Monthly Archives: September 2015


Three Silos Eaton, Colorado, 2015

Three Silos
Eaton, Colorado, 2015

To me, details are very important in a photograph.  Pretty much everything that a viewer ever is going to take away about your image lies within the four corners of the frame.  Therefore, it’s critically important that every element in the frame be identified, considered, and vetted before presenting it to the viewer.  At a minimum, no element should distract from the message intended to be imparted by the photograph, and ideally all elements should work to support that message.

To me, the image in this post is all about the solidity and stability of the three silos contrasted against the gauzy expanse of the cloud-filled sky.  Much of this impression is achieved by the somewhat darker form of the silos against the background and the hard outline defined by their edges.  In my opinion, it’s critical that the eye be able to follow these edges in an uninterrupted way to pick out the form of the silos.

In an earlier version of this image, there was a relatively dark portion of cloud set just about right up against the lower right edge of the silos at the bottom of the frame:

Three Silos, Eaton, Colorado, 2015 - UNFIXED

Can you see it?  It’s a small detail, and perhaps easy to dismiss.  Unless you’re me.  To me, this detail is incredibly distracting.  It draws my eye away from following the edges of the silos, and creates an interruption in their otherwise clean outline.  So, I lightened it up in order to make it blend more with the other clouds in the sky.  I remember, because it took several tries and several test prints to get it just right.  Much better, in my opinion.

By way of contrast, note the relatively dark cloud at the lower right corner of the frame.  This presents another detail worth mentioning.  It too draws the eye, at least for me.  However, here I think it works.  It does not compete with the form and outline of the silos because it is removed from them by a fair amount of distance.  Instead, it simply draws the eye away from the silos and toward the lower right corner of the frame.  As a result, my eye tends to bounce back and forth between the silos and that little cloud.  For this image, I think that’s a good thing, because it creates a little desirable tension in what otherwise could be a very static composition.

Yes, it has occurred to me that thinking in this way simply may be a case of me being a bit too OCD about my photographs.  But I really don’t think so.  The details are important, they can make or break an image.

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How to Approach Photographing a Popular Location

Longs Peak, Rock Cut, Angled Clouds Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 2014

Longs Peak, Rock Cut, Angled Clouds
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 2014

Here is an image of Longs Peak (the flat-topped peak in the far distance) photographed from Rock Cut in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Longs Peak is a very popular subject for photographs, and Rock Cut is a very popular (and very accessible) location along Trail Ridge Road from which to photograph it.

Photographing subjects that are very popular seems to engender much discussion among photographers.  One school of thought seems to treat iconic subjects much like trophies to be hunted and bagged.  In the same way that a trophy hunter might have a collection of stuffed animal heads on his or her wall, this approach tends to suggest that a photographer’s portfolio is not complete without a collection of iconic subjects that have been stalked and captured.  The criticism to this approach is that it lends itself to producing cliched, repetitive photographs lacking in creativity and originality.

Another touted approach is to ignore subjects that are very popular.  The thinking seems to be that great photographs can be found anywhere (which is true!), and photographing subjects that are very popular is at best a crutch in producing compelling photographs, and at worst a substitute for true artistic expression.  The drawback here is that much compelling subject matter is passed over in order to avoid the risk of producing derivative and repeated imagery.

So what’s the right way to approach photographing a popular location?  Myself, I just don’t think about it one way or the other.  My personal feeling is that a photographer with a strong personal vision and the discipline to follow it honestly will inevitably produce images that have his or her unique stamp on them.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time photographing Longs Peak.  I don’t do so to be part of the crowd (indeed, I’ve passed by and have no interest in photographing a great number of very popular subjects).  But I also don’t avoid Longs Peak just because it is popular.  I photograph Longs Peak because it speaks to me on a personal level.  In this way, it’s no different than any other subject I photograph, and I treat it no differently when I photograph it.  To me, that’s the best way to approach photographing a popular location.

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Traffic on Happy Jack Road Near Cheyenne, Wyoming, 2015

Happy Jack Road
Near Cheyenne, Wyoming, 2015

There’s something about the quality of the light up in southern Wyoming that’s different from where I live in northern Colorado.  It’s clean.  It’s clear.  It spreads out from horizon to horizon.  It breathes.

Maybe it’s the fact that the elevation there is a little higher, or that the mountains are a bit lower on the horizon.  Maybe it’s because it’s so damn windy all the time.

I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just imagining it.

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Companions.  Windy Ridge, Near Alma, Colorado, 2015.

Windy Ridge, Near Alma, Colorado, 2015

Every now and then, I feel like I should take a moment to say thank you to the people who have shown an interest in my photography.  I don’t really spend a lot of time on self-promotion of myself or my work, so when people express an interest in it – people who don’t owe me anything and don’t get any benefit other than my gratitude – it means a lot. If you’ve purchased a print of mine, grazie.  If you’ve sent me a kind word, grazie.  If you’ve helped me with my photography skills or artistic growth, grazie.  If you’ve visited my website or looked at the work I post online from time to time, grazie.

The image in this post is one that I made this summer, and I had a request from the person I was with to bump it up to the front of the line of images I have lined up to post.  I’m happy to do so to say thanks to that person, and to have it stand in as a kind of symbolic grazie to everyone else who’s lent me encouragement in my photography these last few years.

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