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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Capturing The Land

Scenic master George Ward gives insight into his passion for photography and how he keeps his vision fresh

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This Article Features Photo Zoom

Paintbrush and corn lily, Mokelumne Wilderness, Eldorado National Forest, California
Nikon D700, AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm ƒ/2.8G ED at 70mm, Gitzo tripod, 1/30 sec. at ƒ/16
Ward learned fast shooting with large-format film because each time he tripped the shutter it cost him at least $5. So he was forced by simple economics to accurately predict his results or go broke.

“Folks who learned to photograph this way can predict in an instant, not only exposure and depth of field, but the strength and uniqueness of subject matter and its composition,” he says, “all without picking up their camera.”

Notwithstanding the fact that photographers now can proof their work immediately with digital capture, Ward believes there’s no substitute for experience, and a lot of time is consumed, or wasted, if you’re not able to previsualize a shot.

“I personally find no thrill in making photos after the fact,” explains Ward. “If I don’t capture 95 percent of the magic when I trip the shutter, I usually find that postproduction doesn’t appreciably help what I’m trying to convey. Because my very first edit is in my mind, I don’t have to go through the incredibly time-consuming task of editing down thousands of images. Large-format film taught me to think quickly and carefully about what I wanted to express and my technical capacity to pull it off.”

Point Reyes from Chimney Rock at sunset, Point Reyes National Seashore, California
Arca-Swiss 4x5, Schneider Super Symmar XL 80mm ƒ/4.5, Gitzo tripod, 1/15 sec. at ƒ/16
On The Road
Ward is a big fan of making checklists before he goes off on a photo trip because it saves him time and makes the transition from office to wilderness as smooth as possible. He also keeps a database that he updates at the end of each trip. He records everything, from mileage, expenses, image sales and notes documenting special moments or events. The database goes back 20 years, which is very useful to him for planning.

Ward determines where he wants to go and explore based on the season. With about a dozen weather sites that he goes to for looking at everything from 10-day forecasts to sophisticated maps showing precipitation data for the previous six months (for wildflower blooms), the Internet is now his ultimate resource for researching trips.

The research also includes looking at photos. While some photographers deliberately avoid looking at photos of a place because they don’t want to be influenced, he seems to take the opposite approach. He narrows down where he wants to explore by looking at as much material as he can and checking any great photography that may already exist.


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