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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Big Landscapes & Intimate Details

The towering peaks and abstract close-ups of Colorado photographer Tad Bowman

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Colorado photographer Tad Bowman says he finds his state to be fascinating as a photographic subject for many reasons, including its expansive aspen forests, towering mountain peaks and famous seasonal changes in foliage. Above: "Sand Dunes Sunrise".

Originally from the Smoky Mountains area of Tennessee, Colorado photographer Tad Bowman thanks many long "adventures" as a boy hiking through the neighboring wilderness for fostering a love of nature, but it was a family trip to colorful Colorado that first inspired the landscape photographer's true passion: the towering and plentiful peaks of Colorado's mountainous terrain.

"It's the peaks, I mean, hands down!" the photographer laughs when asked what it is that attracts him so much to his home base. "I grew up in the South; I'm not used to seeing these majestic peaks. I came out here a few times with my family on summer vacations and seeing that was very impressionable. You just sit there and say, 'Wow! Those things are so tall and there are so many of them!'"

Final Resting Stop
Bowman finds such variation in the mountain peaks that he says he "still has yet to find monotony," and it's true. Despite being shot largely in Colorado and the American Southwest, his portfolio is an incredibly diverse collection of colorful landscapes and tightly composed detail shots of the surroundings. His work with the graphic elements of composition adds a whole other level to his imagery. He's exceptionally skilled at discovering the natural lines and patterns in nature, which helps not only to engage the eye of his viewer, but also to tie together his landscapes with compositional elements leading from the foreground, all the way back to the foreground. Shapes are often repeated, as well, and Bowman also will use contrasting natural elements and colors to nicely define the separation between foreground subject and background.

A shot titled "Sandstone Magic," for example, follows incredibly colorful rock striations as they weave through a variety of geometric shapes in both the background and foreground. The lines bring the different elements of the composition together while also leading the viewer's eye through the image.

"You see a shot in a magazine that you really like and you ask yourself, 'How did they do that?'" the self-taught photographer explains, pointing out that he matured the most as a photographer simply by going out and shooting and learning from the results. He says that, at this point, it's largely intuitive, but he admits that there was plenty of academic research in magazines and books when he was starting. He thanks his discovery of hyperfocal charts for cementing the concept of sharpness and diffraction for him, which is so important for gaining landscape shots that are sharp from foreground to background.

"What I try to do is convey a message," he says, "evoke an emotional response, and a lot of times you do that with various techniques. Do you create layers? Do you create lines? Do you create patterns? How do you capture someone's eye so that they start at one corner or the bottom of a photograph and weave it around to the very end? I think landscapes, in general, are fun to shoot, but sometimes you have to overcome the sensory appeal to get to the statement.


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