Making Our Artistic Choices at Capture, Not as an Afterthought

Joshua Trees & The High Sierras

After a few days creating images in Death Valley National Park, my friend (and fellow photographer) Christian Fleury, and I ventured out of the park and into the desert for one final photographic opportunity. I was enamored with the starkness of the desert and wanted to share the feeling of vastness. I knew black and white film was a natural choice for the mood I was trying to convey, and the amazing cloud display begged for a this classic look.  I chose my 6x17cm film format for the wide view that accentuated the expanse of the desert. The widely spread Joshua trees growing in the sand redefined the traditional vision of “forest”. The wispy clouds danced overhead, celebrating the openness of this wild place. The mighty Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance pulled the scene together. I truly felt the mood of this location, and reveled in the artistic process of choosing how to visually interpret, compose and capture this image. If I had taken a modern approach of shooting hundreds of frames in color, weeding through them on the computer, and finally deciding “how the image should look”, I would have lost the mood and message I wanted to convey.  As an artist in nature, I enjoy taking the responsibility of choosing my final vision while in the field. It is very gratifying to have that vision come to fruition through that initial emotion, successful choices, and an individual capture. That is the art I enjoy. Enjoy the View!

Photo Tip:
Slow down and trust your feelings. In a fast digital world, it is easy to get caught up in the whole mindset of not wanting to miss anything. Note that this is a human nature & societal problem, not a digital problem. The issue becomes a lack of focus on what is moving us and drawing us to the subject we want to photograph. In a familiar location near home, try the old method of giving yourself just one sheet of film (or one last spot on the memory card:) ). Observe what you are drawn to and take the time to conceive of the expected light, choose the composition carefully, clean up those edges, refine the focal length, pick the optimal camera position, carefully select the exposure, use solid technique with your tripod, cable release, etc. Make this one exposure important relative to what it makes you feel, and what it might communicate to a viewer. Enjoy the process, and take control of your art. Don’t go home with hundreds, or even thousands of images wondering if you may hove gotten anything. This practice will build your confidence in your skills, refine your artistic eye, and enable you to create a higher percentage of “successful images” in the future.

Equipment used:
Canham 5×7 metal field camera, Canham 6x17cm roll film back,  Caltar II-n (Rodenstock) 90mm lens, Gitzo 1325 Carbon Tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head, Acros 100 black and white film, Singh Ray LB Warming Polarizer, Red Filter.

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This entry was posted in 617cm film, black and white, California, death valley, desert photography, digital photography, Eastern Sierras, jon paul gallery, joshua tree, Landscape, large format, Mountains, National Parks, Panorama, panorama film, photo techniques, Photo Tip, Uncategorized, western and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .