Whether it be landscape, still life, architecture, water, people, whatever we photograph takes work. I have no doubt that the more effort i.e. work that we put into it the more we’ll get out of it. Sounds simple, right? Actually it can be very simple, however the “work” we do is not just putting in time. It’s physical, it’s mental and it’s largely about passion and focus. How passionate are you about your photography? I firmly believe in the theory that one should photograph what it is they are passionate about. Your connection with the subject will be stronger and you’ll take the photographs to places that others who are less passionate can’t.
I have to thank Michael Pannier for this photograph of me. Mike introduced me to the spectacular landscape of Death Valley and Alabama Hills. This photograph was taken in Alabama Hills by Mike one morning as we were patiently waiting for the sun to rise and it got me thinking about “what we do”. In this case we were up early and out there before having any breakfast. Then we waited for the sunrise not knowing if nature would give us something spectacular or not. On this particular morning it was beautiful and nice but I didn’t feel that I was able to capture anything strong enough to share. Some would say it was a waste of time because of this. I say, not at all. Just to be in this place is a treat, to be standing there breathing in the fresh morning air along with friends and fellow photographers brings peace and reward. Every experience teaches us something. I’m a novice when it comes to photographing the landscape so I’ll use my images from this day as a learning tool. I’ll study them closer than any that are really strong because they will teach me. This is just one example of “what we do” when photographing the landscape. There are hikes up and down hills and canyons, a lot of driving and exploring to find the best possible location, time of day and light.
Most of my work does not involve the landscape, it involves people and specifically the female form. This genre carries with it a totally different bundle of “what we do” items. We select projects and the models we believe will fit into them and produce the results we’re trying to achieve. We select locations and lighting. We collaborate. The list goes on and on but at the end of the day we still have to do our work regardless of the subject. It matters little what genre we choose, what matters is the passion we approach it with and the effort we put into it.
I am a constant student of photography and the many wonderful things it can bring to someone’s life. It has brought beauty, strife, learning, growth, friends, travel and many other things into my life. Wherever I am whatever I’m doing I’m looking at things, people, places etc and the light that’s cast upon them. Primarily the light because it’s a key piece of what will ultimately be the image and it’s message. While at home one day I started to really look at the things around me and how the light brought them to life. On the surface little things with little meaning. Go beyond the surface and the meanings grow. So I got my camera out and started to photograph them with no real goal other than to capture what I was feeling and what these things said to me. Sure, this has been done before but what hasn’t? Just because it’s been done doesn’t mean you should not have a go at it. What you do will be totally different than what someone else does. This is one of those things that will be ongoing with no pre-determined ending. For me this is a wonderfully fun exercise in seeing and the results can be interesting. I put very little thought into the pictures while shooting them. I simply shot what I saw and felt. All natural light with no modifiers, reflectors or enhancements. Very simple.
Two images from The Empty Room and two from Something New. My wonderful model was Breana Marie, please take a few minutes and have a look at her work.
I recently spent a week in Puerto Rico with my family. Old San Juan to be specific. While it was not a photography trip I found the light to be pure magic and did snap a few photos. Back in the day Old San Juan was a walled fortified city with much of the wall and fortresses still remaining. San Cristobal is one of the more complex fortress locations towards the Eastern side of the city. Old San Juan is a charming and beautiful little city.
I was recently printing the work I’d completed so far on two of my ongoing projects. The Empty Room and Something New portfolios and discovered something incredibly interesting. Most of us spend a lot of time staring at a computer screen and it is the vehicle by which we consume much of the art we enjoy viewing. Nothing wrong with that and today’s technology presents this art with spectacular accuracy, color, detail and beauty. But wait, does it really? Me being ridiculously meticulous and demanding of high quality prints requires substantial patience and effort. I stare at every inch and aspect of every print in different lighting conditions and will adjust and reprint until it’s exactly the way I want it.
Much of the work I’ve done over the years was and continues to be in studio with high quality lighting gear and total control over it. These two portfolios, however are both shot with nothing but natural light and in most cases without even a reflector. As any photographer will tell you the instrument (camera) that we use to make our photographs in fact is nothing more than a device that records the light that we as the operator allow it to see. Composition, aesthetic and subject aside the quality of the photograph relies largely on light. In fact I’ll go so far as to say that the light is the most important component in the making of a photograph. The definition of a photograph is an image created by light falling onto a light sensitive material.
What I discovered during my cycle of printing, reviewing and reprinting is that these images in print, looked nothing like they do on the computer screen. They took on a life and a reality that I’d not realized with these same images on the computer screen. A life, depth and beauty of reality that I’d not witnessed in them prior to this printing exercise. Being very deeply committed to these two projects for a number of months now one would think that I’ve seen everything they have to offer.
This may never have any significant meaning to anyone other than me but it’s as important to me as anything I do in the creative process. One of the things I discovered early on in my artistic photographic journey is that I’m most comfortable with natural, clean, minimalistic photographs that are un-manipulated remaining as close as possible to what is actual and real. When I saw the details, depth and beauty in these prints, the hairs on a person’s arm, the imperfections in their skin, all of the wonderful things that make us humans paradoxically perfectly imperfect I knew I’d achieved what I wanted.
I don’t know where these two portfolios will take me as I’m still on the bus but I do hope and believe that there are more rewards. I will share these prints with as many people as possible and hopefully they find some meaning and joy. I also hope all of this provides some level of inspiration for others to print their work.
Print your work !!!
Here’s a link to a blog post by Cole Thompson discussing how he went about finding his vision. Check out Cole’s photography s well. It’s worth spending some time on his site.
“Making a Picture” is a very good way of thinking in approaching fine art photography. Strong pictures don’t just happen and there’s a lot that goes into them.
A two and a half day in depth hands on workshop presented by Bill Earle and Mike Pannier. Focusing on all of the details that go into the making of a strong fine art nude photograph. We’ll work with just a few concepts and examples exploring all of the subtleties and details that must be considered taking as much time as needed with just a single image. A significant amount of time will be spent discussing all aspects of the image. We’ll work through every step of the process in detail from discussing the concept with the model, setting up the lighting and sets, post processing through making an exhibition quality print.
Evie will be our model for this event.
Who should attend:
Photographers who are serious about fine art figure photography and improving their work. This event is not about going home with a large quantity of images. It is about in depth learning. Each photographer must bring a laptop computer set up with Photoshop or Lightroom.
We’ll spend a few hours Friday evening in conversation about creativity, inspiration, composition and other elements that contribute to the making of strong photographs. Saturday will be dedicated to capturing the image and Sunday will be post processing and printing. Everyone will leave with at least one exhibition quality print of an image made in the workshop.
Where: This event will be at Red Studio in Frederick, MD Feel free to email me with any questions.
When: Friday evening September 19, 2014 from 6:00pm until about 8:30pm. Saturday and Sunday September 20th and 21st from 10am – 4pm each day.
Cost: $625 for first time workshop attendees and $575 for alumni of any of my workshops or any of Mike’s workshops. Register now as this event is limited to four photographers and will sell out quickly.
This event is sold out!! If you are interested please send me an email and I’ll you to the wait list.
Mother nature gave us one incredible sunset.
The contact sheet seems to be going the way of film and disappearing. It’s magical and a wonderful way of evaluating our work. When I was still working in the wet darkroom I always made contact sheets prior to printing any of the negatives. I could carry it around with me and look at any time I wanted. Armed with a grease pencil and loupe I would spend a lot of time going over each image carefully. Today we have the digital equivalent of the contact sheet which for many is Lightroom. I love computers and all of the software that goes with them. In fact I’m a bit of a software junky and have made a career out of writing it.
I’m always studying photography, concepts, theorys and techniques all in an effort to improve my work. It is truly a never ending journey of learning and growing. When shooting digitally we typical shoot many more frames than we did on film so our digital contact sheet is much larger and more of a challenge. Typically we don’t print it, we simply evaluate the images on screen. While this is effective I’m going to try something new. I’m going to narrow my selections down to twenty or less from a given shoot and print contact sheets, RAW images straight from the camera. I don’t place a lot credence in ratings on images, they either work or they don’t but that’s a different discussion. I’m curious to see if my evaluation process and final selections are influenced at all by this method. I’ll also have something tactile to work with which I believe brings us closer to the work. Holding something in your hands is different than looking at it on screen. I can divorce myself from the digital whirlwind for a few moments and enjoy my work in a different way.