Letting go…

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This image represents a milestone for me and my photography. Not because it is life-altering. Not because it is innovative. Not because it is exotic. Not because it is cutting edge. Not because it was shot with the latest and greatest equipment that cost more than my house (it was shot on my iPhone). Obviously, it is exceedingly NOT any of the above. This image changed the way I view the world and my photography for one simple reason: IT IS REAL. It is a real moment that translates to real emotion. It is a real spring evening with gorgeous, natural light. It is a real moment of friendly competition and wanderlust between my sons Ashton and Blake. And it is really great as an artist to be able to accept something that simply speaks to my heart and soul, regardless of its marketability or what it immediately says about my brand. Yes, I’ve certainly captured REAL before, but I think the real that you’ve seen has always gone through some sort of “ABP Quality Control”, making sure that the viewing public would approve in relation to what falls in line with what they’ve come to expect from a “professional”.

Just now, nearly six years into my career as a full time professional, I am finally, finally learning how to let go. I am finally embracing imperfection. I am finally not concerned about the box I’ve put myself in as a photographer. Don’t get me wrong–I like the box. I’m proud of the box. I worked hard as hell to build that box. That box is my brand, and I will always occupy that space, but finally I am not afraid to get outside of that comfortable, perfectly-within-my-control space.

I am ok if an image is not tack sharp. I’m ok if an image doesn’t cause one’s jaw to drop out of wonder and amazement. I’m ok if I’ve got blown highlights. I’m ok if it doesn’t adhere perfectly to all of the photographic rules by which I’ve abided for so long. And I can tell you that it feels fantastic. Not that I was ever burdened by my brand, but there’s a huge part of me now that feels lighter and more expressive.

For the first time ever I’ve put up a personal gallery on my website. Some of this imagery looks like me. Some of it is pretty and falls precisely in line with what you know me to be as a photographer. Some of it is slightly commercially cliche. Some of it feels like it would be more at home in a family photo album. Some of it looks completely random. Some of it has nothing do to with anything, and I’m totally ok with it. All of it, however,  holds weight with me in some way, shape or form, and finally, I’m not afraid to represent it simply due to that weight alone.

As many of you no doubt do, I have terrabytes of images that have yet to see the light of day simply because they have not fallen within that mold of the brand that I have created. There’s probably some of you reading this post right now with a fair amount of apathy. And really–that’s ok. I don’t expect you to feel the weight of this moment, because it likely seems somewhat insignificant and trivial if you’ve never been here. And I can understand how, from the outside, it’s just another blog post from another photographer that thinks the creative world revolves around him. But really, that’s not it at all. This is as much a journal entry as a blog post, and if you’re here, I appreciate you sharing in this moment!

Don’t worry. I’m still here. I still love sunrise and sunset and storm light and three-dimensional compositions and bold color and the rule of thirds and…you get the point. I’m not entering some strange mid-life hipster stage (though you’d better believe I’d grow me a waxable mustache if I could), nor am I abandoning all of that upon which I’ve built my brand to this point. But finally, I’m not afraid to appear less than perfect. And no, I’m not that delusional–I know what I’ve put out there to this point has been far from perfect, but that was aways my goal. No longer am I concerned with that–I simply want to be more than trying to be perfect. And I’ve finally figured out how…

 

 

Are you creating teasers or pleasers with your landscapes?

Sunset image with storm light in Lake Powell, UT

Are your landscape images teasers or pleasers? I ask this question of my workshop students all the time, as it really requires us to think about HOW we construct an image, and ultimately what kind of viewing experience results.

Think of each image as a visual journey. Just simply associating your image with a journey implies that there is a destination at which the viewer will arrive. Does this destination live up to the journey?

Take this image for example. Photographed during a particularly dramatic evening in Lake Powell, I was ecstatic when the storm clouds parted on the horizon and allowed for several minutes of intense gap light.

This visual journey begins in the lower right hand corner of the frame, winding up and through the image, finally arriving at the climactic “destination” of intense light on the sandstone butte above.

Think about the visual journey in each of your landscape images, and you’ll be creating pleasers, and forgetting the teasers.

11 Best of 2011 from AdamBarkerPhotography

2011 was a spectacular year on all accounts. Foot upon foot of pow skied, fish from Wyoming to the Bahamas hooked, festivals in the far corners of the earth, ancient pathways crossed–all contributed to what could perhaps be one of my most productive years behind the lens. Cliche as it may be, I can’t help but look back in review and share some of my favorites from the past year.  As always, many thanks to my sponsors: Arc’teryx, Suunto, Mark Miller Subaru, Mountain Khakis, Manfrotto School of Xcellence, Clikelite Backpacks and Singh Ray Filters. Hope you all enjoy, and here’s to an even better 2012! (click on images to view larger versions)

1. Jesse Hall takes a moment to ponder human flight, as he stands inside the hot air balloon from which he’ll subsequently launch himself into gravity’s liberating grasp. Park City, UT.

2. Angler Al Chidester finds himself surrounded by all that is good in this world: fresh air, fall foliage…and fantastic fishing in some of western Wyoming’s most treasured water.

3. Fire and rain over Warm Creek Bay, Lake Powell, UT.

4. Hazy skies make for ethereal and ancient interpretations of East Jerusalem, Israel.

5. First light envelopes Agua Canyon in a glow only Mother Nature could furnish. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT.

6. Ralph Lauren’s Double RL Ranch shows its true colors in crisp early morning light. Dallas Divide, CO.

7. Angler Geoff Mueller admires a healthy bonefish (caught and released) in Abaco Island’s skinniest of water.

8. Calm in the chaos of Hanoi traffic, Vietnam.

9. Bavaria’s finest color smiles upon a lone farmer’s shed in the fields near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

10. Skier Drew Stoecklein can, in fact turn right. At just the right time. In just the right place. Alta Backcountry, UT.

11. Angler Geoff Mueller and Oliver White tense up as they ply the waters off Abaco Island for huge permit.

The Better You Know, The More You’ll Go

Sunset over Salt Lake City, UT

How well do you know your surroundings? Your local stomping grounds, so to speak. Do you know what weather is most likely to produce good atmospheric conditions for scenic photography? Do you have locations picked out for just such a morning or evening? If the answer isn’t “yes” to all of the above, consider doing a little bit of homework as you drive to/from work, when you’re out on a hike, or even just walking the dog.

Just after helping my wife put the kids to bed last night, I looked outside to see…not much. However, there was a faint atmospheric glow, and I just had that feeling that something inspiring may come to pass. I had seen it before, and most importantly, I knew there was an approaching cold front. Pre-frontal days here in Salt Lake City seem to produce impressive sunsets more often than not.

So I grabbed my Clikelite Escape (already packed mind you!) and headed to a location on the foothills that I had scouted several weeks earlier. I was wearing flip flops. Worth pointing out, as the easier it is, the more likely we are to go get after it. This location was a mere 50 yards from a certain dead end road. Drive. Park. Hike for 30 seconds. Set up tripod. Click shutter. Enjoy nature’s light show. Pack up. Head home.

Pretty cut and dry. Lesson? The better acquainted you are with both your local shooting locations and the local weather nuances, the more likely you are to make a go of capturing some memorable imagery. Keep a mental list. Even better–write stuff down. Carry a little book and keep a list of places that would be good to shoot at sunset, sunrise, in storm light, in spring, in fall, in winter, etc. You’ll not regret it!

Shooting and Waiting

It’s November 19 and temps in the Salt Lake valley are supposed to reach into the mid 60s today. Uhh…hello!? Mama Nature where hast thou gone? I was in full winter mode two weeks ago. Now I’m stuck in the in between. You know what else is stuck in the in between? Everywhere. Everywhere I point my camera it’s a mess of brown, leafless, colorless bleh.

Fog rolls over Salt Lake City's Captiol Building at sunset

Fog rolls over Salt Lake City

Regardless, I have been out a bit trying to shoot more fly fishing. If you haven’t had opportunity to check it out yet, visit www.catchmagazine.net to see inspiring imagery, video and short stories from many of fly fishing’s greats. Be prepared to spend a good 30 min. on this site–it sucks you in. I’m preparing for a winter photo essay I will have in the next issue. That would require…snow. Here’s to an end to high pressure. Let it snow.

Mike Ruzek fly fishing at sunrise on the Middle Provo River

Mike Ruzek fly fishing at sunrise on the Middle Provo River