2016 in Review

I hope you have had a wonderful, exciting, and/or productive year. If not, may 2017 be better for you! The highlight of my year certainly has to be having a new photographer’s apprentice. He’s quite a helper!

Tim, Miles, and Abbie at Yosemite

Accomplishments: I embarked on two photography trips, Utah and California.

Mesquite Sand Dunes at Death Valley

My booth won best of category at Rockport Art Fest and “Pine Cathedral” won best of show at the Pearland Art League juried exhibition. I was also accepted into my first gallery in Fort Worth (Weiler House Gallery, stop by and say hi to Bill for me!). Cottonwood Art Fest in Dallas finally accepted me into their show, and I hope to continue to participate.

My booth at Cottonwood Art Fest

 

Now let’s get to the photographs!

166 of my photographs have new homes.

Best Selling Color Photograph goes to “Moonrise At Bryce

Best Selling Black & White Photograph goes to “White House

White House - After Processing

Most Valuable Photograph goes to “Calera Sunrise

Most Popular Photograph Taken in 2016 goes to “Buffalo Spirit

I’m already getting my shows lined up for 2017 and working out in my mind where I’d like to photograph next. Plus, I will be officially releasing my Yosemite & Death Valley photographs at my gallery show in Brenham, Texas which runs from March 4 through April 29. The reception will be March 4th. I hope you can attend!

Thoughts on shooting the Forts and Missions of Texas

In February I launched a week-long project to photograph several of the historic forts and missions of Texas. I find both to be an important part of Texas and US history. With this in mind, I wanted to capture the beauty and peacefulness of these places. (Note that the photographs in this post either did not make the final cut or are only for documentation.)

For this trip, I invited Dad along as he seemed to really enjoy last years trip through Arizona and Utah and I bought him a camera for Christmas so I wanted him to have a good opportunity to use it.

Our first stop was San Antonio. We woke up at 2am to shoot the moonrise over the Alamo. It was mostly cloudy, but there were just enough breaks to make me hopeful. While we were waiting, we met a security guard walking around the premises and talked with him for a while. Later, a very drunk or high or mentally challenged lady was cussing me out from the other side of the street trying to get my attention. I dared not to turn around as I wasn’t much interested in what she had to see at that point.

The clouds were still thick and no sign of the moon coming through. We were about to leave when we finally caught a break. Unfortunately it was already high in the sky and further south than I expected so I didn’t get the shot that I wanted. To make matters worse, all of the chains and posts in the foreground were an eye-sore that I simply couldn’t get around. I’ll just keep this as a documentary photo.

Alamo at moonrise, with a belligerent woman behind me cussing me out.

Alamo after moonrise, with a belligerent woman behind me cussing me out at 3:30am.

The next day we spent visiting each of the missions along the Mission Walk. Some were more photogenic than others. The best was the San Jose mission. Large, lots of rooms, doors, windows, and arches. Plenty of opportunities.

Dad shooting the chapel at San Francisco de la Espada mission.

Dad shooting the chapel at San Francisco de la Espada mission.

San Jose Mission arches

Arch windows at Mission San Jose.

Defensive Turret at Mission San Jose

Defensive Turret at Mission San Jose

Presidio de San Saba

Presidio de San Saba

After shooting into the early afternoon, we moved on down the road to Menard and stayed the night. In the morning we photographed Presidio de San Saba at sunrise, but there wasn’t much left of the fort and I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired as it had been mostly reconstructed.

We went down the road to Fort McKavett which was pretty cool. Many of the buildings are locked and the insides are staged with period furnishings so you can look through the windows. There are a few interesting ruins though that you can go into. These were my favorite.

Ruins at Fort McKavett

Ruins at Fort McKavett

Through a window at Fort McKavett

Through a window at Fort McKavett

Fort McKavett Bakery

Fort McKavett Bakery

Our next stop was the Calera Chapel in Balmorhea. This was a great little church to photograph. Because it was still in use, the door was unlocked and there was no one there so we had free reign. We shot sunset, had dinner in town, and then came back to try some night shooting. We got creative with our headlamps. It was fun but spooky at the same time as it was pitch black out there. It gets very dark in the desert with no moon.

Inside the Calera Chapel, late afternoon

Inside the Calera Chapel, late afternoon

Playing around with the headlamps. I'd trip the shutter, run inside, and paint dad with the light. Took several tries to get it just right.

Playing around with the headlamps. I’d trip the shutter, run inside, and paint dad with the light. Took several tries to get it just right.

Fort Davis Ruins

Fort Davis Ruins

 

After a quick sunrise shoot at the chapel, Fort Davis was next on the list. This is a huge place, but I didn’t find it to be as scenic as McKavett. Interesting photographs abound, but not exactly what I was looking for. Regardless, we spent a few hours there exploring most of the grounds before moving on to the border town of Presidio, home to Fort Leaton.

 

 

 

My buddy Jeff and I had briefly visited Fort Leaton the year before on our Big Bend trip, but we didn’t stay long enough to photograph. I saw enough to know that I desperately wanted to return. For me, Fort Leaton was the highlight of the trip. Beautiful soft light, natural southwest architecture, rugged and dirty but tidy and clean at the same time – just a fun, inspirational place to photograph with a multitude of possible compositions.

Fort Leaton Architecture

Fort Leaton Architecture

Fort Leaton Supply Room

Fort Leaton Supply Room

Dad next to a HUGE cart!

Dad next to a HUGE cart!

Wood Planes in the blacksmith shop

Wood Planes in the blacksmith shop

Terlingua Ruins

Terlingua Ruins

The next day we drove to Terlingua and photographed there. Terlingua is half ghost town, half tourist trap. And the line between the two is blurry. Some of the buildings are difficult to distinguish between abandoned ruins and working shops. Most of the ruins are small and not kept up, so it was common to see evidence of people having used them as overnight drinking locales. This made for a very run-down feel. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; a few of my favorite photographs here actually have trash in them!

Terlingua Window with stacked rocks

Terlingua Window with stacked rocks

After shooting Terlingua for a few hours, we had lunch at Study Butte and drove down to Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park for a quick peak. I wanted Dad to see it, as I consider it to be Texas’ most impressive geologic structure. Santa Elena is difficult to shoot, but we were gifted with some nice clouds.

Santa Elena Boardwalk

Santa Elena Boardwalk

On the way out of Santa Elena, we stopped to shoot some bluebonnets that were attracting some bees. I wanted to Dad to see how much fun it was to work with a macro lens. Then, deciding to cut the trip short so we could spend a day processing and discussing his photographs, we drove 9 hours straight home.

Blue Bonnet Bee

You are invited to see the nine choice photographs from this trip at my home gallery show on September 26th 2015, in Pearland, TX, 5pm-9pm. Email me now to reserve your spot!

Thoughts on Shooting at Glacier

I recently wrote about my thoughts on photographing the Palouse area in southeast Washington. I wanted to wrap up that trip by briefly discussing my experience with shooting in Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park waterfall

One of the many roadside waterfalls in Glacier National Park

Abbie and I started our trip very early one morning and came into the park from the east. We made it to Saint Mary Lake just before sunrise. The water was clear and the mosquitoes were thick. I was trying to get far out onto some rocks so I could get only water in the foreground, but after a poorly judged step, my feet were totally soaked. I took advantage of this and just waded out a ways to get the shot I wanted.

Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park

Wet feet at Saint Mary Lake

We got some nice lenticular clouds but the color coming from the clouds overhead was an unattractive yellow, so I didn’t get any photographs there that I was happy with. Soon the direct sunlight was hitting the mountains and it was time to move on up the “Going-To-The-Sun” road.

Glacier National Park

Going-To-The-Sun Road

Soon we were at the Logan Pass visitor center which hadn’t opened yet as it was still early. Several bighorn sheep had taken up residence around the parking lot, nibbling on the grass along the road and even some small sprouts growing through the cracks in the asphalt. A few of us early risers were gathered around shooting and the sheep seemed curious about our intentions.

Bighorn Sheep at Logan Pass Visitor Center

Bighorn Sheep at Logan Pass Visitor Center

_E2A0389We took our time descending the other side of the mountain range, stopping at a few roadside waterfalls along the way. The west side of the park was much busier and it was more difficult to get clean shots, particularly around the edges of the lakes. A lot of people were swimming, fishing, and boating. Beautiful, but not quiet and peaceful like Saint Mary Lake. We photographed both at McDonald Lake and Bowman Lake on the west side. Bowman is quite a drive into nowhere land, but there were still quite a few people camping there, making it difficult to shoot sunset at the lake.

McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park

Lying on a pile of rocks and resting my neck while waiting for peak light at McDonald Lake.

Flathead Lake at Sunrise

Flathead Lake at Sunrise – Abbie Herschbach

By far, the best part about the lakes around Glacier is the clear lake water and the stones and pebbles that turn orange, red, and pink when submerged. They compliment the warm color palette of sunrise and sunset hues and make for a beautiful photograph. Our last morning there, we photographed at Flathead Lake, which is a few miles south of Kalispell. It is the largest natural freshwater lake in the US west of the Mississippi, and it is one of the cleanest lakes in the world. We both got some great shots that morning. The clouds and color were great and there were plenty of lines in the rock along the shore to work with.

Glacier National Park was a great location to visit after Palouse because the two areas couldn’t be any more different. Palouse with it’s flat, rolling rural farmland and countless, quiet dirt roads is nothing like Glacier with it’s massive snow-capped peaks, deep valleys, old forests, and spackling of crystal lakes. Both were inspiring to me and I was able to find and capture my vision in them. I look forward to releasing my photographs from both of these locations on September 26 at my home gallery show. I hope you can attend!

 

Introduction to Photography: Interview with Keith

A few weeks ago I met up with Keith, my buddy from high school who now lives in Phoenix, and we took a week-long photography trip that included the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and Arches National Park. Last night, I did a short phone interview with Keith as I wanted his perspective of what the trip was like from someone with no photography experience. Note that the landscape photographs are his.

Keith & Tim at Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Keith & Tim at Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Tim: So how much, if any, experience with photography have you had before this trip.

Keith: That would be zero.

Tim: How about art in general? You did some wood-burning and woodworking, right?

Keith: Yeah, I did some wood-burning. That was self-taught. And I’ve been to a few painting classes. But that’s about the extent of it.

Tim: Knowing that this was going to be a photography trip, what were you expecting?

Keith: I was expecting to carry all of your stuff! Like I was going to be your bag-boy, you know?

Monument Valley

At Monument Valley, goofing off while waiting for a cloud to move.

Tim: How closely did your expectations match your experience?

Keith: Totally opposite.  It was like, free reign. I thought I was going to be in prison and I was actually set free, you know?

Tim: Any particular memorable or exciting moment?

Keith: The thunderstorms. That was fun, yes. And probably, the four-wheel road in Arches, that was pretty memorable. And breaking down on the side of the highway in the middle of the desert on our way home. Very memorable.

Lightning Over Valley of the Gods

Lightning Over Valley of the Gods

Tim: Not in a great way though.

Keith: No, not really.

Lightning Over Valley of the Gods

Lightning Over Valley of the Gods

Tim: Maybe someday we’ll look back and laugh about it.

Keith: Some day, some day.

Tim: Not yet?

Keith: Not yet.

Tim: So what was your favorite location on this trip?

Keith: I’m gonna have to say the Grand Canyon.  I’d never been there, it was quite amazing.

Keith working a composition at the Grand Canyon

Keith working a composition at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon in B&W

Grand Canyon at Sunrise, B&W

Tim: Several of the sunrises and sunsets had what I call “peak” color, that lasts less than a minute, sometimes only seconds. Did you have moments where you found yourself scrambling to get the shot?

Grand Canyon Sunset

Grand Canyon Sunset

Keith: Yeah, when we were at Monument Valley at sunset, and our last sunset at Arches National Park. That Arches sunset came quick. I didn’t even get a photo of the rainbow.

Tim: You actually did.

Keith: Yeah, it’s very small. You can barely see it. Ashley was like, “That’s not a rainbow!”. I was like, “See, it’s right there! It’s just small!”  She was like, “That’s not a rainbow.”

Rainbow Sunset At Arches

Tim: So how does this trip change you look at a landscape photograph?

Keith: Totally different. I never really thought of a landscape photograph other than, you know, like if you take a picture of the sunset you take a picture of the sun going down; but if you turn around, you actually see all the colors that the sunset actually makes.

Monument Valley At Sunset

Monument Valley At Sunset

Tim: Were you surprised at the different colors and types of light?

Keith: Oh yeah. Yeah. I was very intrigued. It actually got me motivated to get my own camera and start taking my own pictures.

Tim: So are you ready for our next trip?

Keith: Yes! Are leaving next week or??

Ashley: No!

Keith: Oh, Ashley says no.

Storm At Arches

Storm At Arches

How important is having a good camera?

Gulls on Catwalk

Gulls on Catwalk

Many I talk to at shows think that I can create great photographs because I have a “really nice camera”. It’s true that I have professional equipment, but how important is that to making compelling photographs?  Answer: It’s not. What is important is training my brain to see great photographs. This comes from knowledge and experience. This photograph of gulls was taken with an inexpensive “bridge” camera, a Minolta Dimage z2, now available for a whopping $60 used on Amazon.

Abbie in Sunlight
Abbie in Sunlight

Here is another from that trip to Disneyworld (our honeymoon) with the same camera. Light, composition, story, mood, emotion, expression, moment – these are the things that make a great photograph. Not technical details. These photographs could have been taken with any point-and-shoot.

Chipmunks on a Trunk
Chipmunks on a Trunk

This photograph is one of my very first. I believe it was taken in 1997 with an inexpensive Minolta SLR that I got as a high school graduation gift from Wal-Mart. Light, story, moment, emotion, expression – these are the things that matter the most when creating a compelling photograph. And no, it’s not simple or easy. It’s very complicated and it requires vision and a lot of thinking and decision-making.  Sometimes split-second decision-making.  Sometimes patience.

So why do I have expensive equipment? A few reasons. Here is a list from least important to most.

1. Status Quo – I’m a professional and I desire to be taken seriously. That’s difficult to do when shooting with a pocket camera.

2. Dependability/Durability – I sometimes shoot in wet ,cold, and dirty environments and I need gear that will work and survive.

3. Image Quality – If I’m going to put so much time, effort, and money into creating my photographs, I want the image quality to be as good as I can afford. That comes from having high quality lenses.

4. Ease of Use – Counter to intuition, the more professional the camera, the easier it is to operate. Consumer-grade cameras usually have a lot of buttons and cater to those shooting in auto exposure mode. A professional camera is generally much easier and faster to use when shooting in Manual exposure mode because it’s designed for that purpose. The less I have to think about the operation of the camera functions, the more I can think about composition and creativity.

5. Print Size –  Any camera can print a great 5×7, but when I’m making prints that are 70″ long, I need as much detail as I can muster. That’s the biggest advantage of having a nice sensor.

So, let me assure you, upgrading equipment to the latest and greatest does not allow you to create great photographs. You’ll just be creating larger versions of what you are already doing.  You’re better off buying a used $17 book on composition from Amazon. Or better yet, let me do the hard work and you can just sit back and enjoy!

My Favorite Thing

People are often envious of the places that I travel to and the things that I get to see. It’s true that I visit awesome places and see some incredible things, but I must admit that my favorite part of being an artist photographer is coming home and processing my images. Dare I say it, I actually enjoy processing my photographs more than I enjoy the travelling involved and creating the exposures.

Horseshoe Bend before processing

Horseshoe Bend Panorama Before Processing

Horseshoe Bend after processing

Horseshoe Bend Panorama After Processing

White House, Canyon de Chelly - Before Processing

Before Processing

 

 

It’s like a kid coming home after Halloween and counting his loot. Getting dressed up and walking house to house is fun, but hard work. The hard work pays off when he gets home and dumps out all of the colorfully wrapped goodies in a big pile on the floor and begins to sort them into piles, counting, arranging, and re-arranging.

 

White House - After Processing

After Processing

 

 

Sure, there is excitement in exploring a new location or seeing something I’ve never seen before, or capturing an interesting juxtaposition or camera angle, but it isn’t until I put my finishing digital touches on the photographs that I feel my vision is complete. The creation is finished. The photograph has come to life. I am now able to show others what I first could only see myself.

Photographer or Artist?

Sometimes people will mention that a certain type of commercial photography is in demand, such as wedding, aerial, oil, or other commission work. I often get asked at shows if I do portrait work. I typically avoid these gigs and I’ve always thought it was because “people are hard to please” when it comes to photos of themselves. Well, I’ve recently done a few commission jobs and I actively sought out these jobs. I asked myself, “Why these jobs and not others?”

Specifically, within the past 90 days I’ve done two sessions involving airplanes and automobiles. How are these different than the commercial shooting gigs that I avoid?

Front Pano RV-7

As in the example above, I am not simply “taking pictures” of something.  Instead, I am using that “something”, in this case an RV-7 airplane in a hangar, as a canvas to create. The lights, the camera and lenses, the colored gels, the modifiers…. they are my brushes and paints.

Green Camaro

I don’t get pleasure out of “taking pictures” or collecting equipment as that is a very passive and completely technical activity and the camera most of the work. I don’t get pleasure from using software, or printing, or stretching canvas. Believe it or not, my pleasure doesn’t even come from travelling to these incredible locations and seeing them in the best light of the day. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy these places and things and am grateful to experience what many people do not. But that’s not what inspires me.

Whtie Bug

Instead, these places and things inspire me to create. Therein is my pleasure. First, the formation of a vision, and secondly, using all of these tools to see that vision come to completion in the form of a tangible photograph that people take a true pleasure in viewing, owning, and displaying in their own personal space. This is the beginning of every art piece that any artist creates. Inspiration and a vision of “what could be” or “what can I create with this?”. It’s different than simply capturing or replicating what is in front of me. It is about using what is in front of me as a starting point – a blank canvas.

RV-8 Silhouette

This is why I consider myself first and foremost an artist. If I were to sit down and paint a painting, I would approach it in the same way that I approach photography. I would envision something interesting or a beautiful place, and I imagine it in the best light, and then I paint. Being a photographer-artist is the same creative process.

Saying Good-bye

My Favorite PortraitOn Friday, when I came home from the Bayou City Arts Fest, I learned that our four-legged daughter had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Abbie and I were crushed. Lucy means so much to us and so much of our day-to-day revolved around her. She moved in shortly after we bought our house in 2007. She was there when I began learning photography. She was a great model and put up with a lot of flashing lights.

She was there when I made my first print. She was there when I made my first mat and my first canvas. She hated the sound of the staple gun but after a while she’d come upstairs to my studio and stand on her hind-feet to get a hug.  Or she’d interrupt my work with a short gruff bark to let me know she wanted to outside to sunbathe.

Me & LucyShe knew how to sit, down, speak, stay, leave-it, take-it, and roll over.  She never did well with fetch however.  But she loved keep-away. She liked to get into the pantry when we weren’t home. Once she took a potato bag with a single potato in it and hid it in our entertainment center behind the VCR. We found it a few weeks later.  No idea what she was thinking.

 

Lucy on Chair

 

 

I don’t think she’d admit it, but she liked it when we took her picture and made videos of her. A real diva.

 

 

Executive Lucy

 

Lucy in her executive chair. I’m pretty sure she knew she was the one in charge.

 

 

Bathtime

She loved bath-time. Sometimes we’d hold her over the water and no matter how shallow it was, she’d flip her paws like she was dog-paddling.

 

 

 

Lucy, you completed our family and brought life and cheer to our home. It’s just not the same without you.  It’s so quiet without you and it’s so sad to come home with no one to greet us at the door. We’re glad and blessed that you spent your life with us. We miss you so much.

Lucy

Lucy Herschbach, April 6, 2007 – March 27, 2015

 

Old Texas: Forts & Missions

A few weeks ago I completed a significant portion of my latest project “Old Texas: Forts & Missions”. While the project is ongoing and have yet to decide how I’m going to present these photographs, I want to give you a sneak preview of this project to see how it is coming along.

FortLeatonEmptyRoom#22

Fort Leaton, Presidio

Fort Leaton is really what inspired this project of photographing these old historic places. It’s an adobe fort just outside of Presidio, less than a mile from the Rio Grande and Big Bend State Park is just down the road. If you’re in the area, don’t miss this beautiful place.

CaleraIndoors#22

Calera Chapel, Balmorhea

Calera Chapel is exactly how you would imagine a small adobe Catholic church on the side of a dusty road. While it is a Texas Historic Landmark, it is a no frills location on a small highway near Balmorhea. Here the late afternoon sunlight is coming through the one side window of this quaint sanctuary.

Mission San Jose, San Antonio

Mission San Jose, San Antonio

Mission San Jose is impressive, both in size and architecture. It is both a fortress and a church… a compound designed to host a complete community, harboring them from those outside the wall that might do them harm. This large and airy room is the granary. I loved the soft light and the textures of the floors, ceilings, and walls.

Stay tuned for more information on “Old Texas: Forts & Missions”.

Climate Planning

I often say that the worst thing you can have in a landscape photograph is a cloudless sky. The more dramatic the clouds, the better the photograph in my opinion.

Great cumulus clouds over Colorado!

Great cumulus clouds over Colorado!

I’m planning a trip sometime this year to the Grand Canyon area. I have been there several times but have never photographed it properly. Step #1 for me is to find out what time of the year the weather is the most active. After a few quick minutes looking at various sites, I find that Arizona’s monsoon season is roughly July and August. It sounds like it would be hot during the middle of summer, but at the Grand Canyon’s altitude, the high’s are typically in the 80’s. Not bad!  Just don’t hike down into it where the temperatures climb into the 100’s.

How about other factors like foliage? Many times you’ll want to plan a trip around the most colorful time of the year – either when the leaves are changing or when the flowers are blooming. Unfortunately, this doesn’t coincide with the monsoon season. For the style of photography I like however, the dynamic light that a great thunderstorm can create is a higher priority to me than using wildflowers as a foreground. Having both would be great, but if I’m only there for a week, I need to maximize my potential for great light.

Therefore, I need to shoot for July/August. That’s great because that is the slowest time of the year for me; it’s just too hot in Texas for art shows!  So expect to see some more work from Arizona from me around late summer.