I keep finding myself returning to monochrome – aka black and white – photography, particularly when converting from original digital files that are high dynamic range. My favorite digital tools for crafting these images includes Apple Aperture and the Nik plug-ins. When completed with care and attention to detail, the fine art black and white photograph should evoke a viewer reaction reminiscent of the works of the early masters, particularly Weston and Adams. I’m not sure if I will ever achieve work of that caliber, but it’s sure fun to try.
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.
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 –
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fine Art – Stock – Commercial – Portrait – Workshops