Seeking the artistic side of travel photos

Ernesto and I took an amazing two week trip in July of 2015; one week in Iceland and one week in Paris, France. I had never been to Iceland and, much to my surprise, I knew several friends and acquaintances who just happened to be going there this summer. I had always seen the lush green landscapes with waterfalls and majestic glaciers, but I took this opportunity to do all black and white photos. I strived for abstraction, texture and a more moody palette. I found that the Icelandic landscape seemed to change dramatically every 100 kilometers, going from old lava fields covered with spongy green, gray and black moss to hilly farmlands with herds of Icelandic horses, sheep and black cows, broad mountain ranges with waterfalls of all heights and sizes, to black sands and lava rocks butting up against glacial streams and foreboding glacial masses.




After a six-day “self-drive tour” of Iceland, we headed back to Reykjavik to prepare for the second leg of the trip to Paris, France. In a mere three hours on Iceland Air, we would be walking on the cobblestone streets of Paris. I took this on as a challenge; sticking to black and white film and trying to take “not so touristy” photos of Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Arch de Triumph and many of the key sights. I think I captured the spirit of the tourists and Parisians and included enough visual familiarity with the common monuments.




It’s a little tricky to “shoot from the hip” since some Parisians and select tourists don’t like to be photographed. I was using a Leica M8, which is still kind of noisy so I couldn’t go unnoticed. I often used the trick of focusing on the monument and, at the last minute moving the camera to my desired target and moving on with a confident stride. I made a point to tip the many street musicians after photographing them.

Cameras used on the trip: Leica M8, Leicaflex and, if this counts, the iPhone.

Posted in Abstraction, Landscape, People Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Color versus Black and White

So what makes a photo great in color or black and white? I’ve found that both should, of course, have a good composition. But sometimes color should perhaps be the main focal point, like a photo of fall colors. In a black and white photo, all of the color has been removed which makes us focus more on the composition, shapes, values and visual interest.

I try to compose a photo with shapes and textures that make for a more abstract image, with broad areas of values and lots of grays. For some reason, the photos I choose to keep in color tend to be less abstract and more about a subject, like a particular season or if someone is wearing a bright color. It looks strange to me to see photos of tropical places in black and white because it’s so much about warm weather, bright colors and a very particular light.

I found some interesting takes on the question of whether a photo should be in color or black and white:

  • If color plays no importance for the strength of the image, it should be in black and white.
  • A black and white image typically portrays emotions better over a color one.
  • A stronger tonal contrast sets itself up well for a black and white image. It allows you to fill in the rest of the blanks with your mind.
  • Color should add a point of visual interest through the image, enhancing upon what is there.

We almost missed the sign for the farm at Þorvaldseyri where there is a dormant volcano. It took about and hour to walk to the volcano, fifteen minutes to ascend to the top of the volcano and just a few minutes to decide to go back down. I'm not afraid of heights, but this big crater was so deep and scary!

We almost missed the sign for the farm at Þorvaldseyri where there is a dormant volcano. It took about and hour to walk to the volcano, fifteen minutes to ascend to the top of the volcano and just a few minutes to decide to go back down. I'm not afraid of heights, but this big crater was so deep and scary!

I think it’s really a personal decision. For me, if the color image doesn’t really say anything or need its colors to convey a certain message, I just think that maybe it would be better in black and white. I believe the composition is the most important part of the image, as well as a broad range of values and angles. Perhaps this composition works well in both color and black and white.

Posted in Abstraction Tagged , , , |

Why I love the Fair!

When I was a kid, I loved going to the Fair with my Dad. We’d go on the big yellow slide, order a foot long hotdog with all the fixins, take in a few rides in the Midway, and the sun always seemed to be shining. Much later, the Fair wasn’t as appealing. It was all about eating cotton candy, French fries, all you can drink milk and anything deep fried on a stick. The Midway rides weren’t like the real ones at Valleyfair and they didn’t seem all that safe. I thought, “What’s the point of all this?” Why do thousands of people come to this place for a week at the end of summer every single year?”

2014 MN State Fair #mnstatefair 3


For the past five years, I’ve looked forward to the MN State Fair and I go at least twice in that week at the end of summer to take photos. I’ve found that this is the best place, even better than all the block parties, to take photos. Here there are all walks of life; young and old, extremely obese to rail thin, disabled, and the most diverse group of people gathered in one place. I really think it’s a good sample of what our city and surrounding communities are all about.

I can see all the different stages of life in people walking by. The young couples enjoy each others’ company, young families balance toddlers on their hips, pushing strollers with the second child, middle-aged sons and daughters wait patiently for their elderly parents, teenage girls giggle with braces on their teeth, short tops and short shorts, and cautiously eye the young boys as they pass.

Young couple


Before the last stint in the Midway, I make my way toward the big yellow French fries stand. I don’t eat the deep fried pancake breakfast on a stick, but I do indulge in French fries and beer. As the sun reaches the golden hour, I’m in the Midway capturing people on my lens coming toward me; they are completely in the moment and oblivious to being photographed. The rides shine in bright colors as people line up to board the swiveling cars. I’m capturing these active scenes at the end of summer where everyone meets before the school year starts, the next business quarter and the cooler weather marks the first day of Fall.

2014 MN State Fair #mnstatefair 4

2014 MN State Fair #mnstatefair

2014 MN State Fair #mnstatefair 2


Posted in Fairs & Block Parties, People

Abstraction: Painting and photography

I was a painter for many years, painting abstract landscapes. The process was a direct relation to the finished painting in that I’d paint several large landscapes on heavy stonehenge paper, with a broad, 5-inch palette knife, and once they were dry I tore each painting into small pieces, only to reassemble these pieces into a new landscape. In a sense, I’d destroy landscapes to reproduce new ones. The original pieces were recycled into one big landscape.


I’ve been taking photos of landscapes with an eye toward abstraction, finding shapes and patterns that move away from the typical sunset. Where do we get our inspiration, but from nature and our immediate surroundings? I feel that I’ve made a transition from painting to photography. Perhaps I have a similar idea for compositions; same creative vein, but a completely different medium.



Posted in Abstraction, Landscape, Painting