The initial purpose of today’s post was simply to share a few old
images of mine, that I happened upon while searching an old hard drive.
The other purpose was to share a great photo from one of outdoor
photography’s best. I’ve done that, but as is often the case, the
original intent has morphed into something bigger.
I’ll begin with an article with no images, and then I’ll share some
images without much of an article.
For most of life, when given the chance, I have watched shows on TV
about painting. This despite the fact that I am the least likely
person to ever actually create a painting.
There have been three reasons for this lifelong interest.
Firstly, I love most kinds of creative art. In the second place I find
watching people create a painting from a blank canvas very
entertaining, and thirdly, I receive an education while watching. I
love being educated!
One of the things I have noticed most about painters who snap photos
so they can create or at least finish paintings at home, is that they
do just that, they make snapshots. Often powerful and/or beautiful
paintings, but crummy photos.
Beyond their photographic skills or how seriously they take that
endeavor, I have noticed other things that most of them have in
common. Some of those aspects of how they paint, actually equate very
much to what good photographers attempt to do when they make images.
The disciplines, the art of light, composition, texture and form, that
we use in our photography, all were practiced in painting long before
the first camera was put into use.
One thing I have noticed about the painters that I have watched the
most, is that how many colors they put on their pallet varies from
painting to painting regardless of how may colors are in the actual
subject. One time they have the basic three primary colors plus
white, and another time it is white plus every color variation that
can be bought. They of course can also create new colors from the
three original ones.
Yellow + blue = green, red + blue = purple, etc.
There does seem to be reasons beyond the obvious for those decisions.
If they are painting a complex landscape, they frequently use very few
colors. At first that seems backwards, but they are simplifying the
complicated. If they are painting something that is already simplistic
like say an even toned rock resting on some even toned dirt, they will
have a wide pallet of color variations. They are adding some
complexity to the ordinary.
They also each tend to be similar in their use of highlights and
shadows and other ways to create or reduce both contrast and
dimension. Lots of highlights and/or shadows on the simple subject,
many fewer on the complicated one.
Clearly they attempt to make the complex subjects more pleasing to
the eye and less confusing, by reducing the amount of varying colors
and contrasts within, and conversely they bump up the colors and
contrasts on simple subjects in order the make them more dynamic and
In photography, we are laden (unless we truly recreate our images in
the editing process) with the reality of what is “actually” in front
of us. Still, we can follow the basics of painting by adding to or
taking away from the subject via lens choice, shooting position and
even the time of day we make the photo.
You can theoretically “paint a picture” with a camera, in a somewhat
similar fashion as painters can with a brush.
The image below has no intended connection to today’s post about
painting. With that said, it just happens that the photographer, the venerable Art Wolfe,
is indeed a painter as well as a photographer.
Art manages to remain at or near the top of outdoor photography
despite the fact that he has been doing for as long as I can remember.
I know not where this beautiful image of a mountain lake at sunrise or
sunset was made, but I would have loved to have been there with camera
and tripod at that moment.
Great job Art, I would expect no less!!
I have shared images from Colorado’s Black Canyon of The Gunnison
before, but never an entire group from the final moments before sunset
on a stormy afternoon.
Gunnison Canyon is in places, and mile deep and a mile across. I was
there way back in 1986 and again for one entire day in the 2,000s. It
is a very difficult place to capture the “essence” of. The images I
made that spoke the best to the depth of the canyon, are less
dramatically invoking (to me) than are these made as the light
There are more spectacular canyons in America and they tend to be
easier vehicles for showing drama. Just the same, BCG if a great place
for a photographer willing to work, or for a painter willing to dream.
The images below are primarily about color, shape, contrast and
texture. Three of my favorite themes.
The Black Canyon of The Gunnison.