Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Part of the joy in creating photographs is aligning a technique to match the mood. Are cameras costing thousands of dollars the answer for achieving visual success? Is having every focal length known to man inside your visual tool bag going to make you more creative? Of course not. Remember that old saying "It isn't the tools, it's the carpenter." Photography is no different. When it works, its magical.

In my last two workshops, we've spent considerable time playing with a variety of basic photographic processes and post processing techniques to reach a visual goal. Its been fun, inspiring and amazingly simple. One of the biggest surprises was using the Hipstamatic iPhone app. So easy to use and its off the wall look really brought out the qualities in the subjects appeal.

For example, this old truck along the Gunflint Trail in N.E. Minnesota. This area is the gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and an area that remains relatively unchanged over time. The scene was a perfect fit with the iPhone Hipstamatic app, then converted to B/W using Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro 2. The photograph seemed to be a marriage with this style. From an iPhone!

Below, a forest scene with it's rows of planted tree's usually attracts a photographers eye. But, in most cases unless there is fantastic light, fog, or some amazing light quality, we keep on driving. But we hiked in, pulled out our $8 flashlights and went back to the woods just before darkness set in and painted with light during long exposures. A simple, organized scene using a slice of light gave it enhanced interest when the patterns were interrupted.

Photo gadgets have never been my thing. Yet, in my photo arsenal (which is very small) I've carried around filters specifically used for creating infared images. These filters are so dark you cannot see through them and the exposures are 20 seconds even in the brightest light. So, there are some complications that need attention when using them. There are easier ways. In today's digital world you can take those old digital cameras to a dealer who can convert your camera to shoot only digital infared! Pretty slick.

This was a scene that was pretty, but basic. It was easy to frame up a cute shot of an old church that has been shot a million times. Yet, adding the infared look seemed to breath a little extra life into the photograph. It took us someplace else visually. The image became dramatic, healthy and interesting.

In another situation, I taught a environmental nude workshop locally and we searched for locations where the idea of creating dream like scenario's could be accomplished. Finding a local creek played the significant role in this, but the post processing, softening, adding contrast and over exposing areas of the photograph really brought the concept to life. A simple prop like the long piece of silky material contributed in ways we didn't expect.....but did plan for. It was marvelous.

Think out of the box. Try new things, alternative processes, old techniques. There's a good chance your work will jump to new levels of visual communication and match the concept floating around inside your head.

To catch a fun interview about photography during one of our recent workshops at the
North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota listen the fun at WTIP Radio in Grand Marais on the Roadhouse Show.