My first trip to Death Valley was in October, 2013 and I was overwhelmed by the vastness and beauty of this natural wonderland. One of the places we visited was Mesquite Dunes which is a popular place because of it’s beauty and accessibility. I don’t know the exact size of the area catered by these dunes but suffice to say that it’s extremely large with some of the dunes rising 40-50 feet high. There’s also a lot of mesquite trees which are fascinating survivors. Their roots can go 100 feet deep or more to find water.
With adrenaline flowing I walked out on the dunes and started photographing. It wasn’t long before I realized that my pictures were crap and that this natural wonder that I loved so much was in fact a huge challenge to for me. I could not figure out how to make strong images and was so discouraged that I did not want to return to the dunes that week.
Fast forward to March, 2014 and my second trip to Death Valley. Of course we spent a lot of time at the dunes. The possibilities are really endless when you spend the time and explore. I faced my dune demons and put forth as much effort as I could to make some strong images. I did come away with one really strong image that was in fact the strongest image of the week for me. I expect a lot of myself so I was just slightly satisfied but encouraged that I would conquer these demons.
Fast forward once again to October, 2014 and my third trip to DeathValley. Back to the dunes for both sunrise and sunset shooting on the same day. I felt much more comfortable and relaxed this time around. I was focused looking for shapes, lines, textures, highlights and shadows hoping to bring them all together. The three images below are from this most recent trip and I’m extremely happy with them, however there are many more images to be had and a few more demons to conquer.
As artists we have to take risks if we’re going to make any progress and tap into our emotions and feelings. It’s a risk simply to put the work out there for public consumption in this Internet age where thousands can see it. Putting the work out there is putting ourselves out there. The risk I’m feeling here is exposing my older work to the public.
In the process of selecting images to put up on Saatchi Art for print sales it occurred to me that it would be interesting to take a look back and show some work from each of the past seven years. Every time I take a look back through my work I’m blown away by the incredibly talented models that have stepped in front of my camera. They deserve much of the credit for the work we produced together.
The images below represent my favorites from 2007 and those that have experienced some level of success.
One of things we’re always looking for when traveling to areas with clear air are sunsets. We typically arrive about an hour ahead of the scheduled sunset, select a good location, set up and wait. We’re obviously reliant on nature to gives us a show and it does not always happen. One has to do the work and be in position should it happen. We’ve had nights where we got nothing and nights where our efforts were rewarded.
Monday was an extremely full day. To say we did a lot is an understatement so I’ll likely have additional Monday posts. One of the places we visited was the charcoal kilns. These kilns are located at somewhere between 6,000 – 7,000 feet elevation. Up where there are trees and snow in the winter. They were used to make charcoal for fuel for the miners and were last used about 130 years ago. Despite the age there is still a lot of ash around and when you walk into them the smell of the charcoal is strong.
We arrived in Death Valley on Sunday October 12, 2014 to find an unusual haze in the air. It was extremely windy so a lot of dust was being kicked up. With a limited amount of time before sunset we headed off to Badwater as it is fairly close to our hotel. This was shot just before reaching The Devil’s Golf Course. The sun was sinking fast s we pulled off the road and had a go at making some pictures. When shooting landscapes you’re at the mercy of nature and must take what is given and make something of it.
On our way from Death Valley to Lone Pine we stopped at Darwin to check it out. I think the population is somewhere between 40 and 50 and it largely resembles a ghost town. We did speak to a few of the people and they were very nice. A former mining town, it’s now mostly inhabited by artists.
This collaboration with Mikki is likely the last shoot I’ll do in the Empty Room. Please spend some time looking at Mikki’s work.
I was extremely fortunate to have an opportunity to spend a few hours in studio working with Evie. I had a few basic ideas and wanted to explore being more intentional when creating sets and composing images. What I mean by being “intentional” is to pay extreme and detailed attention to all elements in the image while composing it. Light and shadow, lines, texture, background, foreground, use of props, concepts and the model’s pose. I find these types of exercises a lot of fun and invaluable in the learning and growing process. It helps me tremendously in sharpening my abilities to see and recognize all of the elements while shooting.
I’m a believer that an image achieves it’s maximum strength when there’s nothing remaining that can be removed. It becomes simple and much cleaner presenting the viewer with an honest reality of the intention of the image. In general my work is clean and simple because it’s that aesthetic that pleases me most. When an image contains multiple elements I always ask myself what each of the elements contributes to the overall feel and aesthetic of it. If an element is not contributing I remove it, ideally while composing it. I believe that it’s important to take the time when composing the image to evaluate all elements being intentional with which are included.
Clearly post processing is an important step in the work flow when making pictures. The example image I’m presenting here struck me as soon as I shot it. It was one of those that I knew had strength. It was presented in an earlier post as a part of a series and post processed differently that the one shown here. I knew I was going to treat this image in a few different ways because I knew it would retain its strength. Both are fairly simple, however, the one presented here is much simpler and I believe has more strength.
My model for this work is Zoe West, please spend some time looking at Zoe’s work, she’s a fantastic model and a joy to work with.
A few from my recent collaboration with Zoe West for the Something New portfolio.
Please spend some time looking at Zoe’s work, she’s a fantastic model and a joy to work with.