The Cambridge Dictionary defines authenticity as “the quality of being real or true.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about authenticity. I try to be an authentic person, and I certainly prefer hanging out with people who are authentic, but that’s a topic for another day. 

I’m talking about authenticity as it relates to photography. So… “the quality of being real or true.” Hmmm. There’s a movement in photography that some refer to as photography with “No Filters”.  Often, these  images are ones snapped with smartphones or point-and-shoots that show up on Instagram, celebrating the fact that the photographer used “No Filters”. The truth is, though, that these types of cameras are doing tons of processing. They set white balance, white point, black point, contrast, exposure, sharpening, noise reduction and more to create what the manufacturer thinks will be an optimum shot. Sometimes these cameras make great choices. Sometimes not. But this type of “No Filters” photography is a myth, and a strong case can be made that these images are neither “real nor true”.

So is there such a thing as an authentic photograph? How does one translate a two dimensional image into an accurate representation of a three dimensional subject? (See NOTE, below)

I’ve always been motivated to bring out the best in the golf courses I photograph. When I’m on a course, shooting, I’m simply gathering raw material, using light and composition in an attempt to tell the story of a golf hole. But there are times in the studio… when I’m examining an image in very close detail… that extensive digital course repair is required. So how do I reconcile that digital repair work with the idea of authenticity?

Nature is full of flaws, even nature that’s maintained by professional golf course superintendents and their teams. There are always divots in tee boxes and on fairways, And though random brown patches don’t necessarily detract from a course’s playability, they don’t help a photograph. These kinds of “daily use” flaws are always on my radar for repair. But beyond that, finding an ideal balance between creativity and authenticity is an ongoing challenge. The journey from a flat, two dimensional image to one with light, depth and dimension that draws a viewer in and more closely mimics reality is full of challenges and opportunities. It’s what I work hard to achieve, and sometimes I succeed! Yay! My most recent project… full packages of each of Indian Wells Golf Resort’s 18 hole courses… was one such success. 

Indian Wells Golf Resort is one of the finest properties I’ve had the pleasure of photographing, but there were still creative decisions required to find that elusive “authenticity”. The property is beautifully maintained, and even though the resort’s two courses get a huge amount of play, the maintenance staff is stellar. Not only do they maintain very high standards, but they’re practically invisible. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen so little of a maintenance staff. For this old guy with a camera, Indian Wells was a spectacular photo shoot. The images turned out beautifully, and I’m very pleased with their authenticity. I shot with every lens in my possession, including using a 400 mm lens to bring the mountains closer in some of the images for dramatic effect. But even this creative stretch doesn’t damage the authentic nature of the images. What I try very hard to do with my photography is to create a feeling of “being there.” If I succeed, not only do viewers get that sense of standing on the site, but a successful photograph can add a destination to the viewer’s bucket list. And that’s exactly the goal. I hope you’ll take a moment to see Indian Wells Golf Resort thru my eyes. Just CLICK HERE. I think it may make your list of must-play destinations.


Professional landscape photographers… among whom I count myself… generally shoot in Camera Raw. This is a mode available on many cameras that simply records all the data captured by the sensor, making no adjustments at all. This is closer to a “No Filters” approach than what one captures with a smart phone, and leaves the responsibility/opportunity for creating an authentic image in the hands of the photographer. It is then up to him or her… in the editing process… to create an image that evokes the sensation of the experience at the moment the image was captured. Frankly, a RAW image is flat and boring, and nobody would consider a RAW file something to share. But for the professional, a good RAW capture opens up almost limitless creative possibilities. Endless options, though, can be a two-edged sword. First, there’s a lot to learn in today’s digital darkroom, in order to properly edit a RAW capture. After 14 years of professional shooting, I still learn something new every day. The ability to take a RAW image in so many different directions is what I love about this work. But the flip side of this multi-option coin is that with almost endless possibilities, it’s easy to go overboard. As a recovering over-adjuster, I’ve had to tamp down my heavy-handed tendencies my entire career. Sometimes, looking at my early work, I can see that I had a knack for this work, even though I was new to it. But often, I’m mortified at my ham-fisted adjustments. I don’t know whether to thank the clubs who hired me in the early days for their encouragement and support or to apologize for my ineptitude.