Tag Archives: wild

Fire Water :: CT

17 Jan
Fire Water :: CT

Fire Water :: CT

Fact: Lightning is powerful, awe-inspiring, scary, dangerous and beautiful.

To nature and landscape photographers, that’s often an irresistible combination of traits for something to have.  And, like most things we photograph – the ocean filled with rogue waves and sharks, the frozen lake we pray doesn’t crack open while we’re on it, the mountain view at sunrise that required a hike in the dark through bear country –  the question is always, “How do we make a beautiful image without getting dead?”

2016 was a year of expanding my skills.  One of the things I tried my hand at for the first time was lightning photography and IT.WAS. AWESOME!  Of my three lightning season trips last year, this shot is my favorite.  There is a lot to improve upon still, but the experiences of being one with the storm, so to speak….those memories are just about perfect!

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This Beautiful Life

11 Dec
Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror

Promise to stay wild with me.  We’ll seek and return and stay and find beauty and the extraordinary in all the spaces we can claim.  We’ll know how to live.  How to breathe magic into the mundane. -Victoria Erickson

Interview with Jamey Pyles

21 Oct

A few months back, I stumbled upon Jamey Pyles 500px page, and was immediately in love with his work.  Images that moving are rare for me these days.  Despite my affinity for his images, however, I struggled to put together this interview.

 

Jamey’s work is striking.

 

Magical.

 

His pictures make me want to take a walk through a wild mountain and appreciate the unbroken beauty of an untamed landscape.

 

But how do I put that into words?  What exactly is it about Jamey’s work and philosophy that draws me in as a viewer and a fan?

 

I think it is the sense of adventure I feel when I look at his images.  On his website he says, “I capture photographs with the intent to share the beauty I see out there with the world and to remind people of the natural world that modern society has all but left behind. These motives stand behind my ambition to create art that is personally meaningful to my lifelong journey.” There is a true freedom in that notion.

 

The idea of using art as a way of bringing awareness, as a potential tool for preservation…it’s a sexy, romantic notion. Photography used as both a creative outlet, and a tool for the greater good.  That’s how one starts a legacy.

 

But…that isn’t the whole story.  It isn’t just Jamey’s idealism that I’m drawn to.  It’s his images.  It’s his locations.  It’s the quality of his light.

 

One of the side effects of the world being so accessible is that it is difficult to find something new, to create something that stands out in the crowd, captures my attention and holds it.  I won’t deny, there are a lot of incredible images of Antelope Canyon, of the turquoise lakes in Banff, of the Eiffel Tower and of the Great Wall…but they’re so frequently photographed, that I couldn’t pick one particular artist’s version out in a crowd.

 

Jamey’s work appeals to me because it’s new, it’s fresh, and much of it is so well edited and composed, I can’t help but pause when I’m flipping through his portfolio.

 

But hey…this interview isn’t about how I feel about Jamey’s work.  It’s about how Jamey’s work came to be.  So let’s get down to the questions, shall we?

 

First, and most obvious question…

How did you get into photography?

 

I was introduced to nature by my parents through backpacking in the very impressionable years preceding elementary school. At our go-to location in the Three Sisters Wilderness, I glimpsed into another realm of the world that eventually would come to mean one of the only realities in my life. There I confronted the rational and irrational fears and undertook adventures throughout those early years — we went on the trip for 4 days each summer. These first encounters with the woods sparked a continually growing interest in the natural world. The first subject that really drew me into photography was waterfalls. I was enamored by the long exposure and how it painted water so beautifully. There didn’t seem to be much purpose in those days, but that was perfectly fine. I was a young guy super engaged in my hobby of making images that captured these waterfalls. It was always more than just photography, though, because I routinely would go to places completely off the beaten path or with very difficult access even if there were no known ‘comps’ of the place done by other photographers. Gradually the horizons grew. Its been about 6 years since I first started using a camera.

 

 

There is a definite evolution among your images as you developed a style that works for you.  For the benefit of all of our new photographers out there, can you talk a little bit about the journey to find your own style?

 

Some of it was learning the tools better. But most of finding my style was not a conscious choice, but rather, allowing my ambitions to seek, and letting my art follow. My themes and subjects have changed over time, but consistently my journey has taken me to places that have one key ingredient: I seek out landscapes that are uncorrupted by man, and that alone has become the passion. Making art that can point the focus back to the landscape is my response and it is my ultimate challenge. It comes second to the experience, hands down. Now, I’ve photographed so many things that I have a backlog at least a year and a half long.  There are many experiences I have captured that I know will never make it to my public portfolio because I feel that it is important that the experience remains mine and mine solely. I don’t feel obligated to share, but when I do, I like to post in a meaningful order, generally not chronologically. Right now on my desk I have a scrap envelope that has scribbles of ideas relating to what I should edit and post online next. I’m just now coming out of a hard and very busy time and I am trying to focus more on my art and less on this BS we call ‘real life’.

 

What led up to the Kickstarter idea, and eventual book and calendar you published?

 

That spurred from my first experience in the Oregon desert with a wise old friend of mine. I was just blown away at the diversity of the landscapes and the fact that nobody knew that there was beauty to be found in such a place. So that progressed into a project that became sort of an expose’ on the beauty of the natural landscapes of eastern Oregon. Originally the end result was going to be the portfolio of images I would make. On top of that, I would make a book to go with it, that was mostly pictures, and a few essays/stories. But as I started to get my thoughts on the page, I couldnt stop writing, and all of a sudden I had 30,000+ words to deal with along with all of the photos, and the book became the biggest focus. The book’s themes became self discovery, and the meaningfulness of nature, with a side of adventure. If one was to read it solely for the adventure aspect, one would likely be disappointed. The finished work is 90 pages with full color images throughout.

 

The whole experience of brainstorming, fundraising, and fulfilling a project was very enlightening. I also went way over budget, saw so many amazing things, and most importantly, was left with the uncanny and disturbing knowledge that I had only scratched the surface. I learned that saying “I want to capture it ALL” was very foolish. Were I to do it again, I would focus more deeply on a smaller area or single subject.

 

All of the calendars I have made and published have been separate to the project. I’ve been making them every year since 2009. Last year I made the calendar for 2014 focussed on the Great Basin which is partly in eastern Oregon. You can find that and more info on my book on my website (www.jameypyles.com)

 

 

How has that experience of traveling to and capturing some of the lesser known sites of the Northwest affected your outlook on life?

 

This is a hefty question, because it has defined my existence in a way. It wasn’t “That Experience” from the Eastern Oregon project but rather the whole pathway to get there, and then the continuance of the journey forward from there. I’ll attribute its relative meaningfulness to my age at the time, in the transformational teen years, and also the amount of energy I was able to focus into it. Experiencing nature like that so young has directed my focus away from other things that most teenagers are into. I was never interested in engaging in high school life beyond classes. I spent my senior year of high school writing my book instead of pursuing scholarships, honors classes, parties, girls, whatever. In essence, my experience with nature correlates in some way with everything that I count as meaningful in my life currently.

 

Nature has quieted my spirit, it has allowed me to see the relative vanity of human existence and has challenged me to look deeper – look for purpose; search for answers even if the answers may always be beyond reach.  I think the project specifically helped me develop my voice, in photography and in my writing. I have continued writing, but it is more focussed on prose and expository than narrative. Other than journaling, I feel that narrative has become very shallow for me considering that there is no story proposition like there was when I went forth to write that book. Now I’m just a simple guy that really digs nature.

 

Screaming Skies - www.jameypyles.com

Screaming Skies – http://www.jameypyles.com

From a marketing perspective, what are your thoughts of selling shots of unknown locations versus known locations?  Have you had much success?

 

I’ve learned that if you want to sell images, you’ll likely want to look in other places than the wilderness. Not that you can’t do it, but that it is beside the point. It is far easier to sell photos of places that people know. In my case I have pretty much stopped trying to sell prints, due to my focussing on other things; projects, personal life, etc. I guess I have had some success in the last several years, but the result was never more than a few hundred bucks here and there. In the foreseeable future, I wont be able to make enough money on selling images. I hope to make a living related in some way to photography/outdoors, but right now I am trying to gain some traction, working as a landscaper. I hate marketing. It puts me in the wrong headspace… But it is a necessary evil.

 

 

Any advice for new photographers trying to make a place for themselves in the world?

 

Don’t try to make a place for yourself in the world, rather find the place you already are in and let your art be a venue for self discovery rather than self promotion. You can not effectually influence others unless you are grounded in yourself. I have found the most meaningful place in the world for me is the most irrelevant place as well… A high place where I can look out on an expanse and see no evidence of human existence, where to all perspectives but my very own, I am nothing.

 

That is me. Find out who you are, and make your art for the sake of you, and it very well could stand above the crowd.

 

Silver Lining - www.jameypyles.com

Silver Lining – http://www.jameypyles.com

Any other notable accomplishments or projects you want to talk about?

 

The most current is that I just married my other half just a few weeks back. Hanna and I are so happy together and I am looking forward to a lifetime of adventures with her. The wedding consumed all of my free time so I hope to be able to get back into the swing of things now that we are getting settled in.

 

Back in September of 2013 (it hurts to think this was already a year ago), I packed all of my needed belongings into my jeep and moved to Reno, Nevada to work with a wilderness advocacy group called Friends of Nevada Wilderness. My job was wilderness inventory; I would set out for a week at a time with a partner and look for Wilderness characteristics in some pristine Nevada landscapes. We tracked all routes around and into these wild areas, documenting characteristics according to BLM national standards for Lands with Wilderness Characteristics. The intent of the organization and my outings were to permanently set aside these wild areas as Wilderness (with a capital W), meaning that the landscape can not be used for material gain (logging, mining, building, etc) and that it will remain publicly accessible as it is currently, into the future. There is a lot more to it than I have time or space to write about, but I will gladly answer questions anyone has.

 

I did this work from September into November, when it started snowing and the days became too short for my work. I learned some incredibly valuable lessons while discovering the potential of Nevada. I felt incredibly blessed to work and be paid doing something that I loved to do, essentially camping with a purpose. I saw so many incredible things – deep canyons, incredible rock formations, endless high mountains, blazing fall colors, desert sands and rhythmic patterns, and so much more. Thanks to this job and many other outings in 2013, I spent just about 100 nights in the outdoors. When I returned to Oregon’s winter I felt pretty empty, and although I still have yet to land another job along this career path, I’ve again and again found solace alone in the desert and in the high mountains of my home state.

 

I’m searching constantly for another opportunity like this one, but it is likely I will follow some more of my own projects first. I’ve got a few major ones in the works but these are at the beginning stages.

 

 

Best way to contact you?

 

My email, jameypyles@me.com, or through my website, www.jameypyles.com, where you can find my gallery and a bit more about me. You can find my page on facebook, Jamey Pyles Photography, and also on 500PX.

 

10 Tips for a Successful Photography Start-up

11 Sep
In Wildness

In Wildness

In Wildness is the preservation of the World. -Henry David Thoreau

 

When I saw that quote, I felt it in my bones.  So often, my heart cries for the wild, to be out among the trees and splashing in streams.  But while that sense of adventure sustains my soul, it’s not what my business needs to succeed.  And that, my friends, is one of the major obstacles for us creative brain types.

 

Success as a photographer requires a few things.  First, you must be willing and able to embrace your artistic nature, to work on your skills and to learn from critiques.  Second, you need to suppress your artistic nature and embrace the ideas of organization, planning and structure.  And finally…throw in a dash of drive, perseverance and belief in your worth to round out your business plan.  Afterall, the qualities needed to hike 10 miles over two days in bad weather, to endure physical discomfort and to stay focused (all of which happened to get the above image) are the same qualities that will allow you to keep your eyes forward, looking to your next goal or milestone even when you run into problems, mistakes and failed attempts.

 

Alright, lets explore these ideas, shall we?

1) Define your success:

The first step to success is to define what success means to you.  If your aspirations stop at “making some money doing what you love”, then so be it.  If you plan on reaching for the stars, well, I applaud you…set attainable goals for yourself and build on each baby step.  I promise you, no matter what path you choose, there will be many people that will question your methods, your pricing and your judgment.  Ultimately, it’s up to you to sort out the useful suggestions from the criticisms that will pull you away from your dreams (while trying to shove you into someone else’s definition of success).

2) Remember your roots:

You got into <insert your art genre here> for a reason, right? The willingness to create is a wonderful thing, and isn’t to be taken lightly.  Having a creative outlet can enrich your life in so many ways, and remembering why you do what you do can help sustain you when times are tough. You will make mistakes, and it will suck.  Remember, that’s part of the learning process.  Don’t let too much pride or a stubborn nature become another obstacle to your success.  It’s not easy to open your eyes and ears to useful critiques (key word being useful…see #1) and grow based on that feedback.  But grow you must if you’re looking to stand out in a heavily saturated market.

3) Invest in yourself:

Growth can’t happen without effort on your part.  Find a workshop you can afford and attend it.  Watch youtube videos on the latest editing technique.  Read blog posts and tutorials on how to achieve what you want to achieve.  Study up on the newest whatever it is…giant ring light, light painting, luminosity masks…etc.  There will always be more to learn, and making the effort to do so will show in the quality of your work.  That is important because without a solid portfolio and understanding of what you bring to the table, it’s very difficult to understand your worth and sell yourself to a client.

4) Be thoughtful and organized:

The difference between having a dream and having a goal is planning.  A dream is a nebulous half formed idea that you hope will happen to you someday.  A goal is something you work towards, step by laborious step, until you’ve achieved and moved on to the next goal.  To reach those milestones, you need plans.  And lists.  And a calendar.  And lots and lots of sticky notes.

For example, yesterday’s to-do included…
~ Between 10-11 am = promote blog tour project on Twitter, business Facebook page and in a Facebook group.  On twitter, use link to blog tour page.
~ 3ish pm = Twitter post attaching blog tour photo to catch people’s eye
~ Between 4-5pm = post blog tour image on Instagram, tag someone likely to re-share.  Link Instagram to personal Facebook page so friends and family see to post
~ write out tomorrow’s blog, set release between 10-11
~ plan tomorrow’s promo… market on wordpress, link new blog to a Facebook group (landscapes, nature, etc), #tbt on personal page with old trip/image to promote
~Monday post newest blog shot to 500px, pinterest, and 500px Facebook group at 8a, 10a or 4-5p
~Next Tuesday, post about art hanging at Francesca’s restaurant in Canton, CT.  Tag them on FB to increase views.

5) Invest your time and resources wisely:

So…why do I choose to post on social medias around 8a, 10a or between 4-5p?  Because our generation checks their phones and social medias before they go to work, when their attention starts to wander at work and they need a coffee break, and then as soon as they get out of work but before they are home and start the routine of picking up children, cooking dinner, doing homework, etc.  Posting at times when my target market won’t see what I have to offer is a waste of time.  Furthermore, I’ve read that some social medias track people who spam their feeds and write them out of the algorithms.  No idea if that’s true, but it helps ease my conscience about not posting non-stop. haha

Why do I choose not to post on Fridays?  In my experience, unless you’re posting early, you won’t get much feedback.  Once 5pm hits, people are focused on their weekend plans, not what pretty picture you have to offer that day.  If I do post, it’s generally a fluff post or a personal post.  And yes, those personal posts are also work.  Your market wants more than just a nameless, faceless artist in their feed.  Art is an emotional experience and you want people to invest in you so they eventually invest in your art.

Are you starting to see what I mean about investing wisely?  It’s not just financial advice.  Keep track of what does and doesn’t bring you results.  Cull the useless stuff, be consistent about the stuff that works and be on the look out for new ways to put yourself out there.

6) Be bold.  Be personable.:

As I said, personality counts here.  If you have two photographers of equal skill to work with, and one of them is an arrogant jerk, or a socially awkward weirdo, or completely aloof, disorganized and/or never returns your emails and phone calls… while the other is funny, nice, tries to please the customer, communicates well and in a timely fashion….  Well, I know who I’d choose.

You can NEVER have too many people in your corner.  Make friends.  Network.  Enjoy your peers…it’s part of the ride.

Often times, you are selling yourself as much as you are selling your vision and creations.  Be bold.  Introduce yourself.  Ask how you can become a part of their team.  Take chances.  Run a class or a workshop.  Build your resume.  Believe in what you have to offer.  And remember, price yourself accordingly.

7) This is a business, remember?:

Believe in your work.  You have spent countless hours studying youtube videos and attending lighting seminars.  You have dropped thousands of dollars on equipment, insurance, travel, etc…remember those expenditure sheets you fill out during tax season?  They hurt to look at, don’t they.  You have invested in yourself so that, in the end, you can get paid for your work.

For most new entrepreneurs, the goal is simply to cover your costs as you build a portfolio and your skill sets.  You will read a million blog posts about not giving away your work for free, about undervaluing yourself and the effect that has on the market, about how you paint yourself into a corner when you charge less than other professionals think you should…and I’m not going to say they are wrong.  There is evidence to support all of what you’ve read.  But everyone has to start somewhere, and I’m not going to judge you for charging an amount appropriate to your skill level.  What I will do, though, is encourage you to grow your rates as you grow your skill.

Yes, chances are you will lose clients who are used to paying the lesser rate.  But as you lose them, you will be gaining a new market.  Don’t be afraid to ask for more money if your skills and experiences can support what you’re asking.  Because…did I mention this is a business?  (Or, at the very least, an expensive hobby that you can convince others to help support? lol) Time is money and you should be compensated for yours.

8) Specialize:

I have news for you.  You’re probably not good at everything all of the time.  How can you be?  To really learn and focus on every aspect and genre within your art would require infinite amounts of time, talent and resources, which most people simply don’t have.  When you think of it in those terms, it seems unrealistic to expect to really that you will excel as a fashion photographer, landscape photographer, newborn photographer, astrophotographer and live concert photographer.  More likely, if you see one person offering workshops in all of those areas, they are excellent at one or two and passable at the rest.  (I will admit, there are a few people who are truly gifted and do well in multiple specialties…I can think of one guy off the top of my head who has his hands in a lot of pots and always makes quality images…but that kind of talent is rare.)

So, rather than make passable images that blend into the crowd of a million other passable images, find your thing and shine.  For example…I am primarily a landscape kind of gal.  If you’ve looked at my portfolio, you know this.  I am also a wedding photographer whose skills run to details shots, seeing bigger picture shot set-ups, organization, and couples portraits.  My second is an amazing candid photographer…I am not.  I know this, so for the most part, I rely on her for those shots and for her ability to manage the crowd and make children laugh for their portraits.

I am, speaking of, also 150% NOT a newborn shoot kind of gal and I’m okay with that.  (I’m afraid I’ll break them!)  But my second shooter…well…she just loves every part of newborn shoots and it shows in her work.  When we pick up a baby shoot, I don’t even bring my camera.  I’ll just hold the reflectors and hand her some props, thank you very much.

I know my skills sets and while I work to improve the rest of what I lack, I don’t expect to specialize in everything.  And again…I’ve come to terms with it.

9) Diversify:

Yeah yeah, contradictory, I know.  But really, what I mean is diversify your income streams.  Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.  Put on clinics.  Sell your prints.  Get hired for events.  Have an online store where you sell pillows and how-to-photography books.  If one source of revenue dries up, at least you won’t be claiming bankruptcy.

10) Be grateful:

Your attitude about life affects everything about your life.  Have goals, work hard but remember to appreciate how far you’ve already come or you will drown in a sea of negatives….all of the goals you haven’t met yet, the missteps along the way, the measuring yourself against other artists, etc.  Gratitude will go a long way towards giving you perspective and keeping you humble (and personable!)

and finally…the bonus…

11) You are you.  Don’t try to be someone else.:

At some point in our careers, we all mimic another person’s style because we admire their work or we envy their success…or some reason in between that I haven’t thought of.  That is a normal step in developing your own “signature thing”.  The key is to be conscious of it and try not to linger in someone else’s footprint for too long.  You will never be them and comparing yourself to them and their success is a dangerous path leading to a downward spiral.  Instead of chastising yourself for not doing what someone else does to the degree that they do it, recognize what it is about their style that you like and then incorporate it into your work, putting your own twist on it, making it your own.  Then, people can look at your stuff and wonder, “How did he/she do that??  It’s awesome!”

 

So, there you go.  11 tips to help get your business mind right.  It’s not a complete list…and if I put my mind to it, I might be able to think of more…but then, what would I write about in future blog posts? haha  It’s also, most definitely, not the only way of doing things but it does highlight a lot of the lessons I’ve learned based on my experiences.  There is no substitute for your own personal experiences, but maybe, just maybe you’ll find something on this list that will help you grow your passion too. 🙂

Oh…and as for the photo at the top?  You know…that pretty little header to lead off all of these tips?  That is a view of Tuckerman’s from Hermit Lake on Mount Washington.  It was a dark and stormy weekend all around, but every now and again, the clouds would break and the sun would light our way. 🙂