Yep.....I'm Graduating

As some of you may know by now I have been going to The Art Institute of Colorado pursuing a degree in photography. I don't usually talk about my student career. I always just want to be known as an artist and who cares if that means I am in school or learning on my own.  I chose to go to formal school for a number of reasons. Access to equipment, learning multiple types of photography and being able to collaborate with a lot of creative people to name a few. It has been a pivotal time in my life.  Being able to focus on and hone a craft that I truly love. 
 

Today I will be submitting my final portfolio for review. Three years worth of work all boiled down into 60 photographs. All of the late nights staring at computer screens. Early mornings scouting locations and countless hours printing work. Every bit of effort over the last few years realized. As I began sorting and assembling my final portfolio for review it gave me a chance to look back at my progress over my time as a student. The one thing I noticed is that I have always had an eye for what I like but maybe not the technical know how to pull it off. So here is a quick little stroll through my early work. Some of these predate school. 

This photograph was a real turning point for me and one of the reasons I decided to return to school. 

This photograph was a real turning point for me and one of the reasons I decided to return to school. 

At the time I made this image I really liked it. Now all I can do is pick it apart. But I do like seeing the origins of my vision in this image. 

At the time I made this image I really liked it. Now all I can do is pick it apart. But I do like seeing the origins of my vision in this image. 

When I made this photograph I was sitting on the shores of Lake Dillon waiting for this exposure to finish, I believe it was a few minutes. Someone on the other side of the lake turned on their trucks headlights. At the time I was well..... a little mad. Until I got home looked at the image away from the irritation of the moment and realized it kind of sucked without it. 

When I made this photograph I was sitting on the shores of Lake Dillon waiting for this exposure to finish, I believe it was a few minutes. Someone on the other side of the lake turned on their trucks headlights. At the time I was well..... a little mad. Until I got home looked at the image away from the irritation of the moment and realized it kind of sucked without it. 

This was the first photograph I made about 30 minutes after I opened a box from B&H containing my first ND filter. A variable filter between 2-8 stops. 

This was the first photograph I made about 30 minutes after I opened a box from B&H containing my first ND filter. A variable filter between 2-8 stops. 

This photograph was in my first show in New York. The Art from the Heart show. July of 2012. 

This photograph was in my first show in New York. The Art from the Heart show. July of 2012. 

Rocky Mountain National Park, Bear lake. 

Rocky Mountain National Park, Bear lake. 

By the time I made this photograph I was still early in my student career but clearly my technique was improving. This was really the first long exposure that I was truly happy with. 

By the time I made this photograph I was still early in my student career but clearly my technique was improving. This was really the first long exposure that I was truly happy with. 

I was a little stunned how much of my new work I saw in my old work. I wasn't thinking about vision or creating a style. Just making the photographs I wanted to make. Alright enough talk. Here are some of the highlights of my final portfolio. A sort of best of. 

High Plains 16

Anderson 1

Ocean Beach 1 

Deadwood 1

Alaska 5

Resistance 11

Infrastructure 1

Winter 16

Paper 4

Architecture 1

Slide 6

Jim Blane, The Blane Project. 

Bill Brunger, The Blane Project

Over the past few years I have been able to photograph on the shores of San Diego, the mountains of Alaska and Colorado; Wide open plains of eastern Colorado and the homes of several WWII vets. I leave school feeling equally comfortable on location, in the studio and yes even the dreaded dark room. It has been a great ride. 

So now what? Now I get focused. My submissions to magazines, contests, galleries etc.. has been completely lack luster. I have really been trying to concentrate on squeezing every drop of experience out of school that I can. From now on I will be focused. More submissions. Getting involved in my local art community. Searching for gallery representation and working with art consultants, are top on my list. Along with furthering The Blane Project and seeking to publish the completed work sometime in the near future. 

I want to take just a minute and thank everyone who helped me along the way through school. My wife and kids for putting up with me (especially the last few weeks getting ready for graduation). My professors who put up with my extra questions and constant emails, Tom, Cynthia, Skott. Not to mention the countless friends and supporters I have met on social media and navigating the art world. I really can't begin to say how much your support has meant to me, all of you. Congrats to my fellow classmates graduating. It is a truly talented group of artist. 

 

Cheers

Adam Williams

Can we be objective?

  Are you objective when looking at your own work? Or do you have personal favorites that you stubbornly hold onto. One of the best things I think we can do as artist is open ourselves up to differing opinions and views of our work. It is pretty common to be your own worst critic. But can we really be objective with our own critique? Or, do our bias's keep us from making change?

Read More

2013.....A look back

As this year winds down I wanted to look back and reflect on what happened over 2013. It has been a year of change for sure. I tried to push myself in my work and really pursue the images I want to make. Regrettably I did not spend much time submitting to magazines, contests, etc. WIth a few exceptions.

Two of my images were nominated in the professional category of the Black and White, Spider Awards. This was my first time entering into an international competition, so I was completely humbled to be nominated on my inaugural entry. 

I was featured in issue 15 of Stark Magazine for some of my architecture work. 

My image Deadwood 1 was featured at the Exposure Exhibition in New York. 

What else has changed? I dove head first into medium format film photography and I am glad I did. There is a huge list of reasons why I like it.  Image quality, better in camera capabilities, forces me to slow down and focus (pretty hard for an A.D.D. kid :-) to name a few. 

I moved out to the high plains of Colorado. Our new home is on just enough property for me to get in trouble. Santa is dropping off a couple of miniature burro's for our daughters tomorrow, Why? Why not! Ha! I have always been fascinated with horses, cows, barns....you name it. Over the years I have worked with and been friends with quite a few ranchers and dairy farmers. Probably just the kid in me still wanting to be a cowboy. This has really begun to influence my work over the past 6 months in my High Plains series.

So let's get down to what we really want to see...... the pictures!

Winter 21.

Made on a golf Course near my old home. I am always looking for simple clean landscapes. For me it has proven to be harder than you would think. However golf courses are a perfect place to find them. Clean, well maintained and free from clutter. 

Slide 11. 

This image was made in a park one afternoon just after I grabbed my daughter from school. It was a new beginning for my Slide series. I am always overwhelmed with the response to this series. A great example of shooting what you want. At the time I was making these images I was thinking to myself, "no one is going to want to see these, but they look so freakin cool".  I am glad I listened to myself and kept shooting. 

Bill Brunger, WWII Vet.

My work with WWII vets from The Blane Project has been one of the biggest accomplishments over the past year In many ways. Not only getting to know all of these great men and their families but, my comfort and skill lighting portraits. Bill has really been a big supporter with this work. More importantly a friend/ adopted grandfather too me and Mr. Bill, to my daughters. 

 

Resistance 11.

Resistance 11

This image is from the Resistance series. I wanted to photograph how water followed the path of least resistance down mountains and through fields etc. How ever streams and creeks are photographed A LOT. I tried to focus only on the water and let the form it takes be the star of the image. Hopefully I did this in a way that is slightly different than the usual image. 

Catalina 4

This past June we surprised my dad with a trip to Catalina island for his 60th birthday. Living in Colorado I don't often get a chance to shoot seascapes. So while we were on the trip I would get up early every morning and walk down by the shore to work. I was able to make the little mini series Catalina while I was there. Also there were some pretty good breakfast burritos sold down by the beach every morning, that helped. 

High Plains 13

This is one of the first images I made when I began working on the High Plains series. Roaming the open landscape of the high plains is a powerful experience. It is where I find myself looking too for most of my new work. 

Anderson 35

I have been sharing some work recently from my work out on the Anderson family farm. This image is one that I made of the farm during a snow storm a few weeks ago. This is probably the image that I am most proud from this year. Simple, clean and a little abstract. 

 

So that's it, 2013 in a nutshell (not really) it was a great year. I want to thank everyone for all the support over the past year, it really does mean a lot to  me. I hope everyone's has a great holiday and I look forward to seeing everyone next year. 

Access and Relationships, the hard part of photography

      F-stops, ISO and shutter speeds are all a part of making an image. The easy part. We measure the light. Adjust composition. Turn knobs, push buttons and then press the shutter. Maybe we even add our own light with reflectors, strobes or even a few hot lights. The one thing we cannot control is the subject we are after. For many of us who shoot on location or landscapes, you quickly realize that getting access is half  of the battle. 

     I often wander the High Plains of Colorado. Seeking out the simple and unique that this environment has to offer. As you travel east away from the rocky mountains the landscape begins to change. Like ripples in a pond the ground begins to lay still and flat. Old barns, tractors and grain silos are scattered across the horizon. There are images to be made every where. However there is one catch. Access. Mile after mile of barbed wire keeps cows and horses in and you out. 

Now what. Grab a tele photo lens? You can but you will flatten out your image like the one I made below. I wanted to get close, use a wide angel lens and really accentuate the features on these silos. Instead what your left with is an image that I like but I find it a little flat compared to the vision I had for it.  

 

          Standing in my way was a single strand of barbed wire. I have a few photog friends that would simply go over the fence. I on the other hand, can't bring myself to do it. So what is the alternative? You have to practice the hard part of photography. Building relationships. We can learn all the technicalities we want about making a sound image. Sometimes that is not enough. We need perspective. To get close, see the textures in the buildings, feel the grass and dirt under our feet. Get to know what we are photographing. 

         Recently I was introduced to a local farmer/cattleman in my area. I spent hours with him riding the range that his family has owned for generations. In Talking with him, not just looking for pretty scenes. But listening to how they work and live. Getting to know the history behind the old silos and abandoned barns on his land. What was astounding to me was that I had been past his property many times and had noticed the old farmstead but had mentally checked it off as, off limits. If I had kept that mind set I never would have seen this. 

 

Cell phone, reference shot of an old barn with Pikes Peak in the background. 

Cell phone, reference shot of an old barn with Pikes Peak in the background. 

Cell phone shot reference of Harold's herd grazing at 7000' with a clear view of Pikes Peak in the background.

Cell phone shot reference of Harold's herd grazing at 7000' with a clear view of Pikes Peak in the background.

Cell phone reference shot of grain bins in one of Harold's fields. These things are addicting to shoot. 

Cell phone reference shot of grain bins in one of Harold's fields. These things are addicting to shoot. 

             As we pulled back down the long dirt road into the courtyard of Harold's (the farmer) property he simply asked, " did you find what you were looking for? "   Uh Yeah, do you mind me hanging around for oh… a year or so! I now had access and a much better appreciation for the land I was about to shoot. I am not saying that everyone needs to knock on doors and ask if they can get a private tour of your land/ business or building. But if you are looking for something different it might be the answer to some frustrations. 

            Probably the biggest lesson that I have learned over the past couple of years; is that some of the hardest parts of photography have nothing to do with the technicalities of our exposure’s. Vision, inspiration, access and building relationships are the hard part. Maybe even the most important part. 

             You can also find this article on Capturing Exposures in issue of a new online magazine that I have been fortunate enough to contribute to.  

 

Cheers 

Adam    

 

 

Fuji-film and the Game Changer

In a time when every phone number you call is an automated menu system. Tech support is shipped over seas. Everything has a 1 - (800) in front of it. You start feel a little disconnected from people. There isn't a whole lot of interaction one on one. Everything becomes one big ambiguous voice. I can't tell you the number of times I have called tech support (for anything) and repeatedly get a new person. You feel like your just a case number to be filed and put into a giant data base. There is no personal touch. Corporations become a huge entity with no face or voice. They just feel like they are there.  Fuji on the other hand has set themselves apart. 

I have been shooting with Fuji Neopan acros 100 for a while now. I tried out several different films when I first started shooting film. What I really loved about Neopan at first was the killer reciprocity (or lack of)  it has. No adjustments up to a 2 minute exposure and only a half stop up to 20 min.   Since most of my exposures around 8 minutes this really simplified placing zones and calculating exposures. What I have come to love even more than the reciprocity of the film is the gentle curve in the tonal range and great grain structure.  That being said I have been hooked for a while now. 

When I began working on, The Blane Project about a year ago I decided to shoot it all on film. It was one of the first series I really dedicated myself to doing so. I felt the timeless quality of film was important for these images. After the first portraits were made I took them to a professor who was excited about the project. He encouraged me to reach out to fuji and see if they would be interested in helping with the project. Who was I to call/email? The thought of me, a photo student in Denver approaching a huge company like fuji was intimidating. 

After a little research on Fuji's website I found the name of their communications manager, Matthew Schmidt. It was as close to public relations as I could find and I assumed that would be the best place to start. I sent him a simple him email. Very brief description of the project and then asked if they would be interested in helping out with some of the film. The next day I got a phone call, not an email. A phone call. An actual person called and talked with me. Matt was very gracious and sent me a 5 pack of film. Which may have seemed little to him, but it was a huge help to me.  

Since then I have been finding more veterans and the project has begun to develop farther than I thought it would go. I try to send Matt regular updates on the project to show my appreciation for the help. I have used quite a bit of film over the past couple of months and I was very hesitant to reach out for more help from Matt. Finally a few weeks ago I did. Shot off a quick email to him with an update on the project and a (hopefully) very humble "would Fuji like to help a little more?" I received an email back stating, "we would like to help... I'll take care of the rest".  What I got a week later was quite literally, a game changer. Enough film to complete the project and then some. No more worrying about being able to shoot a new vet because I used up my last roll on another assignment. 

 

Game Changer

Game Changer

While I am not trying to be an infomercial for the Fuji brand I am trying to give credit to a company that stepped up big in my book. Not only did they support a young artist like myself. They took the time to get to know me and the project. Setting themselves apart from the crowd of ambiguous corporate conglomerates. Now they are ( for me anyway) a part of the team. A neighbor who is helping out. A buddy from school who came over for the weekend to help with a big project. They have engaged with their customers and that deserves some serious recognition I think. 

I have had my eye on getting a new camera for a while. Something small enough to carry with me all the time. Family pics, watching my girls grow up and some behind the scenes stuff. Yet still be able to trigger flashes and check lighting setups when I am working on The Blane Project. I have been bouncing around between the Canon G15, FUji x-20 or maybe even a leica X1. Although at that point I can also throw the Fuji x100s into the mix. The bottom line is this simple act made up my mind. Without a doubt I will be going for the Fuji.  It is great to be able to put your support behind a company that also puts their support behind you. 

Show Fuji some love on their Facebook page for being a big company with a big heart. 

 

Bill Brunger, WWII veteran. Survived the Battle of the Bulge and Charter member of The Blane Project. 

Bill Brunger, WWII veteran. Survived the Battle of the Bulge and Charter member of The Blane Project. 

Cheers

Adam