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Alumni Scott Tansey describes his recent feature on The Leica Camera Blog.

“I took these images on a Fall Color Workshop given by John Paul Caponigro at Acadia National Park. I had recently completed a huge five-year project taking panoramic images of Los Angeles (my home town). It was time for a change, and I needed a creative spark to do something different. As I mentioned previously I had attended a printing workshop given by John Paul Caponigro, which changed my photographic direction, and I thought his workshop would give me kick-start on my creativity. It did, but not in the way I intended. I was going to shoot the fall colors. Southern California is not as noted for its fall colors as Maine is. However, when I went to shoot the fall colors, they did little to inspire me. The light was lousy, and we missed the peak by a few days. On the second day of the workshop, after much frustration, I went to our last stop that was a rock pile. Oh, wow! The evening light and the colors and the patterns of the rocks spoke to me. For the rest of the trip I focused mainly on taking close-up images of rocks on the Maine coastline.”

Read more on The Leica Camera Blog.

Read a second feature on The Leica Camera Blog.

Find out more about my Maine Fall Foliage Workshop here.

Every year, during my Acadia Maine Fall Foliage Workshop my assistant Charles Adams and I explore making photographs  with our iPhones.

Charles talks about his experience.

“Making images with an iPhone can be a terrific creative exercise. If you regularly shoot with a DSLR, the iPhone can simplify things and offer a new experience. I find this to be the case during every fall foliage workshop. I leave my Canon in the car along with all of the photographic requirements and responsibilities that I usually attach to it. It’s a freeing experience. Suddenly the pressure to make the best photographs of my life is no longer there. I’m free to play.

Being able to process your images seconds after shooting them is also key to the iPhone experience. The many apps available make it possible to shoot, edit, share, and get feedback before even getting back in the car. In my case, apps have a direct effect on which pictures I chose to make. If I know I’m going to apply water color and oil painting filters to my images, I try to shoot accordingly. I set out to find good compositions with strong “bones” or solid structures that can benefit from the addition of dramatic effects.

The resulting images are fun to create. Changing the tools you use to make your images can offer new insights into your own photography. I strongly recommend allowing yourself to play.”

Visit Charles’ website here.

Find out about my Acadia Maine Fall Foliage workshop here.

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“I took this image on a workshop in Spruce Head, Maine, right after a breakup,” Graham says, “and only later realized that it represented smoothness and calmness on one side, tumult on the other, and a line of demarcation in between.” A pivotal image, it led to Graham’s evaluative question: What do I see?”

Here’s an excerpt of alumnus Jim Graham’s feature in Shutterbug.

“We assumed the first thing Jim Graham does in order to create his elegant landscape images is decide how to isolate his subjects from distracting backgrounds to achieve the always-desired single subject, clearly defined.

We were wrong. The first thing he does is ask himself: What do I see? Then he asks: How do I use the camera to communicate the feeling I have about what I see?

The answers, coupled with his skill at the striking use of color, form, and light within the frame, often result in symbolic representations of personal stories and feelings far beyond the literal subject in the frame.

Simply put, Jim Graham is out to say a lot more than ‘Isn’t this a pretty picture?'” …

Read the rest here.

Find out more about Jim Graham here.

Read more Alumni Success Stories here.

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Sam Krisch opens his second solo exhibit of the year “Above Zero: Photographs From The Polar Region”  Sunday, June 14 at the Allentown Art Museum in Pennsylvania.

In this post, Sam shares what he learned on his journey to creative success. You’ll find it inspiring and helpful.

Here are a few highlights.

“John Paul’s mentorship as well as the inspiration and encouragement of countless others led me to work harder, to dig deeper, to find new places: physical locations, internal emotions, and fresh ways of seeing. Hard work and constant study added to my skills. Through the fellowship of an international group of artists I found community and stimulation: a vast ocean of knowledge and inspiration.”

“Each particular curator sees an artist’s work in a particular way, interprets it, and often brings out a way of seeing the work that the artist hadn’t considered. A great pleasure for me is working with professionals who approach the presentation of my work in a different way. They ask probing questions for the lectures, gallery guides, and docent training. I always learn something from exhibiting my work and I am often surprised by people’s reaction to it. Some are emotionally moved, some want to know technical details, some may not like it. It’s the risk you take when you exhibit.”

Read more

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I have been honing my photographic skills over the last several years. Making strides in composition, story telling and mechanics of photography, I still lacked some finer processing skills and the art of printing. I decided that a Print is the ultimate goal of a photographer. There is just something very tangible, very permanent about a print. Anybody can flick though a series of images on an electronic device. But actually taking the time to make a print, matting, framing ,hung on wall and lit well -takes considerable more effort. It also then requires more contemplation by the audience. I think they place more weight and value on the print than in electronic form. They are more willing to commit more time with the print.

During the span of a year, I completed both of John Paul’s Intermediate and Advance printing classes. At that point I believed that I had achieved the skills required to attempt my own Print Portfolio.

There is just something substantial about the physical print. Let’s face it, we can casually look through ton’s of images on our electronic devices. They are there and then gone. But having a book full of prints is something completely different. You engage two more of your senses, touch and smell. Every book has a certain feel and personal experience to it. It evokes more of an emotional response than the electronic equivalent.

So my goal with this project was several fold.

1. Create a body of work of 24 images
2. Improve my image processing
3. Improve my print quality / skills
4. Share with as many people as I can

A decision had to be made on the format of the book. Landscape, Portrait or Square. I deiced that the square format was the most versatile of the three. With a square book I could print any aspect ratio that I wanted and not feel constrained to a particular style. Since I knew this book was going to be a work in progress and may change over time, I thought being versatile was a good trade off versus being locked into a portrait or landscape format.

The next decision that I had to make was the size of the book. I based this partly on common size of paper available. The other influence was what kind of reaction I wanted from people when they viewed the book. I made 5 prints on 13×14 inch and 17×18 inch papers and then just stapled them together to simulate the two sizes of the book I was considering. I printed horizontal, vertical and square images. I had my own opinion and then solicited several peoples opinions. The larger size won hands down. You would not think that 4 extra inches would make that dramatic of a difference but it really did. It took the scale of the book from something casual to something cherished. The larger size was just so much more engaging.

The paper choice for my Epson 9900 printer, (after some experimentation) Epson Ultrasmooth. It brought an extra dimension of depth to my ice images. The warmth of the paper gave an extra separation to the printed images. I decided that the easiest form factor would be to use 17″ wide roll paper. Then I would just allow the printer to cut the sheets to a length of 18″. This way I would not have to do any post printing trimming of the prints.

For the physical book, I had a custom binding post book and slip cover made. I choose the binding post style so that it would be easy to replace prints and so that I could completely change the theme of the book if I desired. For materials I choose Black on Black on Black. This might be generic, or called corporate, but I liked the neutrality of it and its future potential. Each of the three surfaces were a different material, so that added a subtle variation to the book. I added just a splash of Red into my debossed logo. The inner front and back sheets are sanded mylar. This essentially adds an end sheet to the book and enhances the experience when opening the book.

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I learned a lot through this process. It was a great growth experience. Having a project focuses your mind and creativity. Completing a project gives you a sense of accomplishment. Sharing the experience – I hope I can inspire all of you to do something wonderful.

Find out more about Michael Quinn here.

Read more Alumni Success Stories here.

Cirrus Above Thiksey

In the summer of 2013 I had the fortune of travelling to Ladakh, India, a remote Himalayan kingdom that is now far Northwestern India, bordered by Pakistani controlled Kasmir and Chinese controlled Tibet.  Ladakh’s high desert rises from valley floors at 12,000 feet to the mountain peaks at 20,000ft. Water from the Indus River is skillfully directed through lush fields then on to irrigate countless other valleys in India. The Ladakhis live in carefully organized communities of adobe homes where they maintain cattle and yak, pashmina goat herds, make mud bricks for export, hone their traditional crafts, keep cultural ways of life and practice an intense spirituality.  It is a place where monasteries seem to float above military bases and vast expanses that shimmer in the intense, clear light. Translated as “The Land of High Passes” Ladakh is a region of sunshine and snow, of dark temples and bright spirits.

I happened to meet fellow photographer Christopher Michel in Delhi when he was doing what he does best, photographing people with his happy-go-lucky-how-could-you-say-no direct approach.  We happened to have the same somewhat unusual camera and lens combo so I struck up a conversation.  Little did I know we would be traveling to the same place and often shooting standing shoulder to shoulder with several thousand other people.

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One hundred and fifty thousand ethnic Tibetans were gathering in Ladakh for the ancient Kalachakra ceremony, a two thousand year old ten-day teaching given by Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.  I went as a student of life, to see and experience with camera in hand but no specific assignment or shot list.  It was not easy.  The mid-summer heat of India was as hard on the equipment as it was on the attendees.  It was difficult to breathe, move, and photograph in the dust, smoke, heat and an international crowd of so many, packed into a tight space and hurrying over long distances to get there.  There were near mob-scene moments as well as times of great kindness that transcended language barriers.  The intense sun cast deep shadows in the desert while the traditional adobe architecture had dark interiors often only illuminated with butter lamps and a single strong shaft of light.  The experience was overwhelming and required great openness to each moment, the physical stamina to endure heat and altitude as well as the willingness to play well with others.  

Every extra moment from sunrise to starry night was spent exploring the stupa fields, monasteries, city of Leh and village life with friends met along the way.  Chris’ focus on the essence of each moment was an inspiration and his photographs reflect his incisive eye, whether the subject was people or place. During the two weeks in Ladakh we did not share work or even review our own images.  There was limited electricity for anything beyond charging batteries.  Several weeks later I happened to come across a blog article about Chris’ work in Ladakh and immediately suggested a collaborative show to benefit Tibetan culture at Tibet House US.  Fortunately Chris agreed to my out-of-the-blue request and the curator of Tibet House US, Zola Nyambuu, was happy with the show we proposed.  So began the coincidental collaboration of “Envisioning Ecstasy.”

The show has forty black and white photographic prints of landscape, portraits and details of Ladakh during the Kalachakra.  These range from arid desertscapes to lush irrigated fields reflecting the mountains.  There are images from the Kalachakra as well as incongruous graffiti overlooking the capitol city, Leh.  Curious camels, luminous nightscapes and the famously painted Indian trucks balance the spiritual iconography.  A traveling circus with a lotus-decorated ferris wheel loomed above the vast desert providing an unforgettable personal and photographic experience.

“Envisioning Ecstasy” also has a conceptual aspect in the form of eleven large-scale lumenographic prints based on illustration based photographs originally sketched during the Kalachakra.  Two projected animations bring these drawings to life and complete the show. The story behind many of the documentary images was captured in Chas Curtis’ keen videograpy.  Chas’ evocative timelapses and captivating clips from ceremony to circus were seamlessly edited into a luminous video interview by Kyle Ruddick. The video is a multi-media presentation of “Envisioning Ecstasy” and will be screened at the opening. The show is accompanied by a catalog, Envisioning Ecstasy and a clothbound book, 108 Visions : Ladakh During the Kalachakra, thoughtfully designed by Michael Motley, which offers glimpses of the journey from small details to sweeping vistas.  Books and print sales benefit Tibet House US, which brings the concept of collaboration full circle. 

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All of this work was greatly enhanced by John Paul and Seth’s dynamic duo Art of Processing and Art of Creativity. The workshops are an intense immersive experience for honing artistic vision, voice and direction.  And of course any workshop with JP and Seth is a lesson in that all important art of playing well with others, one of my favorite photographic mantras.  Photography is often seen as a solitary pursuit and though it has it’s quiet moments, communal creativity widens the collective perspective. This golden rule underpins the entire show of “Envisioning Ecstasy.” 

“Envisioning Ecstasy” opens at Tibet House US, New York, May 20 from 6-8pm and is on exhibit until June 26. Two publications will be released for the show: a catalog, “Envisioning Ecstasy,” and a hardcover book, 108 Visions: Ladakh During the Kalachakra.  Please contact Tibet House US regarding show information and books. 

Learn more about Envisioning Ecstacy on The Leica Blog.

Find out more about Cira Crowell here.

Read more Alumni Success Stories here.


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