2016 Year in Review… and then some (because I ramble).

As the calendar year of 2016 comes to a close, a lot of people like to look back on that particular chunk of time to reflect on their experiences and set new goals for the coming year. I suppose I’m not much different. While my goals are my goals regardless of which digit ends a string of a human-constructed way to keep track of the days, I can’t help but think of the ways I’ve changed in the past ~365 of them. At the same time I remind myself that when I wake up on January 1, 2017, life is happening and time is passing the same way it always has been and that I need to keep pushing towards those goals day to day no matter what. Carpe diem and all that stuff, though I’m not perfect at that either.

While 2016 wasn’t my most productive year in terms of the number of photos I’ve released, I feel I’ve made profound strides in my artistic consciousness. When I first started photographing.. at all.. I just knew that I liked using a camera. I used my camera to take photos of anything that caught my interest, even if I didn’t know why they caught my interest in the first place. I just knew that I had a higher consciousness of my surroundings when I photographed them. Fast forward to 2013 when I decided to throw myself into the world of nature and landscape photography. Living in Oregon has strengthened my relationship with nature in many ways. I think the most important way my relationship has evolved has been around the therapeutic qualities of escaping to the natural world. It’s no secret that Oregon and the Pacific Northwest of the United States has an absurd amount of natural beauty which is not only extremely diverse, but also very accessible. Escaping to the forest for a quick hike, drive, or even just sitting next to a waterfall in the dark became frequent routines that were most always accompanied by my camera. The more time I spent in nature, the more the outings turned into a photographic agenda and less about the miles and the elevation gain. Both tug on my heart strings and fill my soul, but photography slows me down and gets me more immersed in my environment.

The following six images were released in 2016, though not all were captured then. I sincerely hope that you take the time to click through each one (just click on the photo itself) and read the stories that accompany them, as I intend the photos to be experienced with the writings. Hopefully I am able to convey the importance of nature in my life through these photos and words. If not, I still have it for me, and that’s what it’s all about.

One Day I will Return

One Day I'll Return

Taken: November 9 2015 •••• Released; March 9, 2016

I had always been entranced by this perspective of Elowah Falls but was never able to capture a shot that I was pleased with until this day, after dozens of times visiting this location. I paid a lot of attention to contrasts while processing this photo. Warm vs cool, soft vs sharp, and light vs shadows. My favorite aspect of the image is the composition. You’ll notice many lines radiating from the edges to the center. Which, while convenient, don’t lead you to the main focal point of the falls themselves. Making sure that the ampitheater of the falls was brighter and more contrasted from the scene with a slightly cooler tone helps the eye land there in the end. And no.. I did not place those leaves there. 🙂

Soul Food

Soul Food

Taken: April 5, 2016 •••• Released: April 13, 2016

Smith Rock has always been a bit of a ‘while whale’ for me. Not that I mind that because I absolutely love the place. Every sense is tapped into while I’m there.. and in a way that I don’t get at other locations. I don’t know why. The smell of sagebrush and juniper is one of my favorite smells in nature. It gives me a sense of comfort in the way that home does, though I grew up nowhere near that scent. While I always love heading to Smith Rock, the trip on this day had a very specific purpose: Capture an image that I could use to promote an upcoming workshop to this location. I was ready to announce my workshop but was bothered that I had no image of Smith Rock that I liked, even though I had been there many times. Luckily, this part of the job is never a chore. I met up with a good friend at this cliffside viewpoint and came away with a shot that not only could I use to market a workshop, but one that I felt connected to. You’ll notice the radiating lines in this composition as well, but luckily this time leading directly to the distant spires lit by the twilight afterglow. This is a single exposure and lots of time was spent getting the brightness of the canyon to feel darker than the rest of the scene but still retain good color and detail. I have a problem with going too dark in my twilight shots on first draft.. so finding the balance of tones that feels just right took some time.

I’m Happy We Came Here

I'm Happy We Came Here

Taken June 3, 2016 •••• Released June 14, 2016

Captured on my first trip to a place I had been wanting to see for over a decade, as well as my first multi-day distant trip with my eight-year-old son Elliott. This is one of the photos that I really hope you read the story for. It’s one of the most memorable and important photos to me and I’ll likely always tear up when I recall this experience. This is two shots: one for the foreground and a higher quality and sharper focused shot for the sky. A pretty simple photo compositionally, so getting the colors exactly where I wanted them was what I really focused on. Elliott and I are lit by ambient light from a nearby trailer. Outside of the trailer were numerous objects that were casting shadows on the ground around us, so I spent a lot of time correcting those so that they playa looked evenly lit. I also focused a lot on color correcting the sky which contained airglow and some dinginess in the raw file.

Turning Point

Turning Point

Taken: April 22, 2016 •••• Released June 27, 2016

For years I have passed this waterfall in the quest for the harder to reach falls upstream… which in hindsight is pretty silly considering this one is not much of a detour. As it was an overcast day there’s not a lot going on with this one in terms of light, but I absolutely love this composition, particularly the patch of flowers on top of the rock lining up perfectly with the waterfall behind it. You’ll also notice the radiating lines of the composition that leads directly to those flowers. Nearly every line in the image points to those flowers. I spent A LOT of time on this composition in the field, making sure that the waterfall was PERFECTLY centered over the flowers, which at the same time making sure that there was just the right amount of midground. If I was too high there was too much midground. If I was too low it seemingly went straight from foreground to background. I also had to pay attention to the streams on either side and make sure that their outflow  was placed perfectly in the frame. Not too close to the bottom and not too close to either side. I went with a darker mood here and used dodging and burning to help bring out some of the radiating lines of the composition.

Harmony

Harmony

Taken: July 29, 2016 •••• Released: August 25, 2016

This is my first ever released photo of Multnomah Falls and is yet another shot where I highly encourage you to click through the photo and view it with the story. What I love about this photo is the way it looks like the moss is cradling the falls. I tried to emphasize that and get some dimension in the photo with dodging and burning. Another favorite aspect is the water texture. The falls were flowing pretty light so it wasn’t just a big wash of water, but rather many smaller cascades where the falls were gently hitting the wall. I used dodging and burning to bring out some of those streams as well. And yet another favorite thing about this photo is that it feels wild and unique and is not immediately recognizable as Multnomah Falls.

This Too Shall Pass

This Too Shall Pass

Taken: October 16th, 2014 •••• Released: November 30th, 2016

This is my fourth photo from my 2014 Crater Lake Artist-in-Residence appointment. It took me a while to feel like this photo was one that I wanted to put in my portfolio. Maybe because up until this year.. I wasn’t comfortable with the quietness of it. I was still more prone to release shots that were more bold. But it always spoke to me. I remember taking this photo and being in love with the light on the water and the shadows of the trees being cast. Sometimes it takes certain things in life to finally get me to connect to a photo and that was the case with this one. This photo didn’t take much. While it’s fairly monochromatic in color, I did pay attention to the warm vs cool contrast of the light and the water and took care to make sure that the shadows had detail.. but not overwhelmingly so. I spent a lot of time making sure that the colors and luminosity of everything were exactly how I wanted which, due to the large amount of small details in this photo, were nearly thrown out the door with web sharpening. I did a lot of work on the web sharpened file to rebalance many parts of the photo so that it matched my final full resolution version.

Ways my photographic approach has changed

•I am a lot more selective about what I shoot. I don’t force an image or shoot just for the sake of shooting so much anymore. I only shoot if I feel internally compelled to.

•I am a lot more selective about what I release. I admit that when I first started I was more prone to releasing photos which I thought had a better chance of getting broad attention. Lately it’s been more about my connection to the particular photo. It’s about the memory and the moment combined with a higher value on light and composition than on ‘wow’ factor.

•I am more aware of WHY I photograph the things I do and why I don’t photograph the things I don’t.

•I’m more in touch with myself as an artist. I originally had a hard time even considering myself a photographer let alone an ‘artist’. Now I have a deeper draw to images that MOVE me. There are a lot of pretty photos out there, but the ones where I can feel the soul in the photo are the ones that capture my interest the most.

Goals going forward

•Finding ways to overcome my creative droughts. I’ve had some pretty long ones lately which is part of the reason for my low output.

•Make more of an effort to just get out there in nature.. even without a camera.

•Explore more destinations outside of Oregon/PNW/USA.

•Go higher, deeper, and farther, for longer.

•Continue to hone my artistic consciousness.

•Read more, write more, think more.

•Continue to simplify my life and use that simplification to create more memories and experiences.

•Be more grateful for more things.

•Smile more, laugh more, love more.

These goals are always a work in progress and I’m not sure if many of them even have a bar which I will reach and claim that I have achieved that particular goal. They say it’s about progress.. not perfection. As long as I am moving forward I’ll consider myself to be in a good spot.

I’m planning and hoping for a more successful future. I appreciate everyone who has supported me: family, friends, and clients. This whole venture is very personal to me and a dream of mine. Thank you, sincerely, for supporting my dream.

-TJ

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