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Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures

“Seek your own vision, and create great photos!” is Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures’ tag line and philosophy. Too often, people want to do the same shot that they have seen, whether on a postcard, online, or elsewhere.

That is not being creative or seeking your own vision, and instructors Arnie Zann and Margo Pinkerton firmly believe that to make compelling photographs, one needs to put oneself into the image and look for a way of interpreting a scene that has not been done time and time again. They strongly feel that good photography is not an easy art if one is going to do it well, but that it is well worth it to put in the effort to doing so.

To their way of thinking, a compelling image shows the relationship between the artist and his/her subject. Awe? Serenity? Passion? In this case, all three.

Take the above shot done in the oft-photograph Palouse area of eastern Washington. There are dozens of photographs of undulating green landscapes. Instead, this photograph shows the fall colors of chocolate and beige with the typical, crazy patterns that come out of farming that area. And what makes this different is the paraglider outlined against the landscape and the subtle light that makes him stand out. Light against dark and dark against light.

Boats are an integral part of the Maine coast … lobster boats, dinghies, sailboats, prams, etc. Some are elegant, and some are homemade plywood models, such as this one out on Monhegan Island. This is not a typical photograph of the area. The overturned, weathered boat leads the eye up to a typical coastal house with a hint of the view it enjoys. The image leaves things open to the viewer’s imagination.

Charleston is truly a southern Belle, dressed in her finery of elegant plantations and lush gardens. But there are older buildings, spartan and speaking to an earlier time. How to make this scene different? Enter the building at a time of day when the light angling through the window creates a compelling pattern that sets off the starkness of the interior. Look for a balance of the various elements in the photograph.

Sunset is always a magical time along the coast. Tons of snapshots show sun balls sinking majestically into the ocean, but where lies the interest? Where is the eye supposed to wander and discover? By waiting until after sunset, the photographer created an image that leads the viewer down a waterway out into the sound beyond, thanks, in part, to the wind and current patterns on the water. Much more interesting than that sun-ball shot!

New Orleans is known for its music, whether in a bar, Preservation Hall, or down by the Mighty Miz. The challenge is to make the viewer feel the music that is being performed. This man’s soulful playing drew the photographer away from a more populated area. Here, the stance, the fingers, and the closed eyes all speak to the passion this musician has for his art. He is seeking his own vision in the notes he is playing.

Appalachia, regardless of how you pronounce it, is a magical, lush area of the U.S. When people get to the mountains, they are understandably tempted to record the layers upon receding layers of mountains. But what about the intimate views, the little grove of Trillium gracing the ground around an old tree? That is just as much a part of the Appalachian mountains in spring as other, more-photographed scenes. It is a different view of the area, a different interpretation of this mountain range. You can smell the moist soil that enables these Trillium to flourish.

Earlier, we talked about the quintessential fishing boats along the coast of Maine, but how to photograph them differently? Start by waiting for interesting light. Then, exercise patience — Margo and Arnie call it the “P” word —for the light to get softer, for the tide to position the subject just right. And finally, hope for some light fog to come in and add a slightly ethereal mood to the scene.

The Badlands of the Dakotas are a stark and textured area of the US. The colors vary, the shapes, the omnipresent erosion that chips away at the contours and creates new ones, and the beauty of a harsh environment. Again, light is critical to give the landscape a different look. The photographer paid careful attention to how the lines of the contours led the viewer’s eye around in the image.

So, seek your own vision, and create… perhaps in…

Monhegan Island
Outer Banks
New Orleans
Blue Ridge Mountains
Mid-coast Maine

Check out Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures and their Calendar for links to the above workshops as well as many others.

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