Category Archives: Art

musings on art, and all things art.

What’s in a word; just what is a professional photographer

Brown bear, Ursus arctos, standing raised upright and rubbing her back against a birch tree in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska .

Brown bear, Ursus arctos, standing raised upright and rubbing her back against a birch tree in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

I can’t imagine my father ever calling himself a “professional University lecturer” or my brother referring himself to as a “professional math teacher”.

The word professional means many things; but when it’s followed with a vocation, such as “photographer”, it doesn’t mean that you enjoy photography a lot, or that you speak politely about it, or that someone bought a print from you. It doesn’t even mean that you have a website. It doesn’t mean you teach workshops and lead tours, either.

Show me a professional photographer, and I’ll wager a dollar I’ll show you someone who’s struggled to pay their rent, who’s sold gear to make their car payment (or sold their car to make their gear payment), someone who’s eaten peanut butter sandwiches because that’s what was available to eat.

A professional photographer has made real sacrifice to do what they do (there are always exceptional cases, with trust funds, a wealthy spouse, etc). It’s a risk. It’s giving up an awful lot to choose to pursue a particular vocation. It’s losing on that risk, picking up, and swinging the stick again. And again. And yet again. Repeat, infinitum.

It sounds much more glamorous than it might be. It means you take the bus sometimes, it means you sit in the rain and wish you were somewhere else. It means you sometimes take a lower price for a sale because you need shoes. Pardon my French, but it means you’ve been sh** on. It means you’ve wished, cursed and swore that you had chosen some other manner to live by. It means you say ‘yes’ when you think ‘oh sh**, that gig sounds like hell’. It means you say ‘yes’ and then that gig actually IS hell. And you then say ‘yes’ again. Still you pursue it.

Continue reading

Art and How to Live

Boreal forest and reflections in a small kettle pond, Copper River Basin, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Boreal forest and reflections in a small kettle pond, Copper River Basin, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

It’s often said that art can teach us how to live. This is true, yet it’s also commonly misinterpreted. The product of art, what we call the photograph, or the lyric, or the dance, doesn’t teach us how to live. The product of art, these artifacts, can show us how someone ELSE lived.

On the other hand, the making of art (which is REALLY where art is), can teach us how to live.

This process, the making of art, illustrates how we might live; how we might be fully present, engaged, conscious. More fully alive. Continue reading

Sometimes you have to work

Night sky over Mt. St. Elias, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

A starry night sky falls above Mt. Saint Elias, still glowing in the late evening sun. Stars at night over Mt. St. Elias, Icy Bay, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Sometimes the work of an artist is simply to be persistent; keep at it. Follow through on that little spark of an idea that awakens us at night; pursue that little ‘idea’, no matter how trivial, how distant it seems. That trigger is where art begins. All art.

I suppose this point may be made more clearly in reverse; sometimes it’s easier to simply think ‘yeah, that would be neat’, but never actually follow up when we receive an idea. It’s always too easy to conjure up excuses not to do something, rather than actually take a single step in the direction that calls us; something akin to what they say about evil and good men doing nothing.

As an artist, when you notice that little spark of an idea, that trigger that calls your attention, no matter how briefly, give it your attention; make an effort to follow that story, that path, that rhythm, that idea, and see where it takes you; that journey is what art is. Don’t “do nothing”. Continue reading

Wrangell – St. Elias aerial photo

Wrangell Mountains, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Wrangell mountains, fall colors, sedimentation rock layers ad striations, aerial photo, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

An abstract aerial shot of the Wrangell Mountains, with a little fall color thrown in. Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

I’d actually asked the pilot to fly us up in this area in the hope to find a particular glacial scene I wanted to reshoot, but the great patterns and colors along the ridges above the glacier were more interesting; in part because we didn’t find what I was looking for anyway.

Aerial photography is an exciting challenge; trying to see compositions that work in camera from such an unusual perspective is harder than one might imagine. The sensory overload of flying through such magnificent scenery, Continue reading

Art

Art is not some thing that is made, some product; art is some thing that we do.
And when we do it, when we create, we’re being artful;
it is during those moments we are ‘artists’.

Does art need an audience?

Bald eagle in flight, Splashed with Light, Alaska

Backlit Bald Eagle, splashed with light, Homer, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

If a tree falls in the forest? We’re all familiar with the old adage, and I think it’s an interesting question pertaining to art. If a musician, for example, doesn’t play music for an external audience, is  s/he really a musician? Must a photograph have an audience?

In my opinion, the answer is a resounding no. Art is something creating. Art is the pursuit of idea. That process of making some thing is the essence of art. Playing my guitar in my room, alone at night in the dark, can be every bit as artful as a performance on any stage. Sitting outside the little Shack in the winter woods, alone but for the forest and the great night sky, gently playing my Native American Flute is art. Lifting my camera to the eye, reaching through the viewfinder for my composition, bringing together the elements I see, crafting an image, is art.

Whether the end product of that art reaches an audience is secondary; all too often that’s something over which I have little or no agency.

Art needs no audience. Art needs artists; people who make art.

That is the gift art brings our lives. What do we give in return?

Cheers

Carl

Click This; April 2011

Brown bear backlit at dawn, Katmai National Park, Alaska.

A coastal brown bear, Ursus arctos, walks along Brooks River shoreline at dawn, backlit, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

 

Hey Folks

Next up in this series of news of the month pieces.

This month, I haven’t been spending as much time in the woods, and even less reading the news. Mostly, I’ve been grating sandpaper over my eyeballs … more commonly called “working on website updates”. I need to take about a  year off, and learn how to do this properly, then start over from scratch and rebuild everything (yeah, that’s gunna happen).

Below I’ve compiled various bits from around the web that held my failing attention long enough to actually read through the piece.  Feel free to add your own stuff of note, I’d love to see some things I’ve missed.

In a completely random order: Continue reading

Photography; does it get in the way

Aurora borealis and Denali, Denali State Park, Alaska.

Aurora borealis lights up the winter night sky over Mt McKinley, highest mountain in North America, also called Denali. Viewpoint from Denali State Park, Alaska. Click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

One topic I’ve often heard discussed relating to nature and outdoor photography pertains to the value of the experience itself. Does photography “get in the way”, and limit the photographers’ realization of the experience itself, or does it add to it?

I have friends, for example, that don’t like to bring a camera on a backpacking trip because they feel it hinders how they are able to soak up the actual experience. They’d rather sit and watch that glorious sunrise than fiddle with the camera and try to get a good composition. They’d rather sit back and stare in awe at the Aurora borealis do its thing over Denali than take their gloves off and tweak camera settings. Continue reading

Photography; gear matters

Bald Eagle Portrait, Homer, Alaska.

An adult Bald Eagle silhouetted headshot, on perch, Homer, Alaska. (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). This photo was taken with photo equipment, by a photographer. The 2 worked together. The eagle co-operated only briefly. Pesky eagles. Click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

I read it again last night. This nonsense has to stop. Why do photographers so often have such a hard time simply acknowledging that what we do is inherently technological? As such, technological advances (i.e., new gear) can (and typically do) play an enormous role in the work we produce. Perhaps much more so than most other art forms.

You’ve all seen the kind of commentary I’m talking about; another piece about how painters don’t talk endlessly about their paintbrushes. Or, even more inanely, how if Art Wolfe were to shoot with a P&S camera, he’d still produce a remarkable portfolio. It’s the photographer, not the camera, that produces great work, blah, blah, blay.

Right? Continue reading