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Golden November – Light in Photography

Light in photography is perhaps the most important, and often elusive, element of the creative process.  Photography literally means “painting with light” – the light itself is what creates the image on a light-sensitive film or digital sensor.

Depending on the subject and the message the artist is trying to convey, a wide range of lighting is appropriate – from studio fill lighting to diffuse cloudy light to the golden light of an autumn afternoon.  And, naturally, once a photographer knows the rules of lighting inside and out, they can play with breaking them.

Here in my Rhode Island November, we have gorgeous, slanting, golden light in the late afternoons.  It still holds the ghost of summer warmth, but no longer beats down from above as it does at midsummer.  Backlit leaves are caught on fire with the glow.  Other days, the sky is overcast and the light is soft and dulled, illuminating the outdoors with a calm evenness.

How about in your neck of the woods?  I challenge you to notice the light in your neighborhood this week and to describe it here in the comments.

NovemberFern NovemberGrass novemberoregano

Behind the Scenes: Making Huge Photos

Creating huge photos is a passion of mine.  I love to make giant photo prints that can be used as statement art in amazing rooms.  It’s the reason I have that little note in all of my shop listings – “contact me for sizes larger than 30 inches”.  I wanted to share with you the excitement of seeing these large photographs for the first time.  So, when a collector recently placed an order for a 40-inch print, I took the opportunity to create a behind-the-scenes tour.  I welcome you aboard to learn how huge photos are made!

It starts in the camera.

I use a high-resolution dSLR, and I am working towards an upgrade that will push the size limits even further.  Once I’ve taken the image and edited it, I send a high-quality, full resolution TIFF file to my favorite local print shop.  The expert there checks the file to make sure it’s a high enough resolution for the print size, and prepares it for printing.

Huge Photos - Checking the File

Next comes the printing.

Before the image can be printed, I have to choose a paper.  With six different types of archival media to choose from, I consider what texture and weight will work best with a particular photograph.  Typically, I like to use a satin photo paper, which has a subtle glossiness and brings out the colors beautifully.  Once selected, the paper is loaded onto a specialty printer that uses archival pigment inks to ensure color accuracy and a long life for the print.  This method of inkjet printing creates what is known as a “giclée”.  Giclée is different than your typical home or office inkjet printer for a few reasons: it uses 8 to 12 different color inks instead of 4; the pigment ink used is very stable and archival; and the resolution of the printer is higher, providing greater detail in the final print.

Huge Photos - Specialty Printer

The final check.

Once the print is ready, I personally check the quality.  I look for color and contrast accuracy and check to make sure there are no creases, tears, or other flaws.  When I’m satisfied that the print is top-quality, I sign it using an archival ink pen made specifically for photographs.  The huge photo is then carefully rolled, wrapped, and packaged into an equally huge and very sturdy mailing tube.  It’s now ready to hand-deliver or ship to the client!

Huge Photo - Final Check

The best part comes last.

Hands down, the best part of creating huge photos is the client’s reaction.  I don’t always get to be there when the customer opens the package and sees their print for the first time, but I love to hear their excitement on the phone or via email.  That’s my whole purpose in creating art – to make people happy by helping them create beautiful and nurturing spaces.

Click here to see which print I like best (so far) as a giant photo.  Which would you pick?

Art Placement – Off the Walls

At a recent art festival, a woman struck up a conversation with me about one of my large-format feather photographs on canvas. She loved the piece and insisted she would want to hang it in front of a window, since the backlighting would bring out the beauty of the image. I was struck with her creativity in coming up with such a unique art placement.  It got me thinking about ways to display artwork off the walls.

Finding ways to display art off the walls can be tricky, but can also be gorgeous – especially for large art pieces.  I’ve collected some inspiration on Pinterest – beautifully designed spaces with great, off-the-wall art placement.  The interior designers who planned these spaces factored in style, space, and layout to come up with some really unique ways to display the artwork. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Of course there are many other creative ways to display art, large and small. You can check out my full “Off the Walls” pinboard to see art placement options like resting a large framed piece on the floor by a chair, or hanging art in the window. It’s refreshing to know that art doesn’t have to be limited to the walls, isn’t it?

The Creative Process

What inspires?  How is art made?  What is the creative process?

These are the questions I sit down to write about today.  A million thoughts spritz across my brain and images dance behind my eyes as I think of the answers.  How might I capture some of them and put them down, here on this virtual paper?  I think, today, I’d like to tell you about all of the things that go wrong.

Going wrong is a big part of the creative process.  But perhaps “wrong” isn’t really the right word.  It’s more like indulging in creative foibles.  Spending hours on projects that have such exciting promise… until the next day, or the next week, when I realize they don’t have staying power.  Sometimes they aren’t appealing visually.  Sometimes I get bored with them really fast.  And sometimes I can’t pull off in real life what I imagine in my head.

A while back,  I decided to add “pinprick” embellishment to one of my prints.  It was fun to to create something with a three-dimensional element.  It was quite thrilling at first, to creatively damage my work.  But the results weren’t compelling either to me or the friends I shared the prototype with.  This project “went wrong”.  It didn’t become a product in my shop, but it fueled my creative fires.

Pinpricked Print

Just last week, inspired by a trip to the optometrist, I wanted to create intentionally blurred photographs that imitated my un-corrected vision.  I was able to get decent results, but later decided that I simply preferred sharp focus aesthetically.  Another attempt “gone wrong”, which exercised my creative muscles.

Self Portrait - Bad Eyesight

A few years ago, I had another crazy idea.  Remembering my college days spent behind the scenes at natural history museums, I decided to head to a local nature center with my camera.  You might be familiar with the resultsmy best-known photographic series was born that day.  It didn’t last just for that day, or that week, or even that year.  This particular creative foible has continued inspiring me and prompting new work for nearly five years.

Specimen 652 Albino Blue Jay

It’s nearly impossible to tell beforehand which ideas will flop and which will fly.  Each project has its worth, even the ones that go wrong.  The attempts that didn’t bear fruit might spark future ideas.  And, of course, those that succeed contribute greatly to my growth as an artist and enable me to share more beauty with the world.  To succeed, an artist must take the creative leaps – sometimes over, and over, and over again.

You can read more about my creative background here.