About Me

Columbia, Missouri, United States
I am a nature enthusiast with a camera. I use my camera to express my love of landscapes, trees, mountains, and the many little creatures and plants that live among them. I try to express things as they are and use natural light and planning to do so.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

On Starving-Artisthood

For those of you who don't know me, I am not a wealthy socialite traveling the globe taking pictures at my leisure.  The truth is, I am a doctoral student in child clinical psychology in my 6th year at the University of Missouri and about to begin a year-long internship (that's code for regular job responsibilities without matching pay) in Pennsylvania that will complete my degree requirements.  During my time as a grad student, I have made some great friends, gained a great deal of professional experience, and explored interests like photography and music, but I have not made myself wealthy.  Why do I mention this, you might wonder?  Is it because I'm asking for donations?  No; it's because I'm functionally pretty broke and have made it work for my young photographic career.  I simply can't afford the most up-to-date computers or software, for regular cross-country or intercontinental travel, or for a $7,000 camera body or $1,500 professional lenses.  But I'm not complaining; quite the contrary, in fact.

Great Burr Oak

When you don't have much, the little stuff really matters, and you come to appreciate what's around you.  Most of the photos you see in my Missouri-Central web gallery were taken within a few dozen miles of my home at minimal expense to me (see photos below).  Yet, during art shows in my current home of Columbia, Missouri, I've encountered many individuals with far more resources than I who have never made the trip to the Great Burr Oak, a massive, nearly 400-year-old tree only 15 miles to the south, and they may have failed to notice the way the light sometimes bounces off the numerous nearby creeks when you walk down their streambeds around sunset, or the incredible colors that pass through autumn leaves at just the right time on just the right day.  No doubt, there are plenty of others who have never thoroughly explored the large state park only 10 miles south of town, or the half-dozen nearby conservation areas, let alone the national forest trail system to the southeast.  I'm very happy to have made the most of my resources by taking advantage of the many outdoor opportunities around me, and I've been lucky to encounter many like-minded individuals with sage advice on where to go next. 
Pink Hinkson

The same concept of making the most of resources is also true of doing photography.  If a point-and-shoot is what you have, you can use it to make good nature photos if you just go places when the light is good, experiment, and learn from the results.  Certainly, it's worthwhile to gain some technical knowledge (most of which is available for free on the internet or available at your public library), and you have to be willing to take the camera off Auto mode, but you don't need professional gear or the most expensive software to make art.  Light and nature are the keys: you have to study their qualities, learn about their interplay, and then use the camera as a tool to capture that interplay.  I've encountered several snooty nature photographers on forums who say it's all about the gear and then look at their work and see, well......highfalutin garbage that fails to capture the beauty of light in its natural environment.  I've also encountered folks who take photos with nothing but cell phones and make great art.  So, I wish other photographers the best in making due with what you have and what's around you. 

Fall Forest Rainbow

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thoughts at the start...........

After about 10 years of running around with a camera in the woods and along country roads and scenic byways, I've been thinking a lot about why I like nature photography so much and where to go next.  Somewhere along the line, I borrowed a Galen Rowell book called Mountain Light from my dad (and naturally still have it on my shelf).  Now, Galen was a stark raving mountain madman......over 100 first ascents in the Sierra Nevadas, first one-day ascent of Denali, El Capitan at age 57, and so on before his untimely death by plane in his early 60s.  I have no ambition to go on technical climbs of big mountains at this point in my life and doubt that I'll get to travel to half the places he did, but I loved that Galen Rowell's photographs were so mesmerizingly beautiful that they made me want to get off the couch or away from the office and go see some of the places he saw........Tibet, the Sierra Nevadas, Alaska.  He also figured out that if he just took his camera where he wanted to go and wrote a few words about it, he could pretty much go wherever he wanted, and I'm beginning to think I could do some of that.  It also wasn't about the photography for him; it was about the beauty of the places and the process of trekking through the landscape.  That is what I hope to emulate when I take photos and is a big part of my somewhat dogmatic focus on natural light and minimal photo processing.  It's partially about making a good photograph, but it's mostly about being the only one on the trail or the road at sunrise and placing myself at the right location and taking it all in at sunrise or sunset when the colors come alive.  To quote some famous musical hippies, "Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right."  My favorite part about showing other people my work at art shows and on my website is when people see a photo, and it inspires them to go to a place or to talk about memories of happy times in the outdoors or tell me where I should go next.  I also enjoy when or people ask, "Is that real?" or say "You must have done a bunch to that in Photoshop."  My answers are always yes, and not much. 

Smokey Sunrise
For this posting, I'll share the above photo from a recent roadtrip to the Smokey Mountains for lots of hiking, backpacking, and just driving around and taking photos and listening to books on tape and good music  The additional photo below is a favorite from a mountain bike ride in a park near my current home in Columbia, Missouri.  Both are composites of several images stitched together in the photomerge application within Photoshop.  The former is at sunrise, and the latter is at sunset.  Both were planned the day before for timing and lighting conditions and taken from a tripod. 

So, the plan for the future is to keep poking around in the woods and expand my range to other parts of the U.S. and the rest of the big wild world.  Hopefully, I'll also get to write about my adventures here and potentially in magazines and books.  If I'm lucky, I'll be able to use my camera to fund my adventures and to promote conservation of some of the places I love so they'll still be around for other generations to enjoy.  I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions for future postings.