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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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This Article Features Photo Zoom

"When I look at someone else's photographs, obviously the biggest thing is, 'What of it appeals to you?' Do I find myself distracted when I look at the photograph? Or, do I find myself wandering around in the photograph because I find it interesting? Do I find a bold color statement there that really pops off the page? Because a lot of times, once you stare at a photograph for a while and you overcome the color, then you start looking at the finer details to see what's behind all that."

Bowman's process as a photographer is simply to backpack through both familiar and unfamiliar areas until he finds a location that calls to him. There, he'll generally wait out the changing lighting conditions for the best color or atmospherics, often finding that he gets his best shots during the magic hours of sunset or sunrise. If he feels he wasn't successful with an image, he keeps a mental catalogue of areas and shots that he would like to add to his portfolio or improve upon, and he'll often return later to shoot in different conditions. He explains that in Utah, for example, he learned to plan for working with shadowy slot canyons while there was an intense midday glow. The same direct sunlight gives him far too much contrast for working successfully with exterior landscapes, so after he has finished with the canyons and light conditions have changed, he'll move back to shooting landscapes.

Being Different
He characterizes his work as "light followed by patterns," which is then "followed by lines" and finally "bold colors." "That's just how I visualize a shot for myself," he explains. "When I look at colors, I look at it through atmospheric conditions. So, in the morning, obviously, it's the best time if I want some color on the peaks or to get nice clouds, which in Colorado is very difficult because on most days you have no clouds. Outside of that, if I'm looking at concentrating on colors of the forest or intimate shots, then to me, I'm praying for one condition. And that's overcast conditions so that I can diffuse the light. That allows me to draw out a lot of the details that might be cut in harsh sun in midday, and this allows some nuances in that regard."

Bowman processes his images in Photoshop, mostly adding a bit of contrast, saturation and sharpening while addressing hot spots. But he says that he tries very hard not to push it to the edge so his results remain a natural representation of the scene. "I don't consider myself a 100% purist, probably not too far off. I like to enhance the photo a bit for sensory appeal without taking it to any extremes so that image still looks close to how it was viewed."

He shoots with Canon, recently upgrading his EOS-1DS Mark II to an EOS 5D Mark III. He has been unsurprisingly overwhelmed at what eight years in advancing technology can bring to a camera system, and he's especially keen on the extra resolution and sharpness that the new camera brings to his landscapes. He says that Live View, a new feature to him, has been very helpful with his landscape photography, especially as you can zoom in.

"Being able to zoom in 10 times and actually focus the lens down to a micro level is just fantastic!" he says. "It's pretty amazing, and I'll say the camera is a lot lighter. That last one was a tank, and especially when you have about 50 pounds on your back and your backpacking around, it's super-nice to cut down on the load."


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