Maple Pass North Cascades

Maple Pass North Cascades

Hikers on trail North Cascades Maple Pass North CascadesHikers on Maple pass Trail, North Cascades  #61268

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit a few of my favorite areas along the North Cascades Highway. The first being a wonderful day hike up to Maple Pass. It’s been quite a number of year since I did this hike, and since the trail was extended into a loop trip I was excited to check it out. I won’t get into the details of the trail except that it quickly gets you up into the alpine and offers some of the best views in the North Cascades. Being one of the first to the pass it wasn’t long before a steady procession of hikers appeared. I usually try to avoid weekend hikes due to the crowds but in this instance it was nice to meet lots of nice folks. In addition I was able to include hikers in some photos to add to my recreation files.

Hikers on trail North Cascades Maple Pass North CascadesHikers admiring view from Maple Pass Trail, North Cascades  #61284

As you’ll notice in the photos I mixed up the processing a bit from my usual style. Since these were all made during midday it seemed a good opportunity to try out a high key look. I’m a firm believer of photographing in all types of light and getting creative with different types of processing to fit the occasion. Beautiful dramatic evening light is great but you’re not stretching your artistic boundaries if that all you do. Of course my next post will most likely include some of that very style!

North Cascades Maple Pass North CascadesNorth Cascades from Maple Pass  #61260

Black Peak, Lake Ann North Cascades Maple Pass North CascadesBlack Peak and Lake Ann, North Cascades #61302

Maple Pass North Cascades

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Liking Lichens

Liking Lichens

Lichens on basalt, Liking LichensLichens #59874

One of my favorite quirky subjects I love to photograph are lichens. Lichens grow just about everywhere but unfortunately are unappreciated by most people. They are some of the oldest organisms found on land, dating back perhaps 600 million years. They live in some of the most extreme conditions and are an important food source for animals such as caribou. For humans they are a natural source of antibiotics and pigments. Lichens are also an indicator of clean air as they will not grow in the presence of  pollutants.

During my recent visit to Cottonwood State Park in Oregon I saw some outstanding lichen colonies. A large outcropping of columnar basalt which remains in shade harbored a beautiful display in many striking colors. Juxtaposed against the interesting patterns and cracks of crystallized basalt, the lichens made a wonderful abstract study.

Admittedly this kind of subject matter isn’t appealing to everyone, but I had a great time picking out interesting compositions.

Lichens on basalt, Liking LichensBasalt and Lichens #59895

Lichens on basalt, Liking LichensLichens #59869

Lichens on basalt, Liking LichensLichens and Basalt #59897

Lichens on basalt, Liking LichensBasalt and Lichens #59881

Liking Lichens
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Creative Roots

This new year is marked with an attempt to return to my creative roots. Last year there were many events and signs urging me to review the direction of my photography. I began to realize that over the years I gradually lost touch with my creative side. I was making better images as time went on, but I wasn’t growing creatively. Without actually realizing it, I was following a safe mainstream path and not pushing myself.

Over the past year I began to go through my files looking for images which could be used to illustrate an idea I was forming.  The images appearing in this post represent the beginning of  a project called Poles of Light. In this project I am trying to create images which reflects a character of light present in subject. Since I don’t express myself very well verbally, it’s difficult for me to describe in words exactly what I’m trying to convey. Hopefully I will be able to elaborate on this theme as the project matures. However, for now I will let the images do the talking for me.

White Sands National Monument New Mexico, creative rootsPicnic Shelters, White Sands New Mexico #57053r

Borrego Badlands from Font's Point, Creative RootsBorrego Badlands California  #56776r

Corona Arch, Creative RootsCorona Arch, Utah #40907r

Bisti Badlands, New Mexico, creative rootsBisti Badlands, New Mexico #57344r

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How to Boost Your Creativity Back to the Basics

How to Boost Your Creativity Back to the Basics

Purcell Mountain Storm Clouds, British Columbia  #25556r

How to Boost Your Creativity  Back to the Basics :  You hear it all the time in every field, from sports to science and everything in between. When you’re having difficulty working something out or getting more creative it always helps to start fresh and get back to the basics.

One of the first assignments I had way back in my days of art school was to go out and create images with only one lens on the camera, a 50mm focal length often called a normal lens. In addition the camera was to be set only on manual. Back then it wasn’t difficult to do since I only had one lens and my Nikkormat 35mm camera was manual only.

The point of this assignment was of course to learn the basics of exposure by adjusting shutter speeds and f-stops on your own and not relying on technology to do the thinking for you. Limiting your choice of lens to only a 50mm also forced you to visualize your subject matter and compose more carefully.

Try this, find a small object, a flower, trinket, door knob, whatever, set it up on a table and try photographing it with a normal lens, no filters or special lighting techniques allowed, just room or daylight. See if you can photograph it in a way that brings out an interesting aspect of the object. I  once worked with a woman who photographed through the bottom of drink glasses, a pretty dull subject matter that she brought to life in a very creative way. I’ll always remember those beautiful colors and patterns.

In my art school drawing class we once had a pile of randomly arranged chairs which we had to draw over and over again for what seemed like forever. The point was to see shapes and patterns of interest in a seemingly mundane object, not a lesson we enjoyed but effective nonetheless.

During my years working with large format view cameras these and other lessons paid off and further honed my skills. View cameras are basically just large boxes with a lens on one end and they have no form of auto exposure or auto focusing. In addition each sheet of film can be very costly both in itself and with processing, the result being a very much forced slowdown in methodology which sharpened my way of seeing more carefully.

Today with digital cameras sporting multiple exposure and autofocus modes, gps, and setup with a zoom lens it’s hard not to just jump in and let the camera do all the creative work for you. However if you want to be more creative turn off all those whistles and bells and put yourself in the driver’s seat for a change.

Another basic way to learn to see more creatively is to work in black and white. Monochrome photography strips the image down to the most basic of elements and forces the viewer to see the subject in a more pure state. Take a look at your photos and do a quick conversion to black and white, you may notice that some images are pretty dull and lifeless when you strip out the color. You may also see flaws in the composition that aren’t as apparent with color distracting them.

Now this isn’t to say that monochrome is superior to color photography or vise versa, it’s just another way of seeing and a powerful tool creative every photographer can benefit from.

Of course boosting your creativity by getting back to the basics can be extended to post processing the film or digital files but that’s a big topic for another post.

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How to Boost Your Creativity Learn From the Past

Imnaha Canyon Oregon How to Boost Your Creativity Learn From the PastImnaha Canyon Oregon #45023

How to Boost Your Creativity Learn From the Past  Here’s another easy way to boost your creativity, study artists and photographers from previous generations. You can do this by visiting museums art galleries and book stores that specialize in art and rare editions.

A few years ago I made my first trip to the California coast and while photographing Big Sur I made a point of spending some time in Carmel, the epicenter of early twentieth century landscape photography and home to Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. I wanted to check out the galleries there to see original prints up close by many of the true masters. Both the Weston Gallery and Photography West Gallery displayed numerous prints of both classic well known images and many I’ve never seen before. I came away from there truly moved and inspired to go further in my own work.

In the over 150 years of photography there has been an enormous wealth of creativity that can offer lessons and inspire even the most jaded photographer. Of course everyone in landscape and nature photography knows Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell, but how many know of Wynn Bullock, Minor White, Morley Baer, Don Worth and a host of others?

And what about photographers outside of the landscape genre? Does anyone remember Diane Arbus, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Robert Frank, Walker Evens and more? Does anyone also remember Alfred Stieglitz, the one man who did more than any other to elevate photography as an artistic medium equal to painting and sculpture?

These are just a few of the many who made their mark in photography, whose images have stood the test of time and continue to inspire and move viewers generations later. If you are truly serious about your photography and you desire to move beyond clichéd images then check out some of the names I mentioned here. You’ll soon realize that they are just the very tip of the iceberg, and that there are many newcomers to the field still pushing the boundaries of creativity. Have fun and enjoy the trip!

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How to Boost Your Creativity; Tip One

Isle of Skye ScotlandIsle of Skye Scotland #11807

How to Boost Your Creativity; Tip One

Everyone in the wide field of the Arts suffers from creative block from time to time, from writers and musicians to painters and photographers. No one is immune and these periods can be very frustrating and occasionally depressing. Sometimes though only a small change of environment or way of looking at things is needed to get those juices flowing again.

In this and subsequent articles I’m going to address some ways photographers, specifically in the landscape and nature genre, can find inspiration to be more creative so their individual vision can shine through. Although I’ve been photographing quite a long time and have a background in the arts I don’t consider myself an expert by any means. These are just some tips and pointers I’ve learned throughout the years.

Let’s start with the basics. What is creativity? Here is one definition:

creativity |ˌkrē-āˈtivitēnoun   The use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

Taking this definition in a strict sense is pretty tough. Yes, we all have an imagination, some bigger than others, but can we pull truly original ideas and concepts out of it on a regular basis? Hopefully some of these tips will give it a nudge in the right direction.

Tip #1: Use Online Photo Sharing Sites With Caution While sites like 500px Flickr and Google+ can at times be a wonderful source of inspiration to get your creative juices flowing, be warned they can also be  an addictive trap that can stifle your creativity. Online photo sharing sites host a wide variety of talent, from photographers just beginning and those interested only in technical aspects, to advanced professionals and artists trying to push the boundaries of the art.

I mostly like to browse through some of these sites in researching locations I may be visiting sometime in the future. It helps give me an idea of the photographic potential of an area. Unfortunately though I found that I rarely came away from these sites creatively inspired, there just isn’t much originality here.

Spend even a short amount of time browsing through posted photos on these sites and you’ll begin to see a follow the leader mentality, both in locations visited and the trend of the day style of processing used in the final image. One of the worst aspects of these sites, in my opinion, is that some have devolved into competitive venues where it is more important to accumulate Likes and Faves than it is to post creative content.

On the other hand I’ve found more inspiration and variety of talent on Facebook, not what I consider a strictly photo sharing site. There are a several of excellent photographers I follow on Facebook whose images never disappoint me and always inspire me to think different. 

So yes online photo sharing sites can be a good source of inspiration for your creative self but make sure it is only one of many tools in your kit, and don’t get sidetracked into a race to keep up with the next guy.

 

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