Welcome! This blog should provide two things. First, a vicarious experience of nature through images, captions, and video. Secondly, the blog will share some of the research and literature that reinforces the paradigm of nature as a restorative and healing force. The goal is to give an educational, and rejuvenating "virtual nature experience".
Kevin's Web Log
Title: Snead Hill Sunset
Location: Konza Prairie, Riley County, Flint Hills Region of Kansas
Link to more information: http://kpbs.konza.ksu.edu/
Some Surprising Facts About My Workflow
In discussing my art work with clients, I often get asked the same questions about the creative process behind a particular print. The answers are often surprising to people. Here are some insights into my work:
Importance of Scouting
Very often, a fine print will be the result of going to a place not just 3, 4, 5 times, but over a period of years in different seasons. A hunch that an area has potential has to be nurtured and worked with patience, and in a collaborative spirit with nature. It’s much more time consuming than people think. Scouting for pictures often takes up 90% of my time in the field. There may be some experimental shooting, but it’s more for research than with any idea of a print coming from it.
Sometimes serendipity steps in an hands you a great scene with very little scouting if any. These are definitely the exceptions to the rule. When it does happen, I attribute it to the good karma of paying my dues with lots of scouting on other occasions that didn't turn up any shots!
Importance of Peak Light and Timing
With many of my photographs, the shutter is released only at the precise moment where the light, clouds, or some other ephemeral event is at its peak expression. Many times this time window of opportunity will be under a minute per day, or less. This is where the scouting comes in. To be at the right place at the right time often requires a lot of trial and error.
Sometimes it feels like trying to juggle many balls in the air with your hands tied - you can’t change the wind, the sun, etc, but just one small adjustment would make the difference between a truly exceptional image and a mediocre one. If you look at many great landscape paintings, this peak moment is often a dominant part of the composition.
Importance of Visualization
Most often during the scouting process, the light is far less than optimal, and you have to use a compass to plot the angle of the sun at other times, what the scene would look like at dawn, with fog, with partly cloudy skies, etc. You have to literally paint a very precise picture in your mind of what would be ideal. This takes a lot of practice and patience, and is most often done with the camera still in the car or backpack.
Sometimes I think an observer would find my actions in the field very curious: “What is that man doing with the compass over there and he’s just standing there for long periods looking around! Is he lost? Has he escaped from a hospital? Why is he crouching and tilting his head this way and that? Why did he just climb on top of his truck?” I actually gave up a long time ago worrying what people thought of me while shooting! I get lost in the visualization process that absorbs all of my attention.
Importance of Spontaneity
Weather and sun govern my shooting life. Neither of these check my personal schedule to coordinate convenient times. Very often I have to suddenly drop all business plans, appointments, leave family plans in tatters and jump into the field. It makes no sense to work so hard on the visualization and scouting to then abandon an opportunity at peak light and season.
Another occasion for spontaneity is when you place yourself at the scouted location at peak light. No matter how good you are, you can’t previsualize perfectly. So many times I will get to a position early, wait, wait, and wait some more then all of a sudden I have to make many last minute adjustments due to an unanticipated shadow, cloud formation or the like and have to scramble to plan B. This can be very nerve wracking because 90% of the elements are in place, about to fade and I have to move frantically to capitalize on the situation or miss it entirely.
This also takes a lot of practice. The tendency is to get terribly frustrated and panicky, not think well and make bad compositional decisions. Many bad experiences like this teach your eye and visualizing powers to come up with more options during scouting and an ability to improvise during the very rapidly changing light. The many variables that create spectacular conditions are often very fleeting and can prove to be mischievously exasperating.
Importance of "Distillation"
On almost every shot, I will frame the composition, get it entirely ready to shoot, and then I will take my eyes away from the viewfinder and take a few seconds of a break. I will then ask myself, "What am I really taking a picture of here?", "Is there anything in the viewfinder that is unnecessary or intrusive?" These questions help "distill" down the content of the frame, often making me move closer or other small camera position adjustments to refine the composition. It's one thing to see a feeling or idea in the landscape, but to convey it convincingly in a rectangular viewfinder often requires this honing in exercise.
Importance of Gratitude and Joy
For me, this may be the most important of all. I feel an intense kinship and bond with the natural surroundings as I scout and shoot. Despite the difficulties, I love the explorations, the discoveries, the conversation with nature, and especially the feeling of completeness and contentment after a long hard day in the field where I have pushed myself beyond where I thought I could go. Many times the best shots happen when I really, really wanted to quit for the day but kept pushing on and found some incredible scene!
All of my landscape pictures are taken from a place of ecstatic joy I get when I listen to what nature has to say to me, rather than what I can “take” from the landscape. In this sense, all of my pictures are collaborations with nature. I carry the gear, and she tells me what to shoot. I guess I’m a hired hand!