Monthly Archives: January 2016

Mirror, Mirror

Ice Shards in Black Water Jackson Lake, Colorado, 2015

Ice Shards in Black Water
Jackson Lake, Colorado, 2015

When I began to take a more-than-casual interest in photography, I began to look at the works of other photographers, which in turn led to an interest in art in general.  For me, looking at artwork is a little like looking into a mirror – it reflects back to me my own interests, tastes and perceptions.  Identifying and analyzing how others have considered and resolved artistic issues allows me to decide what I have liked and not liked about their approach, which helps me to understand myself a little better with respect to the things that I want to encourage in my own work versus those I don’t want to pursue.

The great thing about this is that there’s so much artwork available to practice on, both contemporary and historical.  It allows you to experience art not just as a passive viewer, but as an active, critical participant.  It’s a fun little intellectual exercise to engage in when looking at art (at least for me), with the practical payoff of helping to improve one’s own artistic development in the process.

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Endovalley Fog Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 2014

Endovalley Fog
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 2014

To be honest, all my life I’ve felt like an outsider in most things, and photography is no different.  I feel like an outsider among photographers – for some reason, I just don’t fit in when photographers get together and talk photography.  I feel like an outsider with tools and process – I don’t have formal training, professional experience, or even a lengthy amateur background in this field.  I even feel like an outsider with my subject matter  – particularly when it comes to landscapes, since I’m not and never have been much of an outdoorsman.

If there’s one advantage to being an outsider, though, it’s perspective.  Being an outsider inherently places you a certain distance removed from the thing from which you are outside.  This allows you to consider that thing from a place of detached observation, which in turn allows you to interpret it free from the influences and biases that come from being more wholly immersed inside of it.  Stated more succinctly, you gain a perspective that most others don’t have.  This can be a valuable tool in creating work having a unique appeal.  In at least some aspects, it seems to me a good fit for photography.

I write these thoughts having read the writings of other photographers who assert that value in artistic work comes from familiarity and intimacy with the subject.  With landscapes, it seems to be the idea of spending weeks, months, or years living in close relationship with the landscape sought to be photographed.  Maybe so.  But there’s value in having an outsider perspective as well.  There are, in fact, many paths to achieving artistic value, and they will not be the same for everyone.

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The Pull

Architecture Study Series 1, No. 8 (Julie Penrose Fountain)

Architecture Study Series 1, No. 8 (Julie Penrose Fountain)
Colorado Springs, Colorado 2014

There’s lots of things in life you have to push yourself to do – paying the bills, going to the dentist, picking up groceries.  Often, even when people tell me about things they do for fun – participating in sports, playing music, practicing photography – I get the feeling they have to push themselves to do those things as well.  These are the kinds of people who play their sport once or twice a year, or haven’t picked up their musical instrument in six months, or who only dust off their camera for vacations or special occasions.

The people I know who are really in to what they do feel a compulsion to do it.  They don’t have to push themselves, the activity pulls them in.  For me, the pull is all about the process – seeing something interesting, capturing it with a camera, and working on the capture to realize a print.  I don’t even hang my own work on my own walls – not because I don’t like it or think that it’s not good, but because the pull isn’t about the finished product, it’s about the feeling of being engaged in the process.

Just one person’s observation, of course.  In your own life, what is it that pulls on you?

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When Your Projects Find You

Moon and Shadowy Clouds Over Longs Peak Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 2014

Moon and Shadowy Clouds Over Longs Peak
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 2014

I didn’t really start out to make a project of photographing Longs Peak, in general I don’t consider myself to be a project-based photographer.  However, having spent a fair amount of time in Rocky Mountain National Park (well, at least in the Trail Ridge Road area), I’ve really became drawn to these vistas of the peak.  I say drawn, because I don’t push myself to go to them, rather, they really do draw me in like magnet.  Over time, I’ve amassed many iterations of these views, but I’m still not tired of them and feel compelled to keep on photographing them.  I find it fascinating the way you can keep one element of the composition the same – the peak – and still get nearly endless compositions by varying the other elements in the image.  And in this manner, a project was born.  I didn’t go looking for it, it found me.

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