Archive for the ‘Photographer as Artist’ Category

Thoughts on Art – What Is It?

July 29th, 2016


What is Art?

I want to talk about art.point_lobos_abstract_120809

Mind you, I don’t claim to be an expert. I’ve done some reading and talked to a lot of people about art and there are a lot of ideas out there on what art really is.

Some say art is a work that is displayed in a gallery or performed on a stage. I can see that (pun not intended; well, actually it was) although I’m not there – yet.

Others say that art is a work commissioned by a patron. Alas, not there yet either.

Still others say a work is art if the artist says its art. That’s fine as long as the artist can get others to agree.

But none of these definitions help me to grow as an artist. They don’t provide any indication of a path I can take to become an artist (other than perhaps bribing someone to hang one of my photographs in a gallery, at least for a day or two).

I’m looking for a definition of art that will provide some guidance in my quest to become an artist – to grow as an artist.

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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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The Same Ol’ Question

June 18th, 2012

Every time I do a show I get asked multiple times if my photographs are manipulated.  My answer is always, ‘Yes, of course.’  The hidden expectation is that photographs are supposed to be accurate depictions of the scene that is photographed.  This expectation is not new.  And any photographer that seeks to make art rather than documentation must face this question.

Take Ansel Adams for instance….


The above iconic Ansel Adams photograph is titled Winter Sunrise.  It is of Mt Whitney and Lone Pine Peak above the Alabama Hills with Adams’ characteristic dramatic lighting.

There’s an interesting excerpt regarding this photograph from his book, “Examples, The Making of 40 Photographs.”

“The enterprising youth of the Lone Pine High School had climbed the rocky slopes of the Alabama Hills and whitewashed a huge white L P for the world to see.  It is a hideous and insulting scar on one of the great vista of our land, and shows in every photograph made of the area.  I ruthlessly removed what I could of the L P from the negative (in the left-hand hill), and have always spotted out any remaining trace in the print.  I have been criticized by some for doing this, but I am not enough of a purist to perpetuate the scar and thereby destroy – for me, at least – the extraordinary beauty and perfection of this scene.”

It seems the debate raged in Adams’ day and continues today.  I guess you know where I stand.  Oh, and for those ‘purists’ that revere Adams, if they only knew.

Winking smile

Go ahead.  Express yourself in your photographs.

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

To see more of my photographs click here.


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Journey – First Steps

November 26th, 2011

I’m very excited to announce that I just published my first book.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about for along time.  The title is “Journey – First Steps” and it showcases 24 of my favorite photographs from 2005 up into 2010.  It’s also a chronicle of my development as a photographer from those early uncertain days to today.  Not only does the book contain these photographs but I share with you where I was at the time they were taken and the discoveries I made along the way.

Your are invited to check out the preview.  It contains a sampling of the 54 pages and is available in eBook format (viewable on iPad and iPhone), soft cover and hard cover on Blurb.  It would make a beautiful gift for someone dear.

Oh, and let me know what you think.  Thanks.

We do photography workshops.  Come on out and join us.  Click here to check us out.

You can also check out our photography.  Click here.


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What Else Things Are

November 24th, 2011

Brooks Jensen published a very provocative article in the current issue of Lenswork.  He delves into a topic that I’ve thought about ever since I first picked up a digital camera.  It relates to the question of whether or not it is OK to manipulate photographs.  I’ve always contended that it is not only OK but, at least for the kind of photography I do, it is required.  The photographs I create reflect my interpretation of the natural world around us.  Therefore, their subjects and contents are going to reflect something of me.

Jensen goes several steps farther by identifying three major types of photography – Documentary, Personal Narrative and Imaginative.  Jensen describes Documentary photography as telling “someone else’s story.”  What a great way of describing it.  Clearly, then, in documentary photography, the photographer strives to be as true to the subject as possible and minimize or eliminate his or her own coloration or bias.  The goal is total objectivity.

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Orange County Fair Photography Judging

June 13th, 2011

Over the years I’ve entered photographs into the Orange County Fair photography competition (with some success).  This year I was thinking about the photographs I wanted to enter when I was contacted by the folks at the fair.  They asked if I would be willing to be a judge.

Now, it’s an honor to have your photographs selected and an even greater honor when some of them receive ribbons.  But I think the greatest honor of all is to be invited to judge the competition.  But when I accepted I had no idea how tough it would be.

(For a followup post, please see  )

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2010 in Retrospect

January 3rd, 2011

I feel kind of funny  writing this post. I’m feeling that this end-of-the-year, beginning-of-the-next band wagon is awfully crowded.  But it’s something I want to do, if for no other reason than to reflect on the year just passed and learn what I can apply to the new one just started.

As I’ve worked on my website over the past year and compared the work I’m doing these days to the works from four and five years ago I see definite signs of growth.  I’ve had many powerful influences over the years who I’ll not attempt to list here, except for my brother Roger.  One doesn’t learn photography in a vacuum.  While each of us is striving to find our own voice there is a long period of gestation where we are best served when we learn from and let ourselves be influenced by other photographers whom we respect and admire.  I feel that after five years there have been a few brief flashes of individuality where my personal style is just beginning to express itself.

Partridge Falls

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Art is Communication

November 28th, 2010

I love flickr.  It’s arguably the best photo sharing site for photographers.  I get to see some really good, inspiring work from the other photographers I follow.

And, like most photo sharing sites, you can add comments.  When I post photographs I always look forward to receiving feedback and encourage anyone who visits my page on flickr to leave copious comments, both complements and criticisms.   If you haven’t visited yet, here’s the link.

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Honesty in Photography

July 5th, 2010

I just read a great email from Brian Peterson, founder of The Perfect Picture School of Photography.  He ran an unscientific opinion pole on whether photographers felt it was OK to dramatically alter photographs in Photoshop.  Now, by ‘dramatically alter,’ Brian means to add major elements to an image that were not present in the original scene or make other major changes that alter the content of the image. 

He has a provocative blog post with the title that starts, “Every photograph is a ‘lie,…’,  In it he raises the excellent point that even those photographs that aren’t altered in Photoshop are still an abstraction of reality and thus a ‘lie.’  I recommend you read it.

What were the results of his opinion pole?  Brian reports that 41% of photographers felt that it is OK to dramatically alter images in Photoshop and NOT tell anyone unless asked.  And if asked, some would say, “It’s none of your business.”  The reason photographers felt this way boiled down to two words – Artistic License.

I have my own thoughts on “artistic license” and would like to share them with you.

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Print of the Month – Desert Pinnacle Impression

March 9th, 2010

A remote area of Queen Valley in Joshua Tree National Park was the location for the next print of the month.  This towering spire defies the imagination.  Besides its imposing beauty, one wonders how it could possibly have formed.

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