composition, education, photography, random thought, writing

PICTURE OF THE WEEK – MARCH 6, 2021

Background

So for quite a while I have admired Benjamin Everett. I mostly follow him on instagram for inspiration. He is a photographer, but more than that, he is an artist. He makes no bones about the fact that he digitally manipulates his images to achieve dreamy, otherworldly scenes. For the purist, set aside your expectations of what you think photography should be, and behold what is in the minds eye and skilled digital artistry of Everett. You will be enriched if you do.

Image © Benjamin Everett

Why I Think This Image Works (Color, Light, Subject, Moment, Emotion)

Maybe I am just naturally drawn to blue in general, but I love a cool toned image. It is also slightly desaturated, which is calming to the eyes. The light draws the eyes along the leading, wavy lines in the ice, growing lighter as they eventually reach the peak at center-right. The eye then moves to the upper left of the frame to linger on the gentle storm passing. It is reminiscent of the old romantic painters, like Albert Bierstadt. A characteristic of a Bierstadt, or any of the romantic painters of the day, was the trademark light vs. dark motif. Everett clearly evokes this sentiment, minus the settlers and natives that were common to the 19th century paintings. This is the dark and light of a desolate landscape devoid of the human presence.

Simplicity is Everetts forte. He is a master of distilling his scenes down to the most important visual elements, and this image is no different. Starkness. Coldness. However, I wouldn’t go so far as an emotional loneliness. The eyes are soon drawn to the blue sky with sunlit cumulus clouds in the distance, conveying a feeling of hope and warmth. The storm is nearly passed. All sweeping lines flow directly to warm rays of a sunnier day somewhere in the near future.

It is romantic, yet simple. Cold, yet hopeful. Stark, yet lovely.

Please, if you aren’t familiar with his work, go spend some time admiring the photographic artistry of Benjamin Everett.

I would love to hear your thoughts! Comment below to start a conversation about this image… do you like it? If so, why? If not, why not?

— Andrew


I had an idea a while ago to feature an image once a week by other photographers that I find interesting. In the effort to provide inspiration to myself by enjoying the work of others, I hope it will serve to inspire a wider audience as well. I will write a short bit about what I like about the image, and why I think it works.

You can expect a wide variety of photographic art, so not just landscapes and nature! I hope you find this as fun and enriching as I do.

Let me also offer an invitation… if you come across an image you would like me to see, and perhaps feature, please shoot me an email with the subject “Picture of the week.”


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composition, education, photography, random thought, writing

PICTURE OF THE WEEK – FEBRUARY 27, 2021

I had an idea a while ago to feature an image once a week by other photographers that I find interesting. In the effort to provide inspiration to myself by enjoying the work of others, I hope it will serve to inspire a wider audience as well. I will write a short bit about what I like about the image, and why I think it works.

You can expect a wide variety of photographic art, so not just landscapes and nature! I hope you find this as fun and enriching as I do.

Let me also offer an invitation… if you come across an image you would like me to see, and perhaps feature, please shoot me an email with the subject “Picture of the week.”

And now, to the first picture of the week…

Image © Ryan Dyar

Background

This lovely capture was created by a fantastic photographer I have admired and followed for years, Ryan Dyar. He is an accomplished landscape photographer with mastery of a post processing landscape style that is emerging as the new standard. But what I find truly sets him apart as a great photographer is his seemingly effortless mastery of composition. Knowing how difficult great landscape composition can be, I am certain he works hard to find his excellent arrangements.

This image of a pelican in flight is so different from what he usually produces, and I admire his exploration into unfamiliar territory.

Why I Think This Image Works (Color, Light, Subject, Moment, Emotion)

The soft light and tones are soothing and convey a sense of calm immediately. It is low contrast, but the pink/ orange complimenting the blue/ green seascape immediately grabs me. He allows the subject to dance to the middle of the frame, a usual no-no. But here it works because the subject makes direct eye contact with the viewer creating a feeling of connection and intimacy. There is also clear motion from the slow shutter speed showing us the path flown in from the top right of the frame. Another pleasing movement/ leading line in the image.

Henri Cartier-Bresson was considered the master of the decisive moment. That term has been described as a “split second that reveals the larger truth of a situation.“ This image for me captured that culmination of split seconds strung together to convey something deeper. A moment too early or late would not have had quite the impact. Now, one could argue with current technology, the art of the decisive moment is lost. Think “spray and pray.“ In Cartier-Bressons day of 8×10 cameras and single frame film holders, capturing that singular point in time had an element of supernatural patience to it. However, I would argue that the moment still exists, there are simply new tools and techniques to more easily capture them. It is no less artful. Its just different.

The slow shutter speed is utilized perfectly, as the birds head and eyes appear to be sharp, while allowing the motion of the flapping wings to blur, giving the viewer the feeling of flight. It is a lovely, and difficult moment to capture so elegantly, as Dyar has.

Lastly, how does this image make us, the viewer, feel? My immediate emotion is loneliness and melancholy, mostly from the muted color and low contrast of the gentle seascape, but also the direct eye contact. But then there is a lingering element of hope rising that seeps in, perhaps from the flight motion, and again the eye contact.

It is a simple yet complex image. I think that is what I admire the most.

It is no easy task to create an image like this! And often, these are the images that happen when one is prepared. They simply present themselves.

Now, I would love to hear your thoughts! Comment below to start a conversation about this image… do you like it? If so, why? If not, why not?

— Andrew


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family, photography, writing

Revisiting Shirley

When we first hit the road, back in June of 2016, Ellen and I had an idyllic summer up here in Wyoming. We had already spent a good bit of time in the area, but now we had the time and freedom to explore and get a deeper knowledge of these spectacular mountains.

One of our first day hikes was to a little known high alpine lake. I was scouring my maps one day and saw it…

“I’ve never been here,” I exclaimed to Ellen.

And like that, it was settled.

We saw Islay’s abilities as a true mountain dog blossom on that long, challenging 13.5 mile day hike, our confidence and trust in her solidified. We skinny dipped in the crisp high mountain lake for the first time, ate cherries on the banks as we dried out in the warming sun. It really was one of our fondest memories from our entire time on the road.

But we haven’t been back in over four years. It’s almost as though we didn’t want to affect or soil the great memories we had from that experience by returning. As though we might be risking disappointment somehow.

However, this year, we decided to revisit this lovely spot. And this time, we wanted to do an overnighter and spend a little more time.

 

We set out with heavy packs, and a new companion. Well, new to this particular hike. Skye didn’t join our pack until the winter of 2017, so she’d never been on this trek with us.

The hike for me wasn’t as hard as it was the first time, even though on that initial trip I was only wearing a day pack. This year, I’ve been backpacking all summer already. To me, a seemingly unending resume of much more challenging treks than this.

It was nice to feel this good and confident as I approach 40 this year!

Skye of course loved every second of it and fit right in to the new landscape.

I even got to explore the lake just above us this time, which was just as gorgeous and peaceful.

Photographically, it wasn’t the best trip, as I didn’t get any of the clouds or light drama I love so, but regardless, we had a wonderful time as a family doing what we love best.  

It reminded me that our memories are important, and that the ones we hold dear don’t have to be jealously guarded so as not to lose the sacred nature of them. But that perhaps to piggy back off of them by revisiting them, honors the memory and often times expands their beauty and specialness. Good memories beget good memories. And good memories beget gratefulness. And gratefulness begets joy.

 — Andrew


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education, photography, random thought, writing

Photographic Trophy Hunting

“For me, it’s not enough to leave it up to authorities and governments. I believe in personal responsibility, first and foremost.”

A thought occurred to me recently as I was contemplating how to make my workshops better for my clients… There are a lot of photo enthusiasts and pros out there nowadays that are essentially “trophy hunters”.

You might be wondering, what is a photographic trophy hunter? It’s an individual who sees an image on social media or the internet, and travels to that location to come away with their own social media “trophy” shot.

Now, don’t take that the wrong way. Obviously, actual trophy hunting is not a very well-liked practice by the public these days. I’m not equating the general idea that many folks looking for the trophy shot are somehow shallow or calloused. It’s much more nuanced than this.

What I mean to say, is that even with actual hunting, there are positives and negatives to this trophy-type approach. First positive, hunters are one of the most conservation minded groups out there. They bring in massive amounts of cash that goes directly toward furthering conservation efforts all over the world. In fact, many species have been saved by the efforts and financial support driven by hunters. But trophy hunting clearly also has it’s draw backs.

For one, it feeds a desire to destroy, with little regard for the “why”. Notice, I didn’t say with no regard. In subsistence hunting, there is a clear why. Sustenance. Food. Clothing. Tools. Etc. There is so much that can be done with a deer, elk, moose, or other game species. Now, there are other reasons of course for hunting; population control, strengthening of the species, human rites of passage, etc., that reach symbiosis when coupled with utilizing the entire animal. Mismanagement (at all levels) and illegal poaching are the biggest concerns.

In the realm of photography, the same is true. The dollars brought in to local tourism are undeniable and absolutely necessary. Also, the awareness created through the sharing of these beautiful places, in theory, causes a broader audience to care enough to support protecting these special locations. However, the increased interest leading to the degradation of many of these incredible locations seems unstoppable, simply due to the sheer numbers of trophy seekers. That’s not even to mention the uneducated, or simply those who don’t care beyond their own desires who end up destroying places.

I see it first hand everywhere we go these days. I’d like to think it’s just a matter of educating people into proper outdoor etiquette, but I’m increasingly afraid that there are many folks out there who just don’t think beyond themselves, in this Instagraming culture we’ve created. And what that breeds is two things; closures of public places (which I despise) or destruction for no good reason (which I despise even more).

In each of my workshops, there are undoubtedly trophy locations that all of my clients desire to see and photograph. It is understandable. There are many great reasons why these places have become legendary. However, as a tour/ workshop leader, I do feel a responsibility to educate and minimize our impact. For me, it’s not enough to leave it up to authorities and governments. I believe in personal responsibility, first and foremost.

What this has caused me to begin to do in recent years is to seek out the “off-the-beaten-path” locations. The places I used to frequent, for instance Snake River Overlook (as pictured below), I rarely visit anymore. I have opted away from the easy locations, for the creatively challenging. And though it is markedly less fruitful at times, it is most rewarding to my soul and sense of adventure. And at the very least, it takes one person away from the crowds at these trophy locations.

There is a potentially harmful issue though that arises from this approach as well… at least with the “trophy locations” they are already well known and we as a society can mitigate the risk to the environment at these places more easily. But if we introduce more “off-the-beaten-path” spots to more and more people, they become less “off-the-beaten-path.” In an effort to self regulate, I have incorporated non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) into my workshops, so folks legally cannot share the locations. I know it seems heavy-handed, but I’m adamant about keeping some places sacred.

Over the years, I have changed my tune on the whole sharing locations issue. And I think we all have continually evaluate, re-evaluate, and re-re-evaluate our long held beliefs on how things are and how they should be. We have a drastically changing society and landscape out there, due to technology and social media. Some of it good, and some of it catastrophically bad.

But to me, just like with nearly any issue, it all comes back to the individual. To you, and to me. Personal responsibility.

If we want things to change for the better, we have to live it for ourselves, and educate others with truth and love. Photographic trophy hunting is an important issue we need to tackle head-on, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg for a society increasingly less responsible for our own actions, and more dependent on government or authorities to do the jobs we all should be doing. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have official regulatory practices and entities, it just means that for these regulations to work (and not shut the public out completely), we have to take responsibility for ourselves first.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to know what you think about this issue. Have you seen the affects on our public lands, or special places that you love? Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going!

— Andrew


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photography, random thought, writing

METAMORPHOSIS: PART 1

Originally posted on December 15 at the Red River Paper Blog.

I’ve learned that stagnation often seems to be the natural state of humanity. But this is not how people thrive… it is merely how one survives. And Ellen and I need change.

Light changing as the sun drops behind the Tetons in our summer/ fall backyard.

Dallas in December is a crap shoot. For many reasons, really. First, the weather is often all over the place. Blustery and in the 40s one day, and the next, 75 and sunny. It wreaks havoc on my allergies. Also, we spend most of the year away from the masses and when we arrive in Dallas for the holidays, we are bombarded with work, social events, and family.

The breakup on Jackson Lake occurs with the changing of seasons from winter to spring in May and June.

Have I mentioned that we have 11 nieces and nephews between Ellen and myself? Well, with all those human interactions, not to mention those with illness-incubator kiddos abounding, I always get sick. Weakened immune system from under-exposure the rest of the year or simply the time of year, who really knows what’s to blame. Regardless, the holidays are a time of warm reception for us, but also extreme exhaustion.

I’ve escaped to Lake Whitney in central Texas, where Gertie is parked, to write this episode and recover from the busyness of city life.

“Have I lost the ability to live in the city?” I ask myself this question every year. I grew up in a city, but I’ve always felt drawn to the rural, quiet life. As time passes, I feel much more at home in our little Wyoming town of 2,000 than in the urban/suburban sprawl of nearly a million-and-a-half I’ve called “home” for 30ish years of my life.

With the ushering in of spring, deep greens and blues are the dominant colors of the landscapes in Wyoming.

The reason I bring all of this up is simply that as I reflect on the last leg of our nearly four year journey, this theme keeps surfacing: city vs. open country. The change seems inevitable for us.

Life on the road is not as romantic as you might think. I was criticized by one reader of this blog early on that I focused too much on the trials and disappointments of our new, transient life. Fair denunciation. Maybe I focus too much on the negative. Perhaps the struggle is a bit more interesting to some of us than the vapid mountaintops. I tend to think we learn more from failures than successes.

But it is abundantly accurate to say that the highs we experience on the road serve to inspire us and remind us that life does, in fact, grant us beauty and reprieve as well as truth and trial. So let me give you a little of both.

Light glides across the landscapes of Wyoming, constantly changing.

Our view from Gertie for much of May and June this year.

A mountain bluebird perched with the Grand Teton as a background.

Snow was falling in Wyoming last May when I wrote my previous installment. Spring is basically a more dramatic yo-yo-ing version of winter and it lasts through June. We agreed to manage (with the option to buy) a small tourist shuttle business for a friend this summer.

Great Outdoor Transportation Company (GOTCO) has been servicing our little area of Wyoming since ’97, shuttling people and their vehicles throughout the Wind River mountains, anglers up and down the Green and New Fork Rivers, and tourists and locals alike to and from Wyoming airports.

The dramatic metamorphosis of the Wind River Range in spring.

Skye darts into a seasonal pond created by the massive amount of runoff.

As summer begins to take hold, lupine abound across the prairie.

The momentarily changed landscape, scarred from the Boulder Lake fire of 2019.

Our home for the summer near the Wind River Mountains.

There was a ton of work to do to get ready for the season. Vehicles to buy, insurance to set up, employees to hire, marketing/ social media strategy, not to mention just learning a new business. It was a wee bit stressful for us, mostly because we weren’t used to moving at any pace other than our own.

But Ellen and I also had to learn how to be business partners, which created challenges of its own. I also realized I would have to set my own photography business aside for a time to focus on this new venture. What happened next gave us a whole new skill set and was far more rewarding than we ever thought possible. [To Be Continued in Part 2.]

–Andrew


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 60 National Parks in 3-5 years. We are currently in year 4 and half way thru the Parks. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



N O M A D  Magazine // Issue 1
 
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EVERGLADES // LANDSCAPE + WILDLIFE
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Rocky Mountain National Park
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