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Olympus E-M1, f/5.6 @ 1/400sec, 50mm, ISO 640, no filters 

It’s been a busy spring so far with workshops in the Smoky Mountains and the Hudson Valley, and I leave to Moab, Utah tomorrow for another workshop in the southwest. My time for writing has been in short supply. But I do have a new series of articles coming up very soon addressing composition, printing, books I’m reading, and other useful information I hope inspires you in your photography.

I also want to thank those who have purchased my latest book, Insights from the Creative Path, the response has been amazing, it has sold well here and on, and I am extremely grateful for your support.

Spring Trees

I made this image on my recent trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, and I think it’s a good example of capturing mood and mystery in a photograph. There are several elements that contribute to this including the fog, the diffuse warm colored light, and the lack of detail in the darkest shadows which also happen to be strongest compositional elements in the image – the trees. The visual goal is not to bring attention to the trees, but to use them as rhythmic elements that move the viewers eye through the image, and hopefully create a sense of curiosity, and an appreciation of the moment as I experienced it.

Direction of light is one of the key components of any image, and I always seem to gravitate to backlighting simply because it often creates drama and a sense of movement. Shadows become counterpoints to the highlights, and it’s the interplay of the two that I enjoy. Ultimately I want the viewer to ask certain questions.

What does it feel like to be in a place like this? What does it sound like? How did it make me feel? All of these can be partially answered to varying degrees with the way in which an image is captured and interpreted. The ultimate question I always ask of myself and my students is: “What is the image about?” For me the image is about the stoic-like quality of trees, and of nature in general. It’s not so much about an actual subject, but about the experience of being in a place.

Capturing that successfully is incredibly difficult because we are so eager to label an image by its subject matter or location. But that’s what I look for in the images I make, a sense of detachment from the subjects and places, and visceral connection to emotion and experience. I don’t often succeed, but the only way to even come close is by immersing myself in those things that inspire me to continue to try.

That’s where the real motivation for creative risk comes from, and it’s the only thing that will keep you inspired after you feel like you’ve exhausted the possibilities of a subject. Don’t photograph locations, instead turn the camera on yourself and see if you can show us what excites you about the world.

2015-05-12 11.53.59

13 x 19 printed on Canson Rag Photographique with Epson 3880

Please share your comments and feedback – I’m always eager to learn something new from your thoughts or perspective.

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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Robert,

    Great post and image. I think everyone needs to see a print. It is not enough to look at it on a screen. The paper, the rendition, the choices all make a print.

    Have a great workshop in Moab. I wish I could make it there with you. A real treat.

  2. Let me sneak this from David Vestal, “You bring the Art with you…” Robert this wraps it up in a pixel.
    There are photo images that are first designs in light than trees or mountains. This is one of those images. Making an image without sliding PS settings to 100% is not an easy task.
    Keep it simple.

    1. Thanks for the feedback David. I’m not sure about bringing anything with you, except an open mind and a willingness to try something that may fail. What happens afterwards (whether it’s considered art) is not that important to me, what matters is that I’m exploring new territory.


  3. Beautiful image. Look up my friend/photographer Bret Edge on “main street” Moab. Question – Given the high shutter speed, why did you leave the ISO so high? I enjoy your site, thank you.

    1. Hi Wesley – I know Brett and always recommend students visit his gallery – will say hello. As to the ISO, I had accidentally left my tripod in my hotel room, and had no choice but to photograph handheld. I wanted to make sure I had no blur and I’m comfortable with the ISO performance of the E-M1.

      thanks!! RR

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