As a photographer, 2019 was pretty significant for me. It was successful for print sales, workshops and speaking engagements, but I’m most happy with my growth as a photographer. Instead of just showing my favorite photographs from 2019, I’d like to share why they were made which may help you on your journey as a photographer and artist. .
This year, just before the fall colors hit the Pine Barrens, photographer Denise Ippolito spoke at the South Jersey Camera Club about creativity. What I most admire about Denise’s work is that she has crafted a unique and very feminine photographic style. One of the techniques she shared was how she creates High Key images in camera. High Key is creating a photograph that has a predominance of bright tones in it. This image of a beaver lodge in the fall morning mist is the result of adapting what Denise taught to my own style. No matter how happy we are with our own work, the ability to interact with other photographers and creative people becomes a path to growth and inspiration.
I gave bird photography a shot this year and learned there are a lot of rules to bird photography. Plus, bird photographers are an interesting bunch. They are driven as much by a love of birds as their love for photography. Nothing against these hardy photographers, but I realized right away that this wasn’t for me. So I asked myself “Why are you here with a camera and long lens?” and decided that I’m in it for the art. These two photographs are the result of about 10,000 images I made answering that question in the previous sentence. Not that all 10,000 were a waste, it’s just that these two are the best impression I could make of these beautiful winged creatures.
Minimalism in photography is something I love, but never seem to grasp. I tend to gravitate towards photographs that are anything but minimalistic. In the New Jersey Pine Barrens you are constantly sorting through landscapes full of a lot of elements to find a composition. The Pine Barrens are anything but barren. Being inspired by some amazing minimalist photographs, I started looking for them on my own turf of the Pines. Rain and fog can mask busy details and offer the opportunity for minimalism in non-minimalistic environments. On any other day, the busy background in this scene would make a very different photograph.
I photographed two abandoned projects this year. One was a large factory complex, and the other an abandoned cranberry farm. While documenting history with art was the main purpose of these projects, I had 24/7 access to both places and did what any landscape photographer does: go for the light. The factory image below was done when the light was right on a frosty early spring morning just after sunrise. The next photograph was made as a storm passed through the old farm. It is more of a photograph about the power of nature than it is about the old house. Having the freedom to come and go when you please with your subjects provides an almost unlimited ability to create within that space.
If you have heard me lecture or have been on my workshops, you know about the simple photographic technique of turning around. Turning around is something every landscape photographer should do because the best photograph may be behind you. This is one of my favorite results of practicing what I preach. We spent the night in Reno Nevada before flying home after a trip to Lake Tahoe. I decided to photograph the city at night, lit by the moon, from an overlook above the town. After turning around as a car passed by, the idea for this image came to me. Even after photographing the amazing landscape in Lake Tahoe, this is my favorite image from the trip.
Just Plain Fun
Hanging out in a historic cemetery in the middle of a cold night is not my ideal location for a photography shoot. But the chance to hang out with some good friends who masterminded this shoot was just too good to pass up. Maybe it was the cold or the combined creativity of 3 people who are crazy enough to be in a cemetery when it’s 20 degrees, but this was one of the results. Definitely not something I expected to come home with.
So this one isn’t my best work, but it’s a favorite because of the journey needed to get to this thing. Meet the Swamp Monster. It was a machine used to harvest cedar trees in the Pine Barrens and was abandoned many years ago, probably due to mechanical problems. Since then, the cedar swamp that the monster harvested grew back around it with a vengeance. Locating and getting to the Swamp Monster was a challenge that I’ll probably detail, with additional photographs, in another blog post. This image is included because of the adventure I undertook to get to this spot.
It has been an interesting year. May you and yours have a happy and healthy new year!