Category Archives: Lessons Learned

Reflections on life, life’s lessons, parenting and just being a 40-something in Dayton, Ohio

A Visual Celebration of the End of Summer

While most people celebrate the end of summer with back to school and Labor Day activities, I prefer to take notice of the turning of the season, a turning toward what I like to call the “good light.” Softening sunlight and lengthening shadows and fields that turn to gold. This is the nature photographer’s best season when capturing images of the Ohio landscape. It’s also the primary reason I’ve scheduled my first, full-day photography workshop for the weekend of September 26th.

The End of Summer on the Ohio Landscape by Jim Crotty
The End of Summer on the Ohio Landscape by Jim Crotty

It is also with some melancholy that I say farewell to the summer of 2009. Back in May I made a goal of making this past summer one full of positive experiences from the limited time I have available to spend with my daughters, Emma, age 10, and Chloe, age nine. Making this my goal was in response of regretting not doing such during the summer of 2008. You see I am a single, divorced dad of two very special little girls. During the school year they live with their mother in Texas. Emma and Chloe are my everything, and I’ve made it no secret that there is NOTHING for me in Ohio that comes close to being worth the pain I go through when I have to say goodbye and put them on that American Airlines flight back to Texas.

I mean it – NOTHING, especially Dayton. I don’t think I need to explain that point further for most regular readers of this blog.

I succeeded in accomplishing my goal for this past summer, so much so that the pain of the goodbye (at least for me) was as sharp and searing as it has ever been.

And it’s with that emotion of love and commitment to my children that I present the following video and images, most of which were taken during my daughter’s last week with me in mid-August and going through the lonely days following to the beginning of September.

The visual artist creates what is discovered in the light from that which is felt within.

Outdoor Photographer August 2009 Issue Best Yet

Over the years I think I’ve subscribed to nearly all of major photography magazines. You name it, I’ve read it. Many photography publications are directed strictly toward the average hobbyist market, relying heavily on advertising from the big retailers that sell just about any type of photo gear you can imagine.

There are other photography magazines directed strictly toward the professional photographer. These are the publications with impressive portfolios and practical information on everything from studio lighting to optimal digital workflow.

There’s one photography magazine that has been able to consistently offer editorial content that is suited for both advanced hobbyist and professional shooter, particularly those who enjoy nature and landscape photography. Outdoor Photographer is that magazine, and this month’s issue is the best yet. It is timely that the August 2009 issue came to my attention now because it will serve as an excellent reference resource for my upcoming, full-day photography workshops on nature and landscape photography, the first of which is scheduled for September 26, 2009 at Cox Arboretum here in Dayton (it filled-up quite some time ago, but I will be doing another one this winter).

The articles that I found to be most interesting were “Get 4×5 Quality with a DSLR,” by Dennis Frates; “Get Into the Stock Market,” by Art Wolfe (thanks Art for introducing me to PhotoShelter back at the NANPA Summit in Albuquerque); “The Zone System Revisited,” by Ken Rockwell; “Making Your Best Black-And-White,” by Richard Lopinto; and “The Big Trip,” by Mark Edward Harris.

This why Outdoor Photographer is one of those magazines that I actually take the time to read from cover to back. It always deliver, especially if you are a photographer who is constantly seeking new information and ways to improve your craft, and who isn’t ? The constant learning process is what makes photography so much fun, whether you’re just starting out or an established professional.

The following images aren’t directly related to this blog entry other than they were taken by a “photographer” (me) and “outdoors.” Plus I thought it would be fun just to post them and provide a little variety. The landscape images were captured on the evening of July 16, 2006 from Dead Horse Point near Moab, Utah, overlooking Canyonlands National Park. Something kind of cool happened to me when I was out there photographing the scenes and the sunset that evening. Can’t quite explain it, but I think it comes through with the images.

The skyline shot is of Cincinnati during the 2006 Tall Stacks Festival.

Sunset from Dead Horse Point Utah by Jim Crotty

Colorado River from Dead Horse Point by Jim Crotty

Canyonlands National Park from Dead Horse Point by Jim Crotty

Tall Stacks Cincinnati 2006 by Jim Crotty

Life’s Lessons on the Trail to Ramsay Cascade

Photos

Spring in Great Smoky Mountain National Park | Photo 02

Spring in Great Smoky Mountain National Park | Photo 02

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uploaded by jimcrotty

I’m not the fearless adventurer, so often and well-represented in the movies with the character of Indiana Jones. I’m just a middle-aged, roaming photographer and wanna-be writer. But Indiana Jones and I have one thing in common. We both hate snakes, and I really hate Rattlesnakes. However, sometimes such unexpected encounters can make for the perfect metaphor.

In mid-May 2009 I ventured to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, on the Tennessee side, to do some spring nature photography in what has become one of my favorite locations for beautiful landscapes.

I went with the goal of hiking a few new trails and photographing some waterfalls and cascades not seen during my last two visits to the Smoky Mountains. There was also the rising need within me to be in a place where I always return to find peace and creative inspiration – in nature’s beauty.

I’m learning that these ventures back to nature serve a larger purpose than just capturing new material for my growing photography business. There’s almost a cleansing process that takes place, kind of like a mini “40 days in the desert.” And through that process there is always the lessons to learn and nature’s symbols and messages to be experienced, observed and internalized by this lover of life and nature.

But this time around I was not expecting such a symbol to come slithering across my path, just a few feet in front of me. At first I looked at it with a bit of curious excitement. It wasn’t until a few days afterward that I pondered the chance encounter on that hike, and the hike itself, for what was – a representation of the journey all of us undertake, within the biggest and most visually striking landscape of them all – that of LIFE.

Continue reading Life’s Lessons on the Trail to Ramsay Cascade

Summer Photography in the Colorado Rockies

Just last week I traveled to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with my daughter Emma, age 10. I learned the hard way last summer to make the best of the time I have with my daughters, so this year I planned a special trip with both of them. For Chloe, age eight, it was Washington D.C. last month. For Emma it was the mountains in Colorado. During the school year they live in Texas with their mother, and the winters here in Ohio for me, as a single dad, can be pretty tough. So far this summer is going much better. We’re having a ton of fun and capturing some great photographs.

I didn’t do a lot of my nature and landscape photography while with Emma in Colorado, but she did help me with the filming of another episode in my ongoing video tutorials on photography, this one titled “Alpine Wildflowers and Light Anxiety.” The first half of this segment is a little shaky. My apologies. My camera operator is still learning.

Another topic I wanted to mention is the art and business of the fine art nature gallery. Whenever I visit resort towns, particularly out west, I love to browse the retail galleries of some of the top professional nature and landscape photographers. They’ve got it going on. While we were in Frisco, Colorado we wandered around a bit in the retail gallery of Colorado Photographer Todd Powell. His work is jaw-dropping gorgeous, and in his gallery he does all of his own printmaking and mounting.

Another gallery that just blew me away was that of Tom Mangelsen, located in the terminal of Denver International Airport. WOW ! Incredibly beautiful prints, meticulously composed, captured and edited. Tom raises the bar of excellence for any nature and landscape photographer who aspires to fly in the stratosphere of professional success and accomplishment. Tom Till, Art Wolfe, Jim Brandenburg, John Shaw and David Middleton also rank right up there with the best of the best when it comes to fine art nature and landscape photography.

I would love to have had a successful gallery operation, such as those of any of the above mentioned photographers, here in the Dayton area. I’m confident I have the body of local photographic work as well as the necessary skill, knowledge and equipment for fine art printmaking. In fact I somewhat attempted the effort at my previous retail location, off of Far Hills in Centerville. Sadly I didn’t receive hardly any foot traffic (other than salespeople) until I announced I was closing the store and marking all of my print inventory drastically down. That turned-out to be the confirmation of what I have always suspected to be the case with the local art market.

The problem with Dayton (and for that matter, all of Ohio) is that the market just isn’t there. Fine art print galleries are always most successful in high- dollar, tourist areas, such as in and around the grand vistas and National Parks of the American West. There are some notable exceptions, but the one constant is easy access to customers who 1) have the disposable income to purchase fine art nature and landscape prints, and 2) APPRECIATE and know the skill and artistic talent required to create incredibly striking nature and landscape photography.

It’s a shame because I have discovered Ohio to be rich in scenic locations that translate beautifully into fine art prints, providing buyers of professional nature photography with a unique, local touch to how they decorate homes and offices. Unfortunately here in Dayton the photographers who have achieved that level of skill often get pushed to the side or grouped-in with other visual artists, whether it be at public showings or in galleries. Been there. Done that. It’s not for me.

The best I can do at this point is “build my market” where it doesn’t exist. I think I’m making progress, but I – and the local market – have a long way to go. Perhaps someday.