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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Adventures In The Landscapes

Adam Barker has achieved perfect balance, melding the personal with the professional in his outdoor photography

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Adam Barker says he wants viewers to feel like they could step into his images. His style and his ability to teach make him a popular workshop leader. To young photographers, he has some excellent advice, "I always tell them three things. Work on your portfolio so you have an established body of work. Then I tell them to take a business class because the hardest part about running a photography business is running a business. And, thirdly, I tell them to learn how to write because everything from a first-impression email to captions for your images to website content matters, and writing skills provide a vehicle through which your images can be published."

Adam Barker is a man of needs. He left a steady corporate job because he felt deep down in his bones that he needed to pursue his dream. Now, as a working commercial photographer, he feels the need to do everything in his power to make his business thrive. He also feels the need to avoid mediocrity at all costs; he needs to excel, which he does, because he has found a way to combine the needs of his business with his personal creative needs: photographing the outdoors.

"Landscape is my first love," he says, "it's where I fell in love with photography. I'm a stickler on shooting that which you're passionate about. But, as my business has progressed, it really has taken a backseat to what pays the bills, which is commercial and editorial work. Without my background in landscape photography, I don't think I would have found the success that I've found in my commercial pursuits. It has just helped me establish a style that's really kind of unique to me."

Barker's style remains consistent through both his commercial assignment work—which also keeps him in the outdoors photographing lifestyle and action sports for clients from Nike to Volkswagen—and the landscapes he makes for himself. It's defined by careful compositions that push the illusion of three-dimensionality and detailed, realistic photographic images that somehow manage to appear too good to be true. He wants viewers to see his photographs and feel a visceral reaction: a need to go there, too.

Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah, at sunset.
"I really try to convey depth and dimension in my photographs," he continues. "As cliché as it is, I like people to feel as if they could step right into my images—that's the degree of depth that I shoot for. I'm huge on emphasizing compositional zones and creating that near-far relationship that takes a two-dimensional medium and makes it feel three-dimensional. In my opinion, composition is the rarest expression of who we are as photographers and artists. There are certainly rules to follow when it comes to composition, but I truly believe that one's own way of seeing is developed over a lifetime of looking through the lens. I want my images to appear unbelievable, yet just barely believable. It's the sum of the parts that defines 99% of my images—superb light, dynamic composition and engaging subject matter."

For Barker, engaging subjects frequently means including people—even when he's making a landscape image for nobody but himself. It's a simple, straightforward way to make a personal connection with the viewer and draw them into a scene.

"If I'm in a beautiful place," Barker says, "and I have somebody doing something that's pertinent to that particular place—if I'm in a mountain scene and they're hiking or trail running, whatever it might be—it's changed now. I've had this evolution with my imagery where I love it almost as much as just shooting straight scenics.

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