Wednesday December 9, landscape photographer Drew May brought his own unique photographic style to show us as he spoke to the club about his “travels seeking light”. In a relaxed informal style of running through his slide show as he talked about the individual images and answering many questions along the way, Drew shared his own story as he helped all of us present add to our knowledge of photography.
Drew has gone through a number of changes in his photographic career over the years from shooting weddings, fashion, commercial, journalism and portraiture before returning to his passion for fine art landscape photography.
He lives in Mayerthorpe Alberta, a town of 1398 residents along highway 43 on the way to Whitecourt, Grande Prairie and parts beyond. Ranging out from there, he’s covered a lot of ground in Alberta, chasing storms and exploring the majestic landscapes of the Rocky Mountains and foothills as he searches out waterfalls, lakes, streams and interesting stands of trees.
He also loves to photograph the lonely and haunting abandoned buildings that are scattered over the landscape.
He shared a little about what he’s learned over the years attempting to capture lightning strikes using various techniques from long exposures capturing several lightning strikes to using a gadget called a lightning bug. He uses a light activated shutter trigger to fire his camera (Canon 5D Mark III) when lightning occurs.
Another thing that was interesting was Drew’s use of tilt-shift lenses to get the foreground and background in clearer focus than can be achieved using a conventional lens and a small aperture. I won’t get into the technical details (because I don’t understand them) but if you’re interested just google – tilt shift lenses or “the Scheimpflug principle”.
He also uses neutral density filters to extend the exposure time to capture creamy water photographs and cloud movement as well as graduated neutral density filters to cut the exposure to part of an image and keep the image within the dynamic range that the camera’s sensor is able to record. Grads are often used in an effort to tame harsh or contrast-y light. They’re great for adding shadow detail and keeping the colour in skies at sunset which otherwise might get too bright and wash-out to white.
Drew does his own printing on an Epson 3880 printer and highly recommends doing your own printing, he says “it’s almost like printing in a darkroom and waiting as the image appears on the paper”. With a price of somewhere around $1500 I probably won’t be buying one anytime soon but I do get what he means. It’s a little disappointing to send off your file, wait a few days and get a substandard print back when you could do it at home and tweak it exactly how you want the print to look.
Drew does a lot of black and white processing using Nik Silver Efex Pro as a plugin for Adobe Lightroom and he says that he sometimes spends 3 or 4 hours processing an image. Wow, I feel positively lazy considering that I probably don’t spend more than 10 or 15 minutes on a favorite image!
Drew related a story about his early photography mentor sending him out to the back yard with the assignment to return with 30 “good” photographs, from a roll of 36 images. He managed to find 29 that were considered “good” and several times he returned to this lesson over the evening. What he learned and attempted to share with all of us photo enthusiasts in the audience is:
1. You don’t have to travel far from home to get “good” photographs, they’re right there in your own backyard.
2. Learn to see, look around and find those good images because they’re everywhere and all you need is a camera and the ability to see the potential in the world around you.
That’s what I picked up from Drew’s excellent presentation, thanks Drew! But there was one more thing, maybe it was subliminal from the shirt he was wearing that said something like this.
“Just One More Camera”
I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to pick up a full frame camera and a couple of tilt-shift lenses and a graduated neutral density filter and a lightning trigger and a good tripod and a suite of developing software and a printer and………my camera is obsolete and it’s time for a new one again…….and on and on it goes.