Creating For Yourself or Others: Part II

“Opinions” – 2015

Last week, I briefly introduced this topic and in this post, I’ll try to elaborate on my thoughts of this topic.  I’m discussing this in terms of landscape photography but much of this is true with other types of creative expression as well.  I mentioned in my last post that there are two different approaches to landscape photography, one being recording what a scene looks like with elements of what the photographer experienced.  The other is a more personal approach and involves the act of finding and creating images. In this approach, the artist holds little regard to what happens once the image is made because their experience is more meaningful than the final product.  Neither of these approaches are wrong, or right.  I’m not aiming to single out photographers but you probably know of a few that fall into each category.  I’m suggesting a different approach, one that works for me and is in tune with why I use a camera in the first place.

I’ll start with the first example and use a simple phone pic I took a few months ago.  This photo of cracked mud is a common subject in landscape photography.  After the rains, mud is deposited and cracks with intricate and beautiful patterns as it dries over time.  It’s a simple way of creating a visual metaphor of time and beauty.  Maybe we relate to this in our own lives as we find more beauty as we grow older?  I could tell you I was thinking of how nature shows us beauty in its precision, how things become more beautiful as time passes or maybe simply how broken is beautiful?  None of this is true to my experience though.  I wasn’t thinking anything along those lines.  This is where I stopped to eat breakfast and I felt hungry.  Anything I would say about this image, whether I took it with my phone or a 100MP Hasselblad would change this.

I use this example to illustrate that my experience as a photographer when creating an image has nothing to do with how the viewer sees an image.   Lets look at another image, one from a 20MP DSLR.  This is from Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah, photographed on 3/18/16 at 7:48 AM.  Settings are 1/60 s, f/8, ISO 100 using a Canon 7dmII and a 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 200mm.  You can go there at this exact time with this exact camera, use the same settings and your photo on your camera won’t look like this.  Try it out.  Dead Horse Point is a vast landscape with views extending for miles in front and to the sides.  Cameras can’t recreate the experience of being at such an impressive vantage point as the sun rises.  It really is something you just have to be there to witness.  So rather than photographing a grand scene with deep, winding canyons and a sun star over the mountains, I chose a different subject to photograph.  Once again though, this image has nothing to do with my experience as the photographer at this place at this time.  What was I feeling? What was I thinking? Was I warm? Was I cold?  Was I in awe of one of the largest views in Utah or was it so busy and crowded that I couldn’t fully appreciate the power of this place?  Does any of this matter?  It doesn’t.

Untitled – 2016

This image from Dead Horse Point illustrates something beyond my experience though.  I’ll come back to this later in this post but lets look at a few examples of the 2nd approach to landscape photography.  These images are the complete opposite from the first and have everything to do with my experience of finding of finding and creating the image.  I’m not going to share where, when or how I made this colorful image though.  There were no people around and I was nearly overwhelmed with the beauty of this landscape.  Water, color, light and the way they all play across various shapes and forms of rocks could be a description for this massive landscape or for the more intimate scene I photographed.  Being in such an incredible place, completely alone as the afternoon light and shadows filled the canyon, I found myself reflecting on where I was at this time.  Many people don’t get to experience this sort of beautiful isolation, watching and listening to crystal clear water flow over colorful stones and feeling time pass ever so slowly.  I value this in my life and these experiences bring me much pleasure whether I have a camera or not.  I often wonder if I would visit such places and seek such experiences if I wasn’t a photographer but I always am quick to answer, yes.  It’s what feeds my soul.  This image is a result of my experience.  It doesn’t end here though.

Untitled – 2015

Stating that my experience is more meaningful than the actual image is, in my mind, an extremely self-centered and egotistical way of approaching photography as an art.  This approach suggests that the artist/photographer doesn’t care about the viewer and is only expressing their thoughts, experiences and opinions.  Art is so much more than what an artist thinks though.  In fact, art isn’t even art unless someone sees it.  Take a moment to consider this point.  Would Monet’s paintings be art if they were never seen by another person?  No.  They’d be paint on canvas.

I say this because I believe photography has so much more to offer than being a medium for recording and expressing.  Trying to use a camera to show what the photographer experienced is an act of futility.  The viewer wasn’t there, and if they were, they see differently than the photographer.  If the act of creating the photograph is more important than the actual image, don’t share the image for the world to see.  In this case, it’s not art and any justification for it being so is comes off as the artist seeking gratification from the viewer.  This isn’t art either.  Photography is a different medium that allows a connection between the viewer and artist in the simplest way possible.  Visual language is universal and crosses boundaries of all types.  It allows the creator and the observer to draw different interpretations and meaning from an image that doesn’t physically change.

Untitled – 2015

I believe landscape photography can allow for both approaches, one for the photographer and one for the place.  My experience of finding and creating images is deeply important to the final image.  In fact, without it, I couldn’t be a photographer.  The final image isn’t just about my experience though, it’s about YOU.  My thoughts, opinions and experiences are all contained in the final image, in the simplest way I see possible.  I don’t intend to show, or tell you, how to think of a subject, I only give you a starting point to build upon.  This aspect of photography is also highly important to me and is at the top of my mind when seeking and creating images.  Simplifying a scene to create an image that acts as a transition of my thoughts to yours is more important to me than the actual place.  If the name of the location is needed to make this transition necessary, I’ve failed as a photographer.  Think of this in terms of a relay race where the baton is the final image.  I’m just handing it off to you to do with it as you wish.

Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.


“Memory II” – 2015

Goodbye DSLR: 6 Months Later

About 6 months ago (7 actually), I switched from a Canon DSLR to a Nikon 35mm film camera for my photography.  You can read my previous post about my decision HERE.   After shooting with it on a regular basis over the last half year, I wanted to take a moment to look back and review my initial thoughts and see how they compared to my current thoughts.  My “new” camera is a Nikon FM, which is almost entirely mechanical in operation.  Two tiny batteries power a basic center weighted light meter and nothing more.  Everything else is mechanical and it will even shoot without batteries if needed.

I’ll start with the list I created in my initial post for my needs in a camera:

  1. It needs to be rugged and dependable
  2. It needs to not limit my creativity
  3. It needs to be capable of producing quality images
  4. It needs to have quality lenses available
  5. It needs great battery life
  6. It needs to be easy to use in the dark & cold weather
  7. It needs a mirror lock-up
  8. It needs to be light & small
  9. It needs to be able to perform multiple exposures
  10. It needs to be simple

Now, I’ll quickly recap how these currently apply:

  1.  No performance issues to date.  It is solid under all conditions, except for rain.  It isn’t weather sealed.
  2. This hasn’t been an issue to date
  3. I’ve yet to drum scan any slides but under high magnification, I’m liking what I see.
  4. I’m currently using: 24 mm f/2.8 AIS, 50mm f/2 AI, 105mm f/2.5 non-AI, 200mm f/4 AIS.  All excellent quality glass from what I can tell.  The 105mm is exceptionally sharp and a joy to use.
  5. I’ve yet to change batteries, despite many days of sub-zero shooting.  Even if needed, a 6-pack is $3 and they weigh next to nothing.
  6. Not a problem for either condition.  There are no small buttons so shooting with gloves is easy.  Plus, metal at -15 F doesn’t feel good:)
  7. No issues from self-timer/mirror lock-up.  Vibration is eliminated and I use this function for 90% of my images.
  8. Compared to my DSLR, the setup is smaller.  Weight is roughly the same, slightly less since I rarely carry all lenses.
  9. It can easily do them, the results however are always a bit of a surprise!  DSLR’s have some amazing features in this area.  DSLR’s allow use of a previous image along with a new one for a multiple exposure, film is consecutive images.  More planning and foresight is needed.
  10. Check.  Shutter, aperture and focus. ISO is set per roll of film.

Overall, I’m completely content with my choice and I feel this is the best tool for me.  I considered Medium Format or Large Format but for my needs, these systems don’t work for me.  That could be an entirely different post but I’m not interested in explaining this further.  I will mention that I even considered whether photography is the right medium of creative expression for me and I feel confident that photography is right for me.

I find I’m forced to evaluate every image before the shutter is clicked using this system.  Focus is highly selective with a manual focus system.  A scene must be metered before deciding exposure.  The scene must be evaluated for depth of field and finally, the shutter speed can be set.  Understanding how the camera meters is important because there is no spot metering function.  Knowing what types of light work with the selected film is important as well as understanding how the selected film works given the light in a selected scene.  These elements are all important whether the camera is 35mm, Medium Format or Large Format.  Just as with the other formats, this evaluation process slows down the shooting of images and results in more thought out images.  Only in a few accidental situations has focus been missed.  Any error in exposure is a result of me misreading the light or misunderstanding the camera meter.

A few complications with this tool is the inability to accurately meter low light situations.  The meter stops working before it gets completely dark or as its barely getting light.  These are great times to photograph because of a narrower dynamic range of light.  At this point, I’m still experimenting in these situations.  Once I get a handle on proper exposures (make a list!) I don’t see this as being an ongoing issue.  Another complication is the camera not being weather sealed.  I haven’t photographed in the rain with it yet, but even with a fully weather sealed DSLR, I didn’t expose the camera to water.  I’ve definitely exposed the DSLR to snow and ice but more time is needed to fully comment on this with confidence.  I don’t really see an issue because I always carry a waterproof bag to protect the camera if it does rain.

There are a few added benefits to using this system which I’ll bring up in future posts because they aren’t really about the camera itself.  All in all, I’m happy with my camera choice and I probably won’t be writing about cameras again.  I firmly believe a camera is just a camera.  With this said, I’ll just mention that I decided to add a 2nd camera to my toolkit, and as you can guess, it’s the same one.  1978 was a good year:)

Thanks for reading,


Blog Home:

Instagram: @sageroamer

Prints on Sale:


A Few Winter Photos From Zion National Park

A popular location in Zion

My last post was a bit heavy with my thoughts so I thought I’d simply share some images of Zion National Park from this last winter.  Zion can be extremely hot and crowded during the summer, but during the winter, it is almost the complete opposite.  This incredible Park is photographed extensively during summer but rarely during the winter.  I’m looking forward to spending much more time here over the next few years, particularly in the winter.  Much more to come on this subject but for now, I’ll share a few images from one recent visit.

Moving forward, what would you be interested in seeing more of?  Or reading more of?  I’d appreciate any thoughts or suggestions you may have.

Thank you,



This photo didn't work as planned, but I learned from it

This photo didn’t work as planned, but I learned from it


Same for this image. The one element missing is light.

Same for this image. The one element missing is light.


Light changes the color of the sandstone in remarkable ways

Light changes the color of the sandstone in remarkable ways


Using shadow as a composition element


A telephoto view of the transition of light

A telephoto view of the transition of light


Transitions of light, in B&W

Transitions of light, in B&W


Fascinating how trees grow in rocks


Again, I learned from this image how I would photograph this differently next time


Scale often depends on perspective


Mountains or deep canyons? Depends on your perspective


Blog Home:

Instagram: @sageroamer

Prints on Sale:

Creating for Yourself or Others?

Untitled – 2015

This post is an introduction to a topic I’ll expand upon next week.  I’ll be discussing this in terms of landscape photography but this can also be true with other forms of artistic expression.  There seems to be 2 different approaches when it comes to landscape photography.  One being capturing what a scene looked like, with elements of what the photographer felt and experienced in the image.  The other being the act of simply experiencing, photographing and creating the final image and largely being done with it by the time it is on a screen or in print.  In the first case, the photographer may want you to feel what they felt when they clicked the shutter.  I’ll give a countering example to this thought in my full post.  In the second case, the photographer places a high value on their experience of the process and the final outcome holds little, if any, value to them.  I’ll give a countering example to this notion as well.

Neither of these approaches is wrong or right, we’re all different.  We see different, we come from different environments and we have different perspectives.  My approach is somewhere in the middle.  More to come next week.

Thanks for reading and have a great holiday weekend for those in the US!


Recent Work: HERE



What Your Eyes Don’t See: Part 3

Vanish – 2016

For the 3rd and final post in this series, I’ll let the images do the talking.  See Part 1 & Part 2 for more.



Staff & Spaces - 2015

Staff & Spaces – 2015


Communities - 2014

Communities – 2014


Chance - 2015

Chance – 2015


Stay - 2016

Stay – 2016


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 12,348 other followers

%d bloggers like this: