Senior Year of College:
Autumn of 2017 was the beginning of my senior year of college. At the age of 43, I was excited. It would be the last time I experienced that “Back to school” feeling. The feeling that only comes this time of year. The warmth of the sun is comforting as it is a bit lower in the sky. Cool nights in jeans and hoodies. The grass smells like football. A few leaves have already fallen from the trees. We’ve played our hearts out all summer long and don’t mind going inside. The smell of a freshly-sharpened pencil. Ready to draw or take notes.
Advanced Digital Photography Class
This semester was also my last Digital Photography Studio Arts class: Advanced Digital Photography. The instructor for this class was Professor Josh Martin. Josh was also my advisor. The goal of this class is to begin to develop the concept and work for my senior exhibit. I was particularly excited about working on my senior exhibit because that would be the last major project of my formal education.
One cool thing about Art 452, Advanced Digital Photography, is that I got to work with the instructor to develop a curriculum that met my own particular goals. At that time I was working on some very specific photography techniques. I read a book by Chris Knight entitled “The Dramatic Portrait.” In the book I learned how to create drama with high-contrast between highlights and shadows. To do this, I used a light meter with my off-camera flash system to light specific parts of my composition at varying light ratios in order to direct the viewer within the photograph.
Working Through Ideas
I worked through a few different ideas before I finally decided on a topic for my senior exhibit. The first idea was to do “Whitewater interpretations of Tarot cards.” I’ve always been fascinated by the magic and intrigue of the Tarot. Since 1997, I’ve been fascinated with whitewater. This seemed like an interesting way to blend them. After I did my first Tarot card, “Queen of Wands,” I realized it wasn’t what I was trying to do. The image, which required extensive Photoshop manipulation, was not exactly what I was going for as a photographer. It was creative and artistic but ended up looking a little too cartoony for what I wanted in my photography.
It All Leads to This
Everything added up to that. At Montrose Elementary School in the mid-1980’s we were preparing for Bexley Junior High. BJH was to prepare us for Bexley High School. BHS was to prepare us for college. Don’t get me wrong, BHS did a great job in preparing most students, It just took me an additional 20 years. I had a few setbacks and side roads that most people don’t take.
After my mid-term the topic was decided: Photography in the style of Norman Rockwell. I began doing my research on Norman Rockwell and discovered that his art work generated over $30,000 in War Bond sales to help the effort in World War II. This gave me the perfect idea for my final project.
Wild Blue Adventure Company
Here in Fayetteville, West Virginia we have a commercial aviator, Chris Kappler of Wild Blue Adventure Company, who offers biplane rides over the New River Gorge. He and his family collect vintage military vehicles and even have the uniforms to match. For this photo shoot my goal was to create the chiaroscuro (Italian Renaissance term used by painters to describe the drama and contrast created with highlights and shadows) with my light kit and not use as much Adobe Photoshop.
It was early November when we did this shoot and the sun was setting early. It wouldn’t take long to get the contrast I was looking for. Off-camera flash provides a rather unique “studio lighting” look to the natural atmosphere. I particularly like this style and enjoyed working on achieving it. I’m very thankful for my models’ willingness to participate.
The highlight of the evening was the main shot with Stella, Levi and the biplane.
We started out with some simple shots with Stella, Jack and Levi with the military vehicles. It was still rather light out, which meant I couldn’t get as much contrast between the light and dark. Either way, it’s all good practice and the authenticity of the military vehicles and uniforms is certainly worth documenting.