Tag Archives: Art

Does art need an audience?

Bald eagle in flight, Splashed with Light, Alaska

Backlit Bald Eagle, splashed with light, Homer, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

If a tree falls in the forest? We’re all familiar with the old adage, and I think it’s an interesting question pertaining to art. If a musician, for example, doesn’t play music for an external audience, is  s/he really a musician? Must a photograph have an audience?

In my opinion, the answer is a resounding no. Art is something creating. Art is the pursuit of idea. That process of making some thing is the essence of art. Playing my guitar in my room, alone at night in the dark, can be every bit as artful as a performance on any stage. Sitting outside the little Shack in the winter woods, alone but for the forest and the great night sky, gently playing my Native American Flute is art. Lifting my camera to the eye, reaching through the viewfinder for my composition, bringing together the elements I see, crafting an image, is art.

Whether the end product of that art reaches an audience is secondary; all too often that’s something over which I have little or no agency.

Art needs no audience. Art needs artists; people who make art.

That is the gift art brings our lives. What do we give in return?



Photography; does it get in the way

Aurora borealis and Denali, Denali State Park, Alaska.

Aurora borealis lights up the winter night sky over Mt McKinley, highest mountain in North America, also called Denali. Viewpoint from Denali State Park, Alaska. Click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

One topic I’ve often heard discussed relating to nature and outdoor photography pertains to the value of the experience itself. Does photography “get in the way”, and limit the photographers’ realization of the experience itself, or does it add to it?

I have friends, for example, that don’t like to bring a camera on a backpacking trip because they feel it hinders how they are able to soak up the actual experience. They’d rather sit and watch that glorious sunrise than fiddle with the camera and try to get a good composition. They’d rather sit back and stare in awe at the Aurora borealis do its thing over Denali than take their gloves off and tweak camera settings. Continue reading

Photography ≠ “Painting with light”

Black and white photo of Great Egret, St. Augustine, Florida.

Black and white photo of Great Egret, St. Augustine, Florida.

Hey Folks

“The word photography is based on the Greek φῶς(photos) “light” and γραφή (graphé) “representation by means of lines” or “drawing”, together meaning “drawing with light” (ya gotta love Wikipedia).

“Photography means painting/drawing with light”.

It’s time photographers (and photography) mature, and walk away from this virtually meaningless phrase. The phrase is a fabrication, deception at best, and  has never been valid. Let it rot. We’re not painters, we’re photographers. We no more “draw with light” than does any person with their finger in the sand. Pixels and film aren’t light, they don’t even “capture” light, they merely represent it – to propose otherwise suggests only a childlike understanding of what light might actually be.

If interpreted in this callow manner, all painting would similarly be “painting with light”. Indeed, all visual art could be a form of painting with light; drawing with pencils and crayons, digital graphic arts, sculpture, pottery, dance, et al. Van Gogh painted with light. Michaelangelo painted with light. Early aboriginal cave paintings were painted with light; with no light, there’d be no painting. Most certainly, there would be no viewing these paintings. The idea that we paint with light is no more valid than saying carpenters sculpt houses with stardust.

Continue reading

Kuskulana Glacier

Winter in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Kuskulana Glacier, Alaska.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Wrangell Mountains and the Kuskulana River, Kuskulana Glacier, near Nugget Creek mine. Winter, Alaska. This photo is a closer look at the ice wall on the Kuskulana Glacier, from the photo I posted last week. I probably spent about an hour or 2 here, checking out this fascinating place. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

My friend Guy Tal posted (as usual) another great read on his blog; “Photography and the Environment”. I urge you to read his treatise; it’s a solid piece. Guy has a great knack for writing on particular topics without seeming to offend those who disagree with him, which makes his a powerful voice. At the same time, he’s not wishy-washy. that’s a hard line to toe.

One question Guy asks in the article is “Will another photograph on a web site in a stock library truly change public opinion? How about another thousand? Another million?”

I’d suggest, however, that this is the wrong question to consider. Continue reading

Editing art

Backcountry skiing near Mt. Blackburn, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Winter is a great time for backcountry skiing in Alaska. Cross country skiing and ski touring in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, along the Kuskulana River, near Mt Blackburn and the Wrangell Mountains, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Happy New Year, and Welcome back to the blog. I had a somewhat mixed couple of weeks, which I’m sure I’ll tell you all about here soon enough. Before I get all that together however, I’ll post a short note about this news I saw, an article concerning a new publishing of the Mark Twain classics: “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” edited by Professor Alan Gribben of Auburn University at Montgomery. It differs from other editions of those books because Mr. Gribben has turned the word “nigger” — as used by Tom and Huck — into “slave.” Mr. Gribben has also changed “Injun” to Indian.

This is interesting to me. I’m a huge fan of Twain, particularly those novels, and the idea of editing (i.e., rewording) such great work is almost ghastly .. on the surface. On the other hand, we live in a world where art, including ‘great art‘ is constantly being ‘adapted‘ for presentation: consider films presented on television, for example. How are bleeps, voice-overs, cuts and blurred body parts any different to a publisher swapping out words that might be offensive or inappropriate? Or updated versions of Shakespearean classics, making them infinitely more readable for kids? How about song lyrics bleeped for radio play? Or, better yet, literary classics like Nabokov’s “Lolita” banned from schools altogether?

How about the outcry over John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High”? The US Senate held a hearing in 1985 to deal with explicit lyrics in pop music. So we’re not talking about anything new here at all. Indeed, one of the most popular shows on TV in recent times is American Idol, where countless classic tunes have been butchered by this generations’ most current attempts to throw its own heros up the pop charts. 🙂 Continue reading

The Art of Science

Skiing, Chugach Mountains, Alaska.

Backcountry skiing on a ridge on Flat Top Mountain, Glen Alps, near Anchorage. Chugach State Park, winter, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

I recall a conversation or 2 on the subject of art and science; essentially, what differentiates and what connects the science and art. Art is exploration. Science is similar process with maybe more strictly defined boundaries. Certainly they’re both forms of creative expression.

I think the critical illustration of their differences is very simple; artists are so often WAY cool, and scientists way nerdy. 🙂



The Art of Learning; step toward the unknown

Hiker looking up the Lakina River, Wrangell-St. Elias, Alaska

A backpacker/hiker stands and looks up the Lakina River drainage to the Lakina Glacier, on the side of Mount Blackburn. Wrangell mountains, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

If art is exploration, then perhaps one of the best modes of “practice” we might undertake is the challenge of the new; stepping outside our comfort realms and engaging something new. Stepping toward the unknown.

The process of learning is stimulating in itself, but I think it’s more than that, too. It’s stepping back and revisiting how to learn. Going through the process of picking up at the beginning, and working toward building a comfort level with some kind of form.

Art involves, essentially, that process. With that in mind, I find it great practice to pick up something I’ve not done before, something I know nothing about, and step into it. This winter, for example, my goal is to learn to telemark ski. I’d fooled with it briefly last year, but didn’t really understand or know the process. Also, as I found out this fall, had all the wrong gear for learning on. So, I’ve set myself up this winter with a nice rig, and taken some lessons.

The good news; what started out as essentially a “Special Ed” class is gradually molding into something resembling telemark skiing. It’s great fun, and quite a workout. On top of that, it’s stimulating! Continue reading

Art; an exploration of the unknown

Backcountry skiing on the Root Glacier, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Backcountry skiing, exploring the Root Glacier, with Stairway Icefall in the background. Springtime brings melt, opening a small pool of water on the glacier’s surface. Cross country skiing, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

I think art involves exploration, the process of stepping into the unknown, and taking a journey of sorts. In this way, I think we might relate the idea of art to the idea of “icon photography” discussed earlier. Seeking out the new is a vital fragment of making art, in my opinion.

At some point, we delineate art from craft. Art, to me, involves a greater element of the unknown, while craft is more a process of refinement and control. One hones one’s craft, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case with art. Art might simply involve turning a new direction with each step (though maybe it doesn’t have to do so). We don’t have to refine anything.

On a trek through the mountains, I enjoy the exploration, the wander itself. Though I guide hikes in places I’m obviously familiar with, I make an effort to reserve at least a trip or 2 each season as an exploratory hike. This summer, for example, we’re heading to the Arrigetch Peaks in Gates of the Arctic National Park, a park I’ve visited once, my very first remote hike in Alaska (wow, what a great memory that is). Venturing into the unknown is an artful process; a game of chance. I don’t know what we’ll find on the trip, and that itself is motivation for the undertaking; to simply experience that gift of the hidden.

Jazz musicians understand this, every time they step to the mic to improvise a solo they do exactly this. That’s the beauty of jazz. That’s also the beauty of art. The other is artifact. Continue reading

Do you practice?

Grizzly bear, from behind.

A grizzly bear, rear view, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

As often as I’ve run across discussions about art and photography, I’ve never really heard anyone ask this question. Most artists, painters, writers, musicians, sculptors, dancers, etc, practice, routinely. But how much practice do you, as a photographer, actually do?

I don’t mean “time in the field shooting”. I mean time in the wood shed, practicing, honing your chops? I mean sitting working on a particular technique, idea, composition, theoretical study, etc. Continue reading

Photographers and icons

Dwarf Fireweed, Brooks Mountain Range, ANWR, Alaska.

Dwarf fireweed (Epilobium latifolium) and the Upper Marsh Fork River of the Brooks mountain range, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Alaska. Mid summer, this photo was taken about 2:00am. First light of the day. 🙂 Please click on the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Recently I’ve read a few articles and posts about photography and and photographers, and particularly landscape photographers; the question of ‘shooting icons’ almost invariably comes up. For those readers here who aren’t quite sure what that is a reference to, it simply points to the regularity with which so many famous landscapes are photographed. Scenes such as Grand Teton from the Snake River Overlook, Yellowstone National Park’s Lower Falls are almost ubiquitous with landscape photography.

It’s an interesting discussion. Those kinds of locations are frequently photographed because not only are they spectacular scenes, but they’re also great to photograph; overlooks and viewpoints seemingly designed with the landscape photographer in mind. This is not true of all spectacular scenes, for a variety of reasons.

The primary reason a scene like this one, of Mount Edith Cavell and Cavell Lake in Canada’s Jasper National Park has been photographed so many more times than, say, the scene at left, is that Edith Cavell is road accessible. All the other discourse about happiness and contentment and art versus stock and following one’s creative muse and shooting your passion is simply talk; it all comes down to the pavement. If it’s off the road, it’s probably not an icon.

The question then concerns itself with the value of our pursuit; and that, like so many such questions, is entirely contextual. For some people, shooting photos that sell well is all that matters. For others, shooting photos that express some personal vision is more important. Continue reading