Utter Simplicity

My need to clean off the car and our subsequent delayed arrival at Betty’s Pies, caused us to be about ten minutes late for the final day of class. Since we met up with another class participant for breakfast, 60% of the class walked in late. The instructor seemed particularly anxious to share another bit of his Photoshop wisdom with us and was chafing more than a little at our late arrival.

The morning’s lesson consisted on techniques for converting color images to black and white. Not something terribly relevant to my current printing activities. Normally I love black and white, but it’s rare to find an abstract image that improves when you remove the color.


Take Cadenza here, for example. A graceful swirl of blue, simplicity at its finest. The color is everything.

Let’s Get Vertical

The third and final day of class was scheduled to run until 3:00. Our goal was to get out by noon so we could both be back home before dark. The first day of class had ended with a coating of ice on my car and the third day started with four inches of powdery snow. I was grateful for the pair of boots I tossed in the car before leaving home.

I had only two goals for the final day of class. First, print out my last three images so I would have a full set of 8×10 prints of the portfolio. Second, be the first student to print my two large images. Surely that would be achievable in three hours. We were a little late getting to class, as we started out the day with breakfast at Betty’s Pies and they didn’t open until 8:00. I hadn’t accounted for the time needed to brush snow off my car, so we didn’t quite make the opening bell.


But hey, Betty’s Pies for breakfast. A girl’s got to have her priorities. Today we switch to the vertical perspective. I present for your approval, Sforzando.

Last of the Horizontals

I forgot to mention that after I produced my second round of prints and was comparing them to the first ones, the instructor came over and looked at them with me. When I had been working on the landscape image, he had lots of feedback on color correcting and darkening/lightening certain areas of the image. The abstracts pretty much just left him speechless.

In the end, all he could manage was something along the lines of “these look pretty good.” Understatement of the year. Jane told me he was whispering to his friend about them and was clearly impressed, he just didn’t have the vocabulary to offer any constructive advice. Which was great, given how shitty he was at doing that for the other students.


I’ve just realized that my apparent random order of featured images has resulted in all of the horizontal compositions coming first. We are midway through the portfolio with Fortissimo. The remaining 12 images are all vertical. Don’t ask me how that happened.

Adding a Hint of Green

The instructor laid my first round of prints out on a table and “helped” me sort and select 12 for additional work. He gave me some other completely useless, bullshit advice about creating a portfolio. I pretty much shut him out after that. I tweaked the images (mostly lightening them) and did a second round of prints. They were gorgeous.

It didn’t take long before I could pretty much get a printable copy on the first try. By the end of the day I had 22 prints ready to go. I went back to the cabin that night and worked up an additional three, getting me to the required number of 25. Why was that the magic number? Because it’s the minimum requested amount for a submission to Lenswork magazine.


That’s right baby, we’re going for the big time. The hint of green in Pasticcio is courtesy of another patio chair.

The Color Explosion

With my knowledge of printing techniques for traditional images now vastly improved, I turned my attention on day two to my true passion – the abstracts. I printed out approximately 20,  without major tweaking, just to get a baseline for how they turned out and to have physical copies to compare. The instructor was clearly flummoxed when he saw what I had produced.

Keep in mind that this is a totally traditional, photos of Split Rock Lighthouse and waves crashing against the shore of Lake Superior, landscape photographer. I doubt he would even teach classes if he could make enough to support himself selling that stuff. I might as well have dropped to earth from another planet. The color just about made his head explode.


I was off and running on my totally subversive track. This image is one of a few where I performed a little bit of digital cloning to strengthen the composition.

Old Dog, New Tricks

As usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. Yes, the printing class taught me how to convert something from the digital world into a print ready file. I also learned a few very useful Photoshop tricks. Have I mentioned that I’m not really a wizard in Photoshop and I like to spend as little time as possible using it? I’d much rather be creating new images.

I spent the first day in class working on “traditional” images. The first was a landscape from New Zealand, which took seven revisions before the instructor felt it was print worthy. The second was an image of Nola from our train trip last year. That only took five tries. The whole process made me cross-eyed.  But I was definitely learning.


With day one in the books, I was looking forward to moving on and printing some real art.

Printing it Out

So I have an artist’s statement and a whole bunch of raw images, how do you turn that into a print ready portfolio? Because it’s not really art if it only exists on my computer. Fortunately, Jane had persuaded me to join her for a fine art photo printing class up in Two Harbors.

She’s taken the class a number of times before and has known the instructor for over 20 years. Like most photography classes, the biggest value is that it forces you to work on images. But unlike my abstract class, this one also taught me a number of very useful tricks. The main goal was to learn how to turn an image on the screen into something that printed well and to leave with two large (17×22) prints.


This is another one of my favorite images from the portfolio and I chose it for one of the large prints.

The Artist’s Statement

How do you concisely explain the evolution from witness to artist? I spent 35 years as a photographer, faithfully trying to replicate reality through the medium of a camera. Now I strive to create images that evoke an emotional response primarily using color and movement, painting without a canvas or brush. Inspiring subject matter is everywhere and I often do my best work in my own back yard.

So that’s it. After several hours and many, many iterations, that is what I landed on for an artist’s statement. The general consensus on the internet is that shorter is better. I might have been able to get it down to three sentences, but I don’t feel that four is excessive.


So four it shall be. I now officially have an artist’s statement.

For This I am Thankful

It’s hard to believe that it’s Thanksgiving already. Where did the year go? For that matter, where did the last two years go? Never mind. I’m trying not to dwell. As I started creating these abstract images, I naturally started sharing them with my creative buddy and soul sister, Jane, who is also an amazing artist and photographer.

She, along with my abstract photography class instructor, encouraged me to put together a portfolio. I’ve never done anything that creatively ambitious before. My instructor also encouraged me to write an artist’s statement. I hate artist’s statements, as they are typically pretentious twaddle. “So write one that isn’t.” Challenge accepted.


Little did I know what I was signing up for.

Not Replicable

I did continue to explore other subject matter during my abstract photography class, but I kept coming back to the sculpture. I photographed it on three separate occasions in August and then once again in September and twice in October. The total count of raw image files so far is just over 1100.

One of the more fascinating aspect of the experience is that each of the six sessions is unique. There are commonalities among the images composed on any given day, but striking differences from day to day. I don’t know why. My technique doesn’t vary substantially and the sculpture is almost always in total shade. I’ve used several lenses and all three of my DSLR camera bodies, but that shouldn’t have a significant impact. Just another mystery.


Like the shades of purple you see here in Battaglia. It’s some magical combination of the blue metal sculpture and orange plastic patio chair. Don’t ask me to explain it.