Over the past decade or so, digital cameras and software have revolutionized the world of photography. And while lovers of traditional hand-rendered art may argue that photography, and especially digitally rendered images, shouldn't be considered high art, Emilio "Sonny" Vergara isn't one of them.
For the past couple of years, the former executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District-turned camera buff has been turning out images that many folks are buying because they find them to be stunningly expressive.
The 70-year-old Vergara admits that what he does with a computer will never displace the creativity and skill that goes into putting paint to canvas. But the basic principles of the two are strikingly similar, he says.
"With photography, you're creating an image that satisfies your mind's eye, and how you manipulate elements of composition, perspective, color, light and dark determines how the final product looks," Vergara said. "There's a certain amount of skill and knowledge that you need to master in order to make it all work, just like you would if you were holding a paintbrush."
Something of a newbie when it comes to photographic art, Vergara didn't start seriously taking pictures until 2000, when he bought his first high-end Nikon digital camera. Since then, his level of expertise has grown with the rapid advancements in cameras and photo-editing software.
"The images I'm creating today couldn't be done by someone untrained like me a few years ago," he said. "For me, half the enjoyment has been learning and exploring what the software can do."
For Vergara, whose work can be seen at skyshadowphotography.blogspot.com, turning a captured image into digital art requires mastery of Photoshop, an advanced graphics editing program that allows him to manipulate, integrate and extract any piece of the image he chooses and reconstruct it to bring out elements not normally visible in a two-dimensional image.
For example, a cloud captured digitally through a lens contains much more information than most untrained eyes can observe. However, those visual elements can be played up or down depending on how Vergara chooses to present them. Finding the right balance can take hundreds of attempts and several hours.
"You never want to lose the focal point that draws the person to the image," Vergara said. "That concept took me a long time to learn."
An avid nature lover, Vergara has traveled the state and elsewhere looking for prime scenery to shoot. However, visitors to his current exhibit with the Spring Hill Art League at the Rising Sun Cafe in downtown Brooksville are likely to see a number of images that were taken in Hernando County.
"The thing I love most about the community is the diversity of landscape and nature that can be found within just a few miles of my house," he said. "If I want to photograph birds on a river, or a spectacular sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, I can do it and be home by dinner. That's a luxury that a lot of photographers don't have."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.