No, with the exception of one, you won’t be seeing any more of my images of elephants, elephant sanctuaries, tigers, tiger temples, or the dozens of other such places housing protected species in Thailand.  Why?  I can’t tell you exactly when, but it was over 5-6 years ago when I had this epiphany.  No matter what label they stuck on it, no matter what they were saying during interviews on national television, the primary reason these people became involved with protected species is because they could make a buck.  They can make more bucks by claiming they’re doing great things for these species.  I could and should write a book about this topic, after all I have more than enough photos and supporting documentation and research.  But ultimately it would be seen in a negative light by the powers to be, and I’d still like to enjoy access to Thailand.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L USM @F8 1/60th 64mm ISO 400

 

Some years back I found myself sitting on a bench at the Maesa Elephant Camp watching this thoughtful Pachyderm paint a picture.

No, with the exception of one, you won’t be seeing any more of my images of elephants, elephant sanctuaries, tigers, tiger temples, or the dozens of other such places housing protected species in Thailand.  Why?  I can’t tell you exactly when, but it was over 5-6 years ago when I had this epiphany.  No matter what label they stuck on it, no matter what they were saying during interviews on national television, the primary reason these people became involved with protected species is because they could make a buck.  They can make more bucks by claiming they’re doing great things for these species.  I could and should write a book about this topic, after all I have more than enough photos and supporting documentation and research.  But ultimately it would be seen in a negative light by the powers to be, and I’d still like to enjoy access to Thailand.

Back to the painting elephant.  Do you think he was consciously creating art?  I do, and I sat there observing for a long time.  This made me think about how he got there, and indeed there is a long path of training by their mahouts.  The elephant started as a species you wouldn’t expect to create art, and evolved to creating some passable images.  Sounds a lot like me.

 

Where do we start?  Somewhere the seed is planted.  My seed was planted while hanging out of a Huey sideways with a Nikon F and a long lens taking pictures of the troop buildup along the fence line of Guantanamo Bay during the Grenada action.  Like every other person who calls him/herself a photographer, the seed was planted and it grew.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L USM @F8 1/60th 32mm ISO 400

 

Where do we start?  Somewhere the seed is planted.  My seed was planted while hanging out of a Huey sideways with a Nikon F and a long lens taking pictures of the troop buildup along the fence line of Guantanamo Bay during the Grenada action.  Like every other person who calls him/herself a photographer, the seed was planted and it grew.

This seed will continue to grow as long as it’s nurtured.  All too often a hobbyist gets busy with other parts of their life and this seed “sleeps” for lack of a better word, but it never dies.  It’s always there waiting for you to nurture it once more with a little water, a new lens, a fun trip with the family, or maybe a walk through a local gallery.

It’s a bit different for a professional.  The elephant in the room is far too many professional photographers feel they’ve reached Nirvana.  But for those of us who are more grounded we often need to kick ourselves in pants from time to time to get that seed nurtured and grow on to that next level.

 

Over the last 4-5 years I’ve been writing this column and maintaining my website I feel like I’ve grown.  I look at the images I produced then, and images I produce now, and I see a world of difference.  Some of it is technical from improved gear, but the vast majority of it is my skill levels.  Skill with the gear, skills during post processing, and skill in seeing.  I’m most concerned and proud of my progress with seeing.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L USM @F8 1/100th 51mm ISO 400

 

Personally I tend to concentrate my growth in whatever direction my current client leads me.  This sounds too obvious right?  I suppose it is, if I’m getting a lot of requests for portraits I’ll do the portraits, critique my own work, and then look for ways to improve.  This is my nature . There’s always room for improvement and room to grow to the next level.  Lots of room.

Over the last 4-5 years I’ve been writing this column and maintaining my website I feel like I’ve grown.  I look at the images I produced then, and images I produce now, and I see a world of difference.  Some of it is technical from improved gear, but the vast majority of it is my skill levels.  Skill with the gear, skills during post processing, and skill in seeing.  I’m most concerned and proud of my progress with seeing.

The second and third images in these articles are images I could have taken long ago.  They’re nice images of fall scenes.  Nicely framed, ideally exposed, and post-processed in tune with my personal taste.  The first image might not be as good or as appealing to many of you, but the first image represents my growth.

What do you see when you look up through the trees in fall?  Most get sun in their eyes and look away, but if you shade your eyes and really look you’ll notice the leaves are translucent, more or less at different stages of their growth.  You’ll notice that in nature there are very few if any straight lines.  Each leaf has its own individual shape, colors are more uniform but they’ll vary from area to area.  Looking through the trees I saw a naturally occurring painting.  Nature’s art.

It felt a bit weird, like processing someone else’s image. Yet, for hours I sat there and hand painted each individual leaf, changing its color and luminosity just enough to make it stand out from the leaves next to it.  Natural patterns were emphasized and I tried not to miss the smallest detail.  If you had this file in its full size you could zoom in and not see any sign of changes.  This image is nothing like the original, yet it’s exactly like the original.  It allows me to represent, to you, what I was seeing when I looked up through those trees.  The next level.  I hope you like it.