Grand Island is in Lake Superior just off the coast of Munising. It shares the geology and natural beauty of the neighboring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The entire Island is a National Recreation Area devoted to non-motorized sports. I was on a color tour in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and timed my visit for the last day of the ferry season.
I came across this collection of stones in shallow water on Mather Beach on the island’s west coast. The sandy beach is interrupted by bedrock shelves that have been smoothed and polished by the ages. I was intrigued by the incredible diversity of color in these stones, and fascinated by the play of the rippled sunlight on them as it shone through the crystal water of Lake Superior.
I’m often asked if these colors are real. The simple answer is yes, all of those colors were in the photograph when I took it and this image is faithful to my memory of the experience. The fact that it has been very popular also indicates that I have successfully shared that experience with others.
But this is also a good time for me to explain that my goal is to create an image that is faithful to my experience and expresses itself to its full potential. I shoot my images in raw format and develop them for printing in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop. A great deal of craftsmanship is involved in this process.
As I developed this image, I noticed that the colors were not as intense as I remembered them. So I did increase the vibrance to more faithfully evoke my memories. I believe the resulting image is more “true” than if I had failed to do so. I would never add colors that were not in the original image, nor would I do something tacky like cloning in a moon. But the idea that a photograph somehow represents a reality unmediated by human action is a fiction.
Pablo Picasso once said, “art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.” I’m with Pablo on this one.