A few days ago I attended a dinner for the Law of Climate Change and Human Rights Conference in Seattle. Later, I presented “Between Heaven and Earth,” my homage to the Himalaya, to the attendees. The conference brought legal scholars from around the world together to learn about issues related to the rights of those affected by climate change and strategies for assigning responsibility for such impacts.
The event was organized by University of Washington law students, principally Jeni Barcelos and Jen Marlow. I was impressed to learn that students, not faculty, were the engine behind the conference. While I only had a chance to meet a few of the participants, I was cheered to find bright, engaged young people determined to make a difference in the face of immense problems and was honored to be invited to show my work to the group.
Yosemite Valley is one of the wonders of the world, but it’s a tough place to capture color images. By the time light reaches the Valley floor, it has become harsh and lost the golden glow of dawn. For that reason the classic Ansel Adams compositions don’t work as well in color, and there is no point in replicating the compositions of the master. The trick is to find a new way to see a familiar landscape. It’s not the subject, it’s the photograph. The union of composition, light and texture create the effects we desire.
During class, I discussed composition and linked photography to the painting of modern masters. All their techniques, from the use of negative space, to line, pattern, and color, apply in photography.
I saw the limitations of the light as a teaching opportunity at the recent Travels to the Edge Field Seminar in Yosemite. Our group set out early to shoot in shade before the sun blew out highlights. When the sun was higher, we hugged the cliffs, explored narrow canyons, or confined our shots to muted forest scenes or details in shadow. We selected blooming dogwoods, moving water, and forests as our principal subjects.
I asked everybody to concentrate on removing distraction so the eye moves as we intend across the photograph. We don’t want a twig to derail us or a white blob of blurred water to divert attention.
Shooting was fun, but people learned the most during our critiques in a grand room in the classic Ahwahnee Hotel. When looking though a viewfinder, it can be tough to see all the small elements that can sabotage an image, to see how an alternate crop strengthens a composition. We projected the images from Lightroom so I could improve the crop and alter tonality. Most often, the images included too much and simplifying added impact. Day by day I saw improvement in everyone’s images as they incorporated the suggestions.
I teach all kinds of workshops, but none are more satisfying than working with these small groups. I look forward to the next one in Maine’s Acadia National Park next month.
Yesterday was the first day of the Monterey/Big Sur Travels to the Edge Field Seminar, the first of three (Yosemite and Acadia follow soon). I had planned to give a lecture before we went out to shoot, but the foggy morning was too good to resist. We hurried to a coastline rich in twisted cypresses and surf-carved rock. After shooting we returned for the presentation. This was backwards, but you can’t turn your back on opportunity, which is a lesson in itself.
Spend a day with me to learn how I create my images as I
travel the world. Members of the Travels to Edge crew will discuss
equipment usage and transport while I will show how I
employ the insights of modern painting when composing photographs. This is a synopsis of what I teach in my three day Creative Session.
Space is limited to 180 participants. There will a drawing at the
end of the day for a Lowepro bag!
For more info please contact us directly- firstname.lastname@example.org
Composition: changing how you see
Finding the image
What’s in Art’s Bag
Lunch Break – On your own
Tips: Light, Depth, Movement
Working with people
Transport and workflow
It’s the photograph, not the subject
July 18, 2009
Silver Cloud Hotel Stadium
1046 First Ave South
Seattle, WA 98134
I was pleased with the results of the Creative Session last weekend. It seemed that everyone grasped the idea of applying a painter’s vision to photography and that shooting every subject to expand your view of composition was the key to rapid improvement. Darell Gulin laid out all the issues involved in macro photography, and Scott Stulberg delivered a rapid fire survey of Photoshop plug ins and the critical role of layer masks for enhancing photographs. John Greengo discussed the equipment issues faced on the road.
Tomorrow I leave for a Travels to the Edge Field Seminar in Monterey and Big Sur where I will teach the same precepts where we can put the lessons into practice along the shore and in the forests.
My only Creative Session for 2009 begins today. The entire group of 50 participants will convene at my house for a reception with food from my favorite restaurant in Seattle, Wild Ginger, the city’s first Pan Asian eatery.
Starting tomorrow, we will devote three days to learning how to see like an artist. This is a new program from start to finish with an emphasis on the compositional techniques of artists from the Impressionists through the Abstract Expressionists. I will cover line, balance, negative space, color interactions, and moving the eye, among other topics. Darrel Gulin, the past president of NANPA, photo tour instructor, and stock photographer will add his insights regarding composition for close up images. John Greengo will demonstrate discuss gear and travel issues we face while shooting Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge. Scott Stulberg will show how layer masks and plugins in Photoshop can enhance or transform images from the mundane to the wondrous. I think all three add value, plus I will need a couple hours a day of downtime to recharge.
I’m excited about this new seminar and look forward to presenting it, and abridged versions, next year and beyond.
Kenmore Camera invited to me to present my Between Heaven and Earth show at a Canon-sponsored event at the Lynnwood, WA Convention Center north of Seattle. I had a great time meeting people. The room was SRO and the response gratifyingly boisterous. The show chronicles how I started with photography in the North Cascades, and how my involvement with a 1984 expedition to the Tibetan side of Mt Everest led to a life-long obsession with the Himalaya. I’ve returned to Tibet, visited Nepal, explored Bhutan, trekked up the Baltoro Glacier of Pakistan, and wandered in northern India. No other part of the world, with the exception of the Pacific Northwest, has influenced my life and work as deeply.