Posts Tagged ‘artists’

Taking Your Photography to the Next Level

January 13th, 2013

“Did you manipulate your photograph?”  “Did you use a filter?”  “Do you use a Mac?” “Do you crop your images?” “I’ll have a nicer day than you; I’m not shooting a Canon.”  Yes, someone actually said that to me at Bridal Vale Falls in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon in response to my cheery, “Have a nice day.”  I guess when you take the entire population of photographers you will always find those that are prejudiced and closed minded just like any other population.  They think they are right and anyone that disagrees with them is wrong.  It’s that simple.

The current issue of Lenswork magazine, the premier journal for black and white photography, has an article by guest contributor Jim Kasson titled “Previsualization in the Digital Age.”  I couldn’t wait to read it.  In my workshops and lectures I’ve always advocated that an artist interprets reality and communicates that interpretation through her or his art.  In landscape photography I’ve encouraged our workshop attendees to leave their camera gear in the car until they connect with a location and only then set up their cameras to try to capture what is is they are experiencing.  Previsualization, the anticipation of what the finished work will look like, is a big part of communicating what you are feeling.

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Ansel Adams – The Making of 40 Photographs: El Capitan, Winter Sunrise

September 3rd, 2012

I’ve heard it said that many photographers believe there are no more photographs in Yosemite, that all the great ones have been taken.  And it’s true that the prime locations have been photographed again and again, sometimes with 50 or even 100 photographers all vying for their three square feet of ground in which to set up their tripods. 

It would appear the assumption is that if a particular location is photographed too many times, becomes too popular, it becomes a cliché.  I’ve succumbed to that point of view in the past.  There seems to be the faintest whiff of, “I’m too good to photograph something so common.  I’m able to find what no one else has never seen.”  I know; I kind of felt that way.

El Capitan, Winter Sunrise
Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams had something to say about that in connection with this photograph.

“A viewer once asked me about the values: ‘Don’t you think the trees are rather dark?’  Black and white photography gives us opportunity for value interpretation and control.  In this instance, were the trees lighter in value, the glow of the light on the cliff would, for me, be far less expressive.  Exposing for higher forest values  would have weakened the separation of the far brighter cliff and cloud values.  However, other photographers might well make quite different images.  I would not like anyone to think I believe this image to be the only one possible, but it fulfills my visualization at the time of exposure.  In an overpowering area such as Yosemite Valley it is difficult for anyone not to make photographs that appear derivative of past work.  The subjects are definite and recognizable, and the viewpoints are limited.  It is therefore all the more imperative to strive for individual and strong visualization.”

Adams’ comment gets to the heart, mind and soul of the artist.  There are two key concepts in his statement that, for me, define art.  The first is ‘interpretation. ’Black and white photography gives us opportunity for value Interpretation and control.”  I take from this that our photographs are interpretations of the subject.  After all, art is interpretation.  And, as artists, it is through interpretation that we share with our viewers our vision of the world.  We don’t document reality; we interpret or possibly even create reality.

The other concept that catches my attention is ‘individual … visualization.’  Adams speaks of his ‘visualization’ all the time.  And the reason we enjoy his photographs so much is because of his strong visualizations.  When he tripped the shutter he knew what effect he wanted to create with the image.  He knew what he wanted to convey in terms of what he was feeling and he knew how to do it, especially when he developed and refined the Zone System.

And it was his interpretations and visualizations that took a location that had been photographed time after time by many other photographers and turned it into something uniquely and identifiably his.

So stand on the bridge in Zion or line up to photograph Delicate Arch in Arches or join the throng at tunnel view in Yosemite.  You can make your photograph unique through your own strong vision and interpretation.


This is a continuing series based on my reading of Ansel Adams’ wonderful book, “Examples – The Making of 40 Photographs.”  It is exciting to read of his attitudes towards making photographs, the decisions he made and the techniques he employed and apply them to the issues that confront us today as digital landscape photographers.  I think those of us who ‘Photoshop’ our images for the sake of achieving our visualization can feel a comradeship with the master.  The question, “Did you manipulate that photograph?” will never go away as long as our medium is the camera.  Adams was also confronted with the same question.  For those of use that believe that the purpose of making a landscape photograph is to share with our audience our response to and our connection with the subject, the work is not done when we press the shutter, it’s just beginning.  And we can delight in photographing the cliché locations, time and time again, because we are creating our own individual statement, not creating ‘derivatives’ of others’ works.


If you enjoy these posts please feel free to share them on Facebook or Twitter, or email them to your friends.  And we would really enjoy hearing from you.  Join the conversation –  leave a comment.

Join me on an upcoming workshop.  Click here for more details.

To see more of my photographs click here.

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Ansel Adams – The Making of 40 Photographs: Lodgepole Pines

July 31st, 2012

AA24-Lodgepole_Pines

Lodgepole Pines (1921)

This Ansel Adams photograph has always stood out from the rest of his works.  It doesn’t have the usual crispness or drama that one normally expects.  Instead the focus is soft and the shadows are not full and rich.  It almost seems like it might have been created by another person.  And for that reason I find it all the more interesting.

It’s difficult to imagine the great Ansel Adams as an amateur, a novice photographer.  One normally associates him with a supremely confident master of his art, a pioneer of techniques, both technical and aesthetic, that we still use and revere today.  And this is certainly an accurate characterization.  But like all of us, he had to start somewhere.  We all go through a period where our art is in its formative stages, where we are discovering ourselves, our vision and our voice.  And this photograph was part of the process for Adams.

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2013 Photography Workshop Schedule Preview

July 29th, 2012

I’m busy putting together the 2013 Photography Workshop schedule.  We’ll be going back to some of the great places I love taking people to.  But I’m also adding a new location that I think you will find very exciting.  Here’s a preview of what I’m considering.


death_valley_sunrise_2012_rrpm_rc0

February we’re going back to one of my all time favorites – Death Valley.  This is one of our largest National Parks and is filled with wonders at every turn.  It’s always exciting to be there.

 

 


pinto_basin_dawn_2012_rrpm_rc100

In March we’ll be back in Joshua Tree National Park for the annual Joshua Tree Gathering.  This is a weekend of camping, fun, food and photography.  This has become quite an affair and it’s something I do to give back to the photography community.

 


stout_grove_1_2006_emp_rc50

Here’s a hint as to what I have in mind for late May or early June.  Bet this hint isn’t difficult to figure out.  And this will be the perfect time to be there.  I’m still working out the details but will announce it as soon as they are finalized.

 

 

 


pfeiffer_beach_sunset_2012_rrpm_p50_0421

Big Sur is such a stunning place, it would be a shame not to hold a workshop there. And we’re going back in 2013.  I haven’t finalized the date yet but we’ll be there.  You can count on it.

 

 


kolob_terrace_2007_2.0_EMP_RC75

A year of photography would not be complete without returning to Zion National Park in Utah.  We’ll be back in mid to late August.  Zion is such a peaceful place, I always look forward to it.  It’s a place where many people recharge their batteries.

 


thors_hammer_star_trails_2011

I’ve always felt that if you’ve gone to the trouble of traveling to Zion you owe it to yourself to finish the week in Bryce Canyon National Park.  So that’s what we do – two photography workshops back to back.  Most students do as I do, take them both.  And we have special pricing for those that do.

 

 

 


So 2013 will be another great year of photography, returning to the places I love and adding a new one.

To me, a photography workshop is about more than shooting great locations; it’s also about growing as a photographer and artist.  I like to work with each student individually to develop their technical skills.  But equally important is developing their expressive skills.  Photography is art and through art we as artists share our vision of the world.  Becoming an artist is the process of opening yourself up to the world around you and experiencing it more deeply.  Then capturing that experience in your photographs.  This is our focus in our workshops.

If you know of someone who might be interested in a photography workshop in 2013 please feel free to share this blog post with them or post it on your Facebook page.  There are links at the top of the post for this purpose.  By the way, I offer a very attractive discount for anyone who brings another student along with them.

So come on out and join us and bring a friend.  Click here to check us out.

You can also check out our photography.  Click here.

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