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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Photo Highlights 2016

Photo Highlights 2016

Another year come and gone already, it seems like just yesterday I was writing about the 2015 Photo Highlights. For me, like many others, 2016 had some great highlights that were overshadowed by sadness and uncertainty. So many creative and influential people had passed this year, famous public figures I admired and close family members. It often made me pause and wonder.

On the creative side, 2016 was a year that saw me finally visit and photograph several locations that have been on my list for many years. New Mexico and the Canadian Atlantic Provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, to name a few. Perhaps even more important were a number of events and realizations that had me look back into the roots of my art and photography, resulting in a growing awareness of the direction my photography should take. Several of the images shown below represent the beginnings of this effort.

So without further ado let’s look at some of the Photo Highlights of 2016, and please feel free to vote or comment on your favorites!

Borrego Badlands, California, Photo Highlights 2016Borrego Badlands Cloud  #56801r

My first major trip of the year was a return to the Desert Southwest. Beginning in Anza Borrego Desert State Park of California I met up with my good friend Cyril Albrecht, visiting from Belgium. Although we both had different itineraries we were able to photograph together in a couple of locations, Fonts Point overlooking the Borrego Badlands was one of them. During one evening while waiting for the light I noticed this wonderful cloud formation developing in the opposite direction. I loved the abstract graphic qualities and how the round softness of the cloud contrasted with the harsh desert environment below.

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico Photo Highlights 2016White Sands National Monument #57148

White Sands National Monument in New Mexico was one of the new locations I visited this year. Sand dunes are always fun to photograph, and the white gypsum dunes in the monument added an extra level excitement to my visit. The area is wide open for roaming and exploration. Due to the amount of tracks in the sand created by visitors, it was necessary to hike further out for pristine conditions. Although the area is fairly small it is extremely easy to become disoriented and lose the path back to the trailhead. This image is definitely one of my favorites that I brought back. The cool tones, layers, angles, and ripples in the sand created a pleasing composition.

Bisti Badlands, New Mexico, Photo Highlights 2016Bisti Badlands New Mexico  #57428r

Another new location was the fabled Bisit/De-Na-Zen Wilderness, or simple Bisti Badlands, of northern New Mexico. Badlands and hoodoos are among my favorite subjects to photograph, and Bisti contains some of the best examples of these whimsical eroded rocks. I stayed there for three days and managed to just scratch the surface of creative possibilities. On the second evening I was treated to some of the most dramatic light I’ve seen in years. On that evening, after finishing photographing my prime subjects I hurriedly scrambled around to locate more compositions. This nearby hoodoo exemplified the oddities of Bisti, and post-processing the image to reflect the harsh alien-like environment added to this feeling.

Marching Men Arches National Park, Photo Highlights 2016Arches National Park  #57869

This image from Arches National Park was made in the Klondike Bluffs area. Although I’ve been to Arches several times before, this remote section of the park was new to me. Klondike Bluffs offers several dramatic arches and lots of red rock pinnacles, in addition to lots of solitude. While the main park attractions were swarming with visitors I enjoyed sharing this beautiful area with just a handful of people. Once again, some wonderful clouds glowing in evening light added to the drama, here balancing the composition with red sandstone pinnacles.

North Gardner Mountain, North Cascades, Photo Highlights 2016North Gardner Mountain, North Cascades Washington  #58051

Back home in the North Cascades, my first backpacking trip of the year yielded this image of an approaching storm over Gardner Mountain. A grueling hike, post-holing through snow and downed trees, led to the summit of Driveway Butte. Although my camp near the top had wonderful vistas, it didn’t really offer the compositions I had hoped for. However, as day broke my fortunes changed as the leading edge of  the storm glowed with light and mirrored the angles of the mountain ridges. I made several photos of this event before sitting down to enjoy the show.

Watkins Glen New York, Photo Highlights 2016Watkins Glen State Park New York  #58452

September marked the beginning of a long anticipated trip with my wife Coleen to New England and the Canadian Atlantic Provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The first new location on this trip was a brief stop at Watkins Glen State Park in New York. Situated in the Finger Lakes region, the main attraction in Watkins Glen is a beautifully sculpted narrow gorge. Only about a mile long with moderate elevation gain, the trail passes numerous pools, waterfalls, and hanging gardens. One of the highlights is this view framed by a stone bridge. Unfortunately, I only had a short morning to explore the photographic possibilities of this gem. Oh well, there is always next time.

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse Nova Scotia, Photo Highlights 2016Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, Nova Scotia  #58903

Nova Scotia was one of the highlights of the trip for me. For many years I’ve wanted to visit and photograph the Atlantic Provinces. The colorful fishing villages and seascapes have a powerful attraction for me. One location was high on my must see list. Peggy’s Cove, is arguably one of the most photographed and visited spots in all of Canada. After spending several days in remote and quiet Cape Bretton Highlands National Park, we were unsettled to be confronted by endless tour busses and crowds of people swarming everywhere! While waiting for evening light and the crowds to thin, we spent a relaxing day picnicking and exploring the nearby granite shoreline.

Photographing sunset at the lighthouse was a bit disappointing due to the lack of clouds. The local weather forecast had predicted rain the next morning adding to our frustration. With a chance the storm may arrive after sunrise we spent an uncomfortable night truck-camping in the parking lot near the lighthouse. The next morning clouds began to move in just at sunrise. Perfect conditions for those extremely rare light shows that starts great and continues to improve over time. I ended up making many images before the clouds finally blocked the sun and everything went grey and rainy.

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Photo Highlights 2016Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Maine  #59018

Next on our trip was Acadia National Park. The park, situated on Mount Desert Island, is said to be the most visited national Park east of the Mississippi. We had several instances of good light here, one of these being at Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. Photographers can’t visit this park without making a photo of this iconic lighthouse. On this evening I was among a sea of tripods. Everyone crowded into a very small space on the edge of the rocks. One photographer told me that it was a low turnout, the previous evening had twice as many photographers!

Cobblestone beach Acadia National Park, Photo Highlights 2016Cobblestone Beach Acadia National Park  #59047

The next morning I planned to make some long exposures at a popular cobblestone beach in the park. Arriving before sunrise, there were several other photographers from the previous evening setup well above the waterline. I, however, wanted to get down to the water’s edge to create a smoky effect of water among the rocks. The wet bowling ball sized boulders were treacherous. Smooth and extremely slippery, I had to carefully plan every step, the effort was worth it though.

Onondaga Falls, Ricketts Glen, Photo Highlights 2016Onondaga Falls, Ricketts Glen, Pennsylvania  #59553

The last new location we photographed in 2016 was Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania. This park was only a little out of our way as we travelled back home, but it was worth the detour. I’ve seen many wonderful images come from this park, and like Watkins Glen it really needs time for exploring all the hidden gems in all seasons. The northeastern states were experiencing a drought, so the water flow through the glen was low during my visit. I didn’t mind since there still was an abundance of subject matter to work with. In the image above I utilized a long exposure to create a swirling pattern by the motions of the leaves.

With so many new images and locations added to our files in 2016 selecting the top ten was a very difficult task. There were many images from the SW and New England that I very much wanted to add. To see more from this past year please take a few minutes to check out the New Images Galleries. You can also search images by location or keyword.

Thank you so much for visiting this post, and don’t forget to vote for your favorite image and feedback!

Photo Highlights 2016

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North Cascades Washington

North Cascades Washington

As I’ve mentioned in many posts, North Cascades Washington is one of my favorite places to get out and enjoy a rugged wilderness setting, and since I live in Bellingham Washington it is also practically in my backyard. Over the past several weeks I’ve made a few leisurely hikes and backpacks to some of my regular spots. Below are some photos from these trips that help illustrate the wild and rugged nature of this magnificent range. Enjoy!

Nooksack Tower is, in my opinion, one of the coolest and most dramatic looking peaks in the North Cascades. Topping out at a modest 8268′ / 2520m it is an outlier of the Mount Shuksan massif. Nooksack Tower has also been famously  labeled by legendary climber Fred Beckey as one of the most difficult climb in the North Cascades, equaled possibly only by nearby Slesse Mountain (the “Fang”) in British Columbia. In this view from above Hannegan Pass a layer of fresh spring snow adds to the formidable appearance of the tower.

Nooksack Tower North Cascades WashingtonNooksack Tower #58069

Ruth Creek Valley and Nooksack Ridge. Also one of my favorite areas in the North Cascades, Ruth Creek Valley via the Hannegan Pass Trail has some of the greatest views of any low to mid elevation trail in the Northwest. Most other trails at this elevation are deep in dense old growth forest, however, the slopes in this valley are regularly swept clean by avalanches fueled by massive winter snows. This heavily traveled route is also one of the few trails that provide access to the heart of North Cascades National Park. Aside from the great views, Ruth Creek Valley is also notorious for plagues of black flies that swarm around hikers in the heat of summer, be prepared with lots of Deet if you hike here in July or August!

North Cascades WashingtonRuth Creek Valley, North Cascades #58068

Backcountry Camping in the Mount Baker Wilderness. This photo was made on the same trip as the two photos above. While it has the looks of a winter setting the amount of snow seen here is typical for late spring in the North Cascades. Most of the higher elevations are not snow free until mid-July, with wildflowers blooming in sub-alpine meadows soon after that. In the distance you can see Nooksack Tower and its relation to the rest of Mount Shuksan

North Cascades Washington Backcountry campNorth Cascades Backcountry Camp#58078

North Cascades waterfall. This is a typical view just about anywhere in the lower elevations in spring. Lots of snow melt streams and creeks rushing down the slopes into lush green forests. This nameless, as far as I know, waterfall is midway up the trail to Excelsior Peak.

Waterfall North Cascades WashingtonNorth Cascades Waterfall #58066

Fine Art Prints & Commercial Licensing are available by clicking on the image!

North Cascades Washington

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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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Fine Art Prints Galleries

Fine Art Prints Galleries

Aspen grove in autumn Kananaskis Country Alberta Canada  #4874  Fine Art Prints Galleries

If you haven’t checked out our main website for a while now is the time. I’ve been working hard on making a few changes to improve the look, speed and ease of navigation. One of the first pages to be updated is Fine Art Prints. I’ve broken it down into a gallery of categories with each category opening into a slide show featuring large display images. As with most images on my site you can then click your desired photo to purchase.

Another feature I’ve added is a Fine Art Prints Information page where you can view information on how to purchase Fine Art Prints. Here you can also see the various print types, surfaces, prices, and detail on how to go about ordering. Many people feel it is difficult to visualize how prints will look displayed in a home setting, so as an aide I lead off the page with an image displayed in a typical room setting.

Finally, all the photos in the Fine Art prints galleries have been specially selected from among thousands of images in my library. These are some of my best selling images that are well suited for home office or hospitality decor.

Click Here to view all the images

Fine Art Prints Galleries

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Mount Robson

Mount Robson

Mount Robson sunrise, Canadian RockiesMount Robson #54614

Here is another image from last September’s trip to Mount Robson in the Canadian Rockies, since this image has garnered an exceptionally favorable response on social media I felt that I should fill in a little background on how it was made. This was my third trip to Mount Robson Provincial Park and I had high hopes of getting some stunning images of the mountain from a few spots I had scouted out on the two previous trips. I had allocated five days to fulfill my goal, but by the third I was becoming frustrated by the lack of interesting light. The weather was spectacular, warm with blue skies, but while great for outdoor activities it didn’t possess the kind of light I had hoped for. Finally on the third morning clouds from an approaching storm arrived just as the sun was coming up, perfect timing and conditions to illuminate the sky and mountains in a warm glow, just what I wanted.

The image above was one of the first made as the sky warmed with a reddish magenta glow. I had thoroughly investigated this spot the day before to see where and how the best compositions lined up, I knew there were many possibilities for both horizontal and vertical images so I mentally took note on which were the best and planned the shoot accordingly if the light cooperated. This plan paid off the next morning as I knew there would be a limited amount of time before the light faded.

However but the time I had finished working this area the light was still going strong. About a half mile east along this basin there was another spot I planned on photographing in the evening or next morning. With the approaching weather I had a feeling there might not be another opportunity like this one so I gathered up my equipment and ran along the basin as fast I could and hastily set up my tripod. By this time most of the warm dawn glow had faded but the light was still intense on the clouds. The third image in this post  is one of the last I made that morning. During the entire shot I used a variety of gradual neutral density filters on lenses from 14mm to 55mm, the post processing was nothing more than adjusting levels and curves with some burning and dodging. I like to keep things on that end as simple and strait forward as possible.

Mount Robson Canadian RockiesMount Robson #54646

The images appearing in this portfolio are available as a Fine Art Print and for commercial licensing. Click on the  image and then ADD TO CART to purchase.

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