Gavin SeimFilm – Travel – History and Raising The Bar

by Gavin Seim: I travel – A lot. I don’t mean hotels and RV parks. I mean the boondocks. Super Camping. Generally 4-5 months out the year we load up the family in the Super Camper and roam. It’s a big part of what makes me who I am as a pictorilaist and portraitist. It’s where I study, practice, explore new locations and hone my craft. It’s where I film workshop collections like EXposed and Photographics. It’s the adventure I love. The family time, the challenges. The journey.

I love film too – I use large format 4×5 Linhoff and Medium format Hasselblad. Not because it’s the camera that makes the image. But because it’s beautiful and it demands more of me. When I do it right I am rewarded by it like digital can’t offer.There’s something there. Something more. And lots more detail on top of it.

Most of all I love Raising the Bar on my work. I want beautiful pieces on walls and that’s always what I’m working towards. Challenging myself. I think every photographer should road trip, camp, hike and explore. No matter what your genre is. The challenges of getting our there and studying will change our images.

I love the history too. I study and teach photographic history, but I like to extend that in painted works from artists like Bierstadt and Sargent. There’s a lot to be learned from history and I take that seriously in my work.

You can learn more about what makes me tick here. You can also follow our latest journey here. And of course, you can see my latest images on my journal and my latest projects on my homepage. But for you fellow photographers I’d like to go a bit deeper into Raising the Bar and share a few ideas and resources I’ve collection over the years.


The Challenge – Raising The Bar:

Photography today has become more about cameras than light. But until you understand light, you just have expensive snapshots. Ken Whitmire once taught me that “Tone” may be the least understood and least utilized factor in composing and finishing images.” He was right. It’s all about the light, the tone and what’s happening around them. Kens annual Wall Portrait Conference will change everything for your photography.

I’m writing this page as a recourse guide to things I’ve found in photography that Raise the Bar. I’ve been writing about and archiving them for years and its time to lay them out. Everyone is a photographer today it seems. So those of us that would stand out must master both the art and science. We need to find something of what make it tick and what makes us tick. Lets start with some concepts of how we make great photographs in – Five Elements to Mastering the Photograph. Just think about it.

The digital age has rushed us. We make more photos than ever, but often spend less time thinking them through. I mean to change that. I’ve learned when i slow down, everything changes. It’s one reason I love film. Film is coming back and it can teach you a lot about how you use digital. There’s a story about that here – The Second Coming of Film.

But it’s not film or digital that makes a photographer. Film just gives amazing quality and demands that you slow down. For that reason alone I think everyone should spend some time with it. But the principles of light crossover to digital just as well.

I use Zones for nearly everything. Ansel Adams Zone System is a language for light and everything changes once you really understand it. It’s not just for film. It’s equally powerful on digital and it will change how you see light. Here’s an article I wrote on the basics of zone and why you need them – Why You NEED the Zone System for Your Photography.

We also cover Zone and nearly every aspect of the science in light and exposure in my Exposed Video Workshop.

Quality comes from many things. But without fail the best quality starts before you release the shutter. I’ve done extensive study on quality from a technical perspective as well as from the artistic, which is somewhat harder to define. The technical is science. To Raise the Bar in our work we must understand it. A great image is more than the sum of it’s tech specs – But when those fall below the sum of it’s artistic merit, it brings down the work.

The Six Keys of Image Quality takes a look at quality from the perspective of details and science. If we then combine exposure, zones and truly understanding tone. If we’re not truly seeing the finished image in our mind before we release the shutter, we can do more. Ansel taught us that visualization was a key. He was right – Even if a fleeting moment you can visualize if you have trained your mind to do so.

So if we know the science of light and the mechanics of our equipment. What next. Well we never stop learning the science, but then we add the art. And we never stop that either. The use of line, space, position and tone as one. This is where it gets a bit more tricky. Harder to define. But it’s there and it’s powerful.

Study the painters, study history. Science had rules. They are absolute. Art less so. But still. There are guidelines. There are aesthetic principles that have proven themselves. The question is how do we merge those with science to make a great image. That’s the main topic of my new film Photographics. It goes deeper. It goes into what we want to produced combined with our approach and with techniques that have stood the test of time. That’s the challenge. The questions is, now will we approach it.

For years I have studied and written about the science. For me it’s time to go full circle and start combining those techniques with the harder to define artistic concepts. For you it make take another form. The key is for all us us to make sure we consider all the aspects. Te begin Raising the Bar. I will keep updating you.

Gavin Seim