doug sprock fine art landscape nature photography


Doug moved west as a young adult and became captivated by the landscape.  Since then his travels have included other parts of the world, but he generally focuses his creative energy close to home.  Doug occasionally photographs iconic scenics, but prefers intimate landscapes discovered off the beaten path.
Doug has been practicing photography for nearly 3 decades and uses a 4x5 large-format film camera and a digital camera.  He is a self-taught photographer and traditional darkroom color printer, but learned traditional black-and-white photography at a University.
Photo of Doug Sprock about
Photo of Doug Sprock Climbing In Yosemite Doug´s photographs have been collected by institutions (St Mary Hospital, Mind Springs Health, etc) and private collectors, and published in Climbing Magazine, ALP Magazine in Europe, Red Wheelbarrow Literary Magazine, San Jose Mercury News, and other publications. His photography has been exhibited in Colorado and California. He has been a guest speaker for San Jose State University's photography program, the American Alpine club in Yosemite Valley, and local photo clubs.

Artist's Statement

I find fascination and solace in our natural world and I believe that wild, natural places are essential for a healthy human psyche.  Edward Abbey wrote,
" We need a refuge even though we may never need to go there...We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis " (Desert Solitaire 129).
Photography is a contemplative quest that fuels my fascination for discovery and satisfies my unexplainable drive (affliction?) to create unique imagery, but the exercise alone has limited meaning unless it is shared with others.  Thus sharing with a broader audience completes "the circle" for me, and I hope my audience finds solace and gains an appreciation and reverence for natural landscapes.

The Nature of Nature Photography

Landscape photography that depicts a pristine environment bathed in exceptional light can be misleading.  Why?  The proliferation of such color photographs implies that these scenes and experiences are commonplace.  They are not.  To create extraordinary photographic imagery requires years of exploration, patience, and visual skill.  He has visited some locations multiple times only to have created the ultimate image during one particular visit when the natural conditions had provided the best possible setting.  Generally speaking, it takes a couple weeks in the field to produce an image worthy of sharing with a broader audience.  Also for some pictures, signs of human disruption such as telephone poles, buildings, jet contrails, or roads, have been cropped just outside the camera's field-of-view.  Thus his body of work can unintentionally lead the viewer to a false notion that pristine, beautifully lit, scenes abound.

Fine Art Print Workflow

To ensure color fidelity and provide state-of-the-art color printing, after years of traditional darkroom work, a post-capture digital workflow has been adopted where corrections are made to the scanned film-image before printing.  The original film is displayed on a daylight-balanced light box near a color-calibrated monitor while adjustments are made in Photoshop to match hue, saturation, and contrast.  While these corrections can produce an image that is faithful to the transparency, the film may not be faithful to the original scene.  In the Johnny Jump Up image for example; the yellow flowers exhibited a strong magenta cast on the film, characteristic of Velvia's ruddy yellows, so magenta was selectively removed from the yellow colors.  The image also received a slight global desaturation adjustment to counteract Velvia's characteristically high saturation.

Guiding Principals

Color:  He strives for color images to be color-faithful to the scene photographed to preserve the beautifully subtle colors found in nature.  There has been a trend since the introduction of Velvia in the 1990's, and more recently in digital photography, toward highly-saturated and warm-color-balanced nature images--while this can lead to striking images at first glance, he believes this reduces the image's long-term appeal, veils beautiful natural color hues and important subtle color separation, and undermines the viewer's trust of images captured in exceptional-light circumstances.
Occasionly images are given slight post-capture color adjustments, based upon human color perception, to increase color separation.  Examples include the reduction of: the blue color bias commonly recorded by film on overcast days, or the red color bias recorded when sunlight is reflected within the red canyons of the American Southwest.
Contrast:  To counteract slide film's narrow latitude, reducing the global contrast and increasing local contrast is the general goal while preparing a file for printing.  Because film compresses the real-world scene's luminosities in an s-shaped manner, shadows and highlights are recorded with lower contrast than midtones; thus, shadows and highlights generally receive more attention during print file preparation.  Methods for increasing local contrast may include curves, burning or dodging, and sharpening.  Global adjustments are made first, then local adjustments are made only as necessary.  Increasing contrast naturally increases saturation, so the image-file typically receives a global desaturation adjustment prior to printing.
Scene:  Scenes are photographed "as discovered": items are not placed within the picture frame.  A tall tripod and footstool aid in cropping-out undesireable objects during image composition.  Occasionally, obstructions such as out-of-focus branches are temporarily held out of the camera's view during film exposure.  No objects are added or removed digitally from images.   Potential print buyers can request to view the original slide film.  Doug feels that images produced "as discovered" are inherently more valuable than those that have been manipulated.


Doug prefers to discuss image aesthetics; however, most questions concern equipment usage.
Large Format 4x5 Camera EquipmentFormat:  Most landscape work is approached with a Horseman 4x5 large-format film camera.  Travel, documentation, and macro images are captured with a digital camera.
Film:  Provia (RDPIII) large-format 4x5 sheet film is chosen for its ability to render colors neutrally with medium saturation and contrast.
In the past for 35mm photography, Provia was chosen for hand-held photography. For tripod-mounted work, Kodachrome and Fujichrome Velvia were carried simultaneously in the field.  When the light was good, Kodachrome was called to action.  In poor lighting situations Velvia was called upon for it's resolution, contrast, and saturation, despite its inability to render many hues accurately.  He appropriately adjusts each print based on the film it was captured on.
Lenses:  For 4x5 large-format, 90mm, 150mm, and 240mm lenses are preferred. 
In the past for 35mm camera work, 21mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70-210mm, and 300mm, prime lenses were chosen for maximizing image resolution for print enlargements.
Tripod:   A Gitzo G1325 or GT2531 carbon fiber tripod and Arca Swiss or Markins ballhead are employed.
Filters:  He occasionally uses a two-stop, soft-graduated, neutral-density filter.  This neutral filter does not alter the image hue.  The "soft-graduation" produces a subtle density variation across the image, unlike hard-graduation filters that can render middle-grounds unnaturally dark.  Doug likens noticable graduated-filter artifacts in the final print to poor burn-dodge technique in the traditional darkroom and considers this unacceptable.   He chooses not to use other filters and instead prefers to pursue exceptional natural-light situations.