Category Archives: Inspiration

Photo Published on Cover of Ohio State Parks Magazine

I’m happy to announce that one of my photographs has once again made the cover of Ohio State Parks Magazine. The most recent issue – fall/winter 2009 – features an image I captured while in Hocking Hills State Park during a weekend in early November. I was there with my two favorite fellow sojourners when venturing out to the woodlands and hollows of Hocking, my daughters Emma and Chloe. Over the last five years this is the fourth issue one of my photographs was selected for the cover of Ohio State Parks.

Ohio State Parks Magazine Fall 2009 with Photograph by Jim Crotty
Ohio State Parks Magazine Fall 2009 with Photograph by Jim Crotty

With all the emphasis currently on our system of National Parks, thanks to another exceptional series airing on PBS by Ken Burns, it’s easy to overlook the beauty and the gifts offered through our local and state parks. I’ve visited and photographed many National Parks, including Great Smoky, Grand Teton, Glacier, Zion, Capital Reef, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands and Rocky Mountain. All of these strikingly beautiful parks present natural scenery that is beyond breathtaking, there’s no doubt. However, it’s the local, visual treasures found here in my home state of Ohio where my creative spirit and nature-loving soul feels the most at home. Especially Hocking Hills. That’s where my love for nature and landscape photography first took flight during a winter hike with the nature photography club from the Dayton Museum of Natural History (now Boonshoft), so long ago when I was 13 years old.

The State Parks in Ohio are now under a considerable amount of pressure to reduce services and cut costs. It’s a shame. If our National Parks are truly “America’s best idea,” (did you know that Ohio has a National Park ? It’s Cuyahoga, between Cleveland and Akron) then state and local parks and natural areas are the second best idea. In some ways these smaller versions of their big cousins are even more important to protect and preserve due to the fact that they represent places where most people make “first contact” with the beauty and wonder of nature. I’ve always said that the City of Dayton’s best recreational asset is the Five Rivers MetroParks. Considering the shrinking population and economic base in the Dayton area, we are VERY fortunate to have a relatively large number of local parks which are easily accessible, well-managed and each in their own way, provide the essential connection to the healing powers of our natural environment.

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

A Tale of Two Mornings

From the back deck of my home I have a wonderful vantage point of the eastern horizon, perfect for capturing sunrises during the summer. Still my all-time, personal favorite location for dawn and sunrise photography is the hilltop behind the Inn at Cedar Falls in Hocking Hills. My back deck in Centerville is a good subsitute when I’m not there at the Inn in what I and others like to refer to as a “sacred place.”

Sunrise for landscape photography is a pure pleasure that I relish in. The peaceful beauty can not be matched. It’s God’s way of saying to us “here, another blessing of a new day, to start again, to renew.”

The following two images were captured in the cool stillness of dawn on the early morning of Monday, August 3d, 2009. I was well up before the light began in the eastern sky. I was greeted with the sight of Sirius (the brightest star in the sky) following my old friend of winter – Orion. The first harbinger of the cooler, golden days of autumn has arrived.

Photographer Jim Crotty captures the pre-dawn sky
Photographer Jim Crotty captures the pre-dawn sky
Sunflower Photograph by Dayton Photographer Jim Crotty
Sunflower Photograph by Dayton Photographer Jim Crotty

And then again what a difference a day makes. Pre-dawn this morning, August 4, 2009 and I’m awakened by the most spectacular show of lightening and sound of thunder seen yet this year. From the covered safety of my kitchen window I set-up my Canon 1D Mark III with a Canon 28-70mm f.2.8 lens on the tripod and fired 30-second exposure after 30-second exposure, hoping to capture just the right lightening strike. The following image came closest to what I had in mind –

Lightening Photograph by Dayton Ohio Photographer Jim Crotty on August 4 2009
Lightening Photograph by Dayton Ohio Photographer Jim Crotty on August 4 2009

Here again I’m reinforced with the belief that the artist captures best that which is closest to home, and oftentimes the most striking of nature and landscape photographs result from the subtle and oftentimes overlooked beauty that lies just out the front or back doors. This coming Saturday, August 8th, I will be presenting more images and talking about how the best photographs can be obtained just outside in one’s backyard at Dayton’s Wegerzyn Gardens. This is a one and half hour program on the basics of nature photography, being offered free to the public through Five Rivers MetroParks. It’s also a follow-up to the same program I presented to about 40 people at Wegerzyn on July 11th. The problem is that since then an article ran in the Dayton Daily News (with the headline error of “Local Artist to Present Free Workshops” – Five Rivers does; Jim Crotty does not), along with the fact that my number was given to register versus that of the Park office, my phone has been ringing off the hook. I’m estimating the turn-out to be twice that of July 11th. There’s only going to be so much I can cover in such a short amount of time to such a large group, but I will do my best.

My own, full-day workshop on nature and landscape photography is set for September 26 at Cox Arboretum. The fee is $89 per person and the group is limited to 20 people. That particular program filled within two weeks of announcing the details and I now have a waiting list 10 people deep. The good news is that I will be working on the details on another, similar full-day program at Cox, possibly on nature  and landscape photography in the winter. I’m thinking about a Saturday in January or February, 2010. The best way for people to receive an early notice and get signed-up is by registering for my e-mail newsletter.

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.