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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Solitude Is Bliss

Kurt Budliger creates peaceful landscapes in the uncharted territory around his New England home

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"I'm almost as fanatic about fly fishing as I am about photography," he continues. "If I'm not photographing a stream, I'm standing in one trying to catch a fish. I've actually incorporated that. I'll bring waders when I photograph so I can actually get in the stream and find a composition that's maybe a little more intimate, maybe get the perspective that really makes you feel like you're in the water. Compositionally, this can set the image apart and give it a little bit higher level of impact and engagement for the viewer. The better foreground usually winds up being somewhere out in the middle of the stream anyway."

Kurt Budliger's Gear
Canon EOS 5D Mark II (2)
Canon EF 16-35mm ƒ/2.8L II USM
Canon EF 2 4-70mm ƒ/2.8L USM
Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS USM
Canon EF 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6L IS USM
Canon TS-E 24mm ƒ/3.5L
Canon EF 1.4x II teleconverter
B+W circular polarizer
Singh-Ray graduated neutral-density filters
F-Stop Tilopia BC pack
Feisol CT-3371 carbon-fiber tripod
Kirk L-bracket
Kirk BH-1 ballhead
SanDisk Extreme III CF cards
Cable release
Adds Budliger, "I like to shoot streams on misty, drizzly days or right after a rain shower. When everything is wet, especially rocks in and around a stream, it brings out so much of the color."

Misty mornings and diffused light are hallmarks of Budliger's portfolio. It's partly practical—if you want to shoot in a challenging location, you take what nature provides. But it's also technically beneficial, especially if your goal is creating quiet, contemplative landscapes.

Says Budliger, "When you get down into a forest or along a creek or stream, if the light is intense, it's really tough. The contrast range is way too high. You get super-deep, dark shadows and blown-out highlights; you lose all color. You lose the nuance of all the detail and texture.

"I've been out West," he says, "and I know what it's like. I love it out West. It's grand; it's striking and fun to shoot. There are tons of places out there I want to go shoot. But I like how intimate the Northeast is. When I lived out West, I spent a lot of time in the car driving. If you're going to work or go to school, you have to live in civilization, and those places are sometimes really far from the vast tracts of land. That's one of the things I stress to students in my workshops—you can shoot beautiful landscapes anywhere. I have an example where I show a series of images of birch trunks with some pretty beech leaves surrounding them. It's a nice intimate landscape, and I show a few different variations on it, and then I show the wide-angle scene—it's literally the edge of my yard. The garden shed and the lawnmower are sitting right there by the kids' swing set."

Perhaps Budliger excels at finding and photographing untouched bits of wilderness because of his passion for preservation. The son of a biology teacher and an environmental activist—and a former science teacher himself—he has worked in nature his whole life, and long before he picked up a camera, he was first and foremost concerned with enjoying and protecting nature. The camera serves as an artistic outlet, to be sure, but it's primarily a tool to get him outdoors and keep him working to preserve the natural world.

"What I love about photography," says Budliger, "is that it's this beautiful melding of something fairly technical and scientific that also highly engages the artistic part of your brain. My landscape and nature photography very much allows me to express that part of me—that real ardent advocate for natural resource protection. Even though I don't teach science anymore, I want my photography to still get that message across."

See more of Kurt Budliger's photography at kurtbudligerphotography.com.

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