUZZ)
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Here are two works of art: a human impression of a setting sun by the sea portrayed on a canvas and three photographs of a progressively setting sun captured by a digital camera.

“Art” is defined as a “skill acquired by experience, study, or observation.”

slice of nature and nature on canvass - 3The three photographs are products of a skillful manipulation (or setting) of the shutter of a digital camera by the photographer.

A camera shutter is an adjustable (controllable) opening through which light (photons) enter inside the camera and upon hitting the digital film (similar in function to the film we buy for and use in manual camera) an impression (imprint) is made on said digital film; hence, the captured photograph.

Imagine a scale with the center as having zero (0) value; with values to the right as: +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, +6 and values to the left as: -6, -5, -4, -3, -2, -1. The “+” (positive) side of the scale makes the shutter opening bigger or wider; the “-“ (negative) side of the scale makes the shutter opening smaller or narrower. The operation is akin to opening and closing a faucet. The larger the opening on the shutter overexposes the photograph; the smaller the opening on the shutter underexposes the photograph.

The small photograph (inset) on the top right of the photo collage was set to “-3”; the large photograph (portrait) was set to “+2”; and the third photograph (landscape) was set to “-5”.

The sun was progressively setting (going down); and the photographer needed to capture as much frame (shots) as he could because the opportunity comes only once and the next time around will be a different setting. Each frame is actually called a “slice of nature.”

The sun was about 20 degrees above the horizon when the photographer started to take shots. If the shutter was set to “0” (zero), then the first and succeeding shots or photographs would be a bit over exposed because the sun was still shining brightly over the landscape. If the shutter was set to a bracket of +2 and -2 then there would be a dramatic effect on the resultant photographs. Metering is setting a specific number to either positive or negative side of the scale. Bracketing is setting equal values (e.g., +2 and -2) on the scale.

Now you have an idea how the shutter works in relation to “metering” and “bracketing.” Metering and bracketing are very useful during daytime photography where the sun spreads abundance of photons. Take note that the bright yellow colors in the three digital photographs are not the actual color at the time the photos were shot or captured – they were rather the results of the amount of light that was allowed to enter into the digital camera’s shutter. And this resultant color was the personal pursuit of the photographer. His skill and experience in photography enabled him to produce what he desired.

Now let us look at the work of a professional painter that was photographed later and posted in the internet to become the subject of this blog.

You, as a viewer of this magnificent art work, must notice that practically all the colors used by the painter are also present in the three photographs produced by a digital camera.

Is that a coincidence or not? No, it is not!

The painter is an experienced observer of and one who studied “nature.” The painter, likewise, knows what he wants to produce for (perhaps) himself or for his mere viewers and appreciators.

Let us scrutinize the painting a bit.

The sun is about 20 degrees above the horizon. (Is this a coincidence with the time the digital photos above were shot?)

As an educated observer of nature, the painter has known what color could be generated by the setting sun at such a time of the day. His work, therefore, is not just a mere smudge of random colors on a canvas but rather a carefully crafted imagery coming from his realist imagination.

If the scenery was real, then the “bracket” could have been set at +1 and -1. Yes, the painting would be a “bracketed” result and not a “metered” one because there is a balance of light texture on the entire rendition of the portrait on canvas—this is seen through the foreground with a lot of details (that is, unsilhouetted) like the raging whitish waves, façade of the beacon tower, house, ship, among other.

The painter’s skill is very close to the mechanical design of a digital camera; but he can never produce a “slice of nature” because his implements are his imagination, brushes, some oil, and a canvas in rendering a fleeting real world.

Furthermore, each of the digital photographs was produced in split second along with an effortless shutter setting.

In contrast, it can be safe to state that the painter took days, weeks, months and who knows even more than a year to produce his masterpiece.

This blogger would like to thank the painter, Vicente Collado, Jr., for giving the former “the liberty to do whatever you want with the painting” which was “painted . . . on May 3, 2003, eleven years ago in Holland.”

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One Response to Nature on Canvas versus Slice of Nature

  1. vcolladojr says:

    Efren, thanks for your effort to blog about my painting.

    First, let me clarify that I am not an observer of nature, forget about “experienced” and “educated,” ha ha ha. I do most of my paintings from pictures or from imagination, indoor and never outdoor.

    I agree with you that a painter can never recreate a slice of nature basically because of time constraints. But, the main reason is that it is not his goal to portray reality as it is. His goal is to create a better version of reality, a more beautiful one than what really exists. A painting is also a composition and it’s seldom that nature presents you with a nice one. So, you will have to rearrange it in your mind – add or subtract – until you are satisfied with it and then that’s when you start to paint, not the existing reality but the enhanced reality your mind.

    Taking good pictures is an art. But, I have doubts if cameras can truly produce a “slice of nature”, meaning, nature as it is. Even when you use the most sophisticated and most expensive camera there are still some details in reality you can miss especially in poor lighting. That is why painters are advised to paint from life and never from pictures so as not to miss out on those details. Of course, there is no question that the pictures taken by cameras could be very beautiful but did they capture nature in its raw and real form?.


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