A little bad weather…

wasn’t enough to keep me away from this jagged peak..

Proton Arc and Aurora Borealis-“To the complaint, ‘There are no people in these photographs,’ I respond, There are always two people: the photographer and the viewer.”

Ansel Adams

There’s something about the mountains that puts things into perspective and I don’t think that I will ever grow tired of looking at them.

There is such magic in capturing a moment that is only fleetingly visible.

This was one of those times on a recent trip to the Rocky Mountains in Canada. Rain, clouds, and fog can be a little more challenging to work around but they also provide opportunities like this one where a crack in the clouds revealed this peak still frosted with winter snow.

I like to find the unusual in a landscape. That might take a change of lens, direction, perspective, settings or all of the above.

If you’re not afraid of getting wet the rain seems to add a vibrancy to foliage and a simple trash bag with your lens poked through a hole in the bottom can keep your gear dry if it isn’t weather sealed.

Great photo opportunities can happen anytime under any conditions so don’t let a little weather or less than perfect light keep your camera in its bag…

The dragonfly…

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In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.

Aristotle

A foot to the right and I might have stepped on him. I love the mornings when the landscape is covered in dew. It’s rather like looking for a needle in a haystack but I set out into the pasture to look for this shot and there he was, clinging to a blade of grass.

They are very vulnerable until their wings dry and every so often he would flutter them to shake off more dew.

It’s the tiny moments like this that I enjoy…truly something of the marvelous!

On inspiration…

whose work are you inspired by?

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A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks.

Richard Avedon

Why don’t you take pictures of people? 

I sometimes get criticized, and perhaps that’s too strong of a word, maybe admonished is better, for not photographing people but that just isn’t where my passion lies. I find it challenging to break through the veneers that most of us wear and lose patience with the process of trying to capture that. Put a dog in front of me though and time stands still.

I find this a little ironic considering how much I admire the work of Richard Avedon and how his minimalist style always managed to reveal so much character.

I think an important part of growing as an artist is not just learning the technical skills behind it but figuring out what really moves you. I like to look at other art forms in addition to photography and see which ones resonate with me and why.

This information can begin to affect your shooting style.

This information can be taken and developed into something of your own.

There is a distinction to be made between outright copying a style and making it your own. Derivative work, changing just one or two things like perhaps the color or a slight perspective change, does not make it your own; I think one needs to consciously go beyond that.

I tend to shoot more black and white than I do color but occasionally when I find myself drawn to color it is usually because there is something in that scene that reminds me of that wonderful painter, Wolf Kahn. I fell in love with his landscapes the moment that I saw the first one.

Alfred Stieglitz, will always be my first love. His painterly style of photography inspires me to this day.

Michael Kenna’s photography has such simplicity and clarity to it. It reminds me to pay attention to composition first and foremost.

Photography today has changed so much in that now almost everyone is walking around with a camera and we are inundated with imagery. Now more than ever I think it is important to ruthlessly edit our own work and be more conscious of how and why we are taking a photograph.

Is there someone who inspires you?  I would love to hear who that is and why…

Poor girl…

out shooting in the harsh sunlight.

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There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself; for what we see is what we are.

Ernst Haas

I admit to getting a bit of perverse enjoyment out of strolling along, tripod in hand, in the heat of the day with sun overhead.

I see the looks and can almost hear the thoughts…poor girl, she doesn’t know that this is the worst possible light to shoot under. Hasn’t she heard about the golden hour?

But when I start to lose that glorious low angle light of winter I switch it up and pull out the infrared; and for that the light could not be better!

Composition is very critical in these shots and that is something that I am always playing with. I use a hoya filter, not a converted camera to capture these shots so they do require some planning. Most of them are shot with exposures of around 30 seconds.

These shots capture the light that is not visible to us: it is the near infrared. I always shoot in raw, although jpeg may be a little easier to edit especially when starting out.

Focus is a bit of a challenge as it is not the same as visible light. I focus and compose without the filter and then adjust the focus after attaching the filter. Likewise white balance is tricky and I create profiles to use in Lightroom for the imported raw infrared files. These profiles create a good starting point with more room for adjustment.

Lastly there are options for creating “false color” by swapping color channels but for me more often the beauty of infrared lies in the black and white conversion.

Ultimately this is about keeping your options open and seizing each opportunity to photograph.

Develop some skills to cover all light conditions. That way when you have the time to shoot, it won’t require that you wait for the perfect light.

Wind scoured snow…

and a hint of sun. Perfect for a winter landscape!

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Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.

Ansel Adams

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the last two weeks going through images, updating my website, and having prints made.

If you haven’t done something like that in a while it is really quite interesting.

It can go several ways I suppose. You might look back and think that it’s time to just put the camera on the shelf or start using it as a paper weight OR you might come away feeling energized. Hopefully it will be the latter!

For me it was a two-part process; deciding on prints that I really liked and then seeing how they looked in print. That did not always go in the way that I had expected. There were surprises in both directions. Some required more attention when it came to the edit while others just seemed to lose something on paper. Explore how things look printed on different paper. I tend to favor matte and for images like this one, Somerset Velvet fine art paper made it really special.

I’ve learned a lot more about handling RAW files and feel more comfortable with what needs to happen to them before they are ready to print. I pay a lot more attention to my histogram especially when it comes to shooting things like infrared. There’s no substitute for it especially when you’re out in the bright light and can’t see your screen. If you are not used to using it, bracket some shots and then compare each one to the histogram when you get home. Learn how it needs to look to make the shot that you’re envisioning.

Ultimately though it had the effect of refocusing me. I don’t feel the need to photograph everything but look for those special moments that pop up like today’s image. Moments that won’t ever look quite the same again. I was glad that I had opted to bring my camera and a lens change with me.

Snowboarding through the trees I was aware of the sun occasionally and ever so slightly breaking through the clouds; not staying for long but adding that one special element that I needed for this winter landscape shot.

The snow was windswept. It still clung to the trees from the storm the night before: the direction of the wind was evident. It was much calmer today but the occasional gust sent showers of snowflakes from these trees through the air.

Making a mental note of this spot I looped back around to the chair hoping to be able to get back before conditions changed too much. Racing down on my next run I stopped, mindful of being in a “safe” spot where I could be seen by others should they come downhill following a similar line. Sheltering my camera in my coat I dialed in the settings, removed the lens cap but kept the lens pointed down so that it didn’t get spotted with snow… and I waited.

When the next brief flash of sun came, I took my shot. I think this might become one of my twelve shots for the year and it was the icing on the cake after a good morning of riding.

How’s your crop coming for the year? Does it need watering?

Explore…

other artists and at the same time, challenge yourself!

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Chaos in nature is immediately challenging and forces a good artist to impose some type of order on his or her perception of a site.

Wolf Kahn

I was taking a pastel class and our teacher, for the week’s homework, sent us out to paint…of all things…landscapes!

I was horrified and almost got queasy at the thought of attempting a landscape. “You don’t like landscapes,” that inner voice whispered in my ear. “You will most definitely fail at this assignment.”

Dreading the onslaught of things that would soon be bombarding my senses I decided to do a little research and see if I could find anything that resonated with me before heading outside with paper and pastels.

I discovered Wolf Kahn and immediately fell in love with his view of the landscape. This was something that I could relate to. The colors were bold and the subject matter was just abstract enough to make me believe that I too could choose to see things differently.

It was a turning point in the way that I began to use my camera; more as a paint brush that could move and meld images into the way that I would love to see them. Not always as they were but as they could be!

I am eternally grateful to that teacher and mentor, that talented artist who was able to see that pastels were not where I needed to be and that it was okay for me to spend my time in class repeating my work with my camera.

Those pastel classes freed me to accept my love for the camera and to commit to following that medium wherever it would take me.

This is a landscape. These are birch trees. They calm me and at the same time send my imagination soaring.

Don’t be held back by preconceived limitations and be willing to step out of your comfort zone and explore other mediums. You might be surprised at where it leads you and the friendships that you might build with other artists.

I envision some day doing a show with a group of artists all looking at the same “scene” and then interpreting it in their own medium and own style. I think it would be fascinating.

And for those who take the time to teach and encourage what they see in others artistically, I am incredibly grateful.

Thank you, Nan…

Words to live by…

after one of those weeks.

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Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma-which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition.

Steve Jobs

It’s a challenge when one lives, eats, and breathes the image. Where every flash of natural light draws the eye and the mind continually frames and crops what is put before it.

I struggled with geometry in school yet the numbers of the sacred triangle for exposure flow easily through my mind balancing iso to aperture to shutter speed.

As with any artwork I think that the best work comes when you have a connection to the subject matter but I don’t feel that is a requirement for producing excellent work.

Like any instrument if you know how it works and you use it every day, you can make it do whatever you need it to do.

I learned a lot of my technical skills during many years of photographing kiln formed glass for entry into exhibits. Shooting glass is very challenging. Too much glare destroys the image but you do need some well placed highlights to show that it is glass. Remove them all and it looks like plastic. Add to that those unwanted reflections popping up when you least want them and you could have a very unusable image!

There was no room for fanciful imagery or interpretation in this, it had to show the piece in the best light possible, with as much detail as possible; after all, if the piece was accepted on the basis of this photograph and arrived for the show looking different from the image it stood a good chance of being returned. I’m grateful to have had that learning experience, it was also when I learned the full value of shooting in raw.

I welcome the opportunities to shoot things that I wouldn’t necessarily gravitate to. It keeps my skills sharp and I almost always come away from one of these adventures with new information.

I also appreciate those photographers who shoot in the arenas that I don’t who are open to having a discussion about them without getting all furtive and protective. That to me is the hallmark of a confident professional.

It’s been an interesting week…