Artist's Background InformationThis is a question and answer session about the artist.
Tell us about how and when you first started photographing?
Like most of us, I started dabbling with the camera to take pictures of the kids. I bought an Olympus 35mm film camera in 1981. Sometimes, it would take good pictures, but most of the time the pictures were blurred or badly exposed. I did not know how reliably take a good picture. It was purely hit or miss. Fast forward to 1996 – I decided to take a weekend seminar to learn how to use the camera. I understood how the camera works, but I needed practice, and I needed it quickly because I was about to embark on a long backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for 21 days!
Did you experience start, stop and restart in your photography career?
I think my photography career began in 1996 with my long excursion on the John Muir Trail. I really have not stopped since then. I try to photograph every chance I get.
Tell us about the highlights of your career as an artist?
There have been several highlights, the first being when I made the decision to change my career from an application programmer and MIS person to running a business to sell my artwork. I took the “leap” in the year 2000. The decision occurred while having a discussion with one of my wife’s co-agents. I showed this lady my photographs and she really liked them and she noticed my enthusiasm. But, I remember telling her, “I wish I could make a living selling my photographs, but I know I cannot”. She looked at me and replied, “I believe that you cannot earn a living selling your artwork. You have convinced yourself that you cannot do it, and therefore you cannot!” Bam! This was a real revelation for me. She helped me understand that, “Ernesto” was preventing Ernesto from making this a real business in which I could earn a living. I reasoned that if I could truly believe I could be successful, then this was the first step in achieving my goal. Many years later, I spoke to this friend over the phone, and I thanked her so much for making me realize that negative thinking was keeping me from being successful. Sometimes, we just need a wake up call!
In 2000, I began to participate in the art circuit in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is a series of art shows, both indoor and outdoor. The first year, I did 30 artshows, and the second, I did 42 shows. Immediately, I realized there was a lot of competition, some great photographers. In order to compete, I had to improve my work. I photographed at every opportunity and with every show I attended, I quickly weeded out photos that did not sell, and made available more of the photos that did sell. Soon, I learned what my top selling photos were and I focused on prints, in two sizes and some large framed versions of the top sellers. My business grew quickly.
The last highlight I want to share is meeting Charles Cramer and Bill Atkinson during a weekend seminar. Charles is a master photographer and Bill is a true scientist and photographer. Spending 15 minutes with Charles Cramer made the cost of the seminar ($1200) worth the value. The rest was just gravy. During the seminar, I learned so much about color balancing, tone correction and many more techniques for post processing the digital image that helped take my photography to another level. We need to keep learning how to become better artists, no matter our medium.
What mediums and genres have you tried? Which ones do you like and which ones are boring?
I suppose one could dissect photography into film and digital mediums, and they are very different. With film, I use the large-format 4×5 camera. For digital, I use a Canon SLR. The genres included; portraiture, architecture, landscape, nature, abstract, celestial and composites. For me, the most boring are portraiture and architecture. I photograph people for fun and for documentary purposes only. My real passion lies in landscape, celestial and composites. Most of my work has been in landscape photography. I have experience some of the most beautiful natural scenes in the mountains in isolated places. Sunrise, sunset, fog, rain, clouds, water, trees, flowers and rocks are part of the daily experiences available to anyone who chooses to witness. The photography is just an attempt to make sense of and to capture the essence of the natural beauty.
Over the last two years, photographing the night sky has become an obsession. To do this properly, there is a learning curve. I have photographed through a telescope and have used a couple of trackers to improve my images. Still working on this one.
Which mediums and genres are you excited about?
I am excited about night photography. Have you ever seen the Milky Way from a dark site? Living in Las Vegas makes it difficult to do this, due to the light pollution. So, I have to travel away from the light to see a clear dark sky. Have you ever looked to the infinite sky with a telescope? Guess what? There is more infinity when you see deep into the sky! I am currently working on trying to process the sky and star colors correctly. Did you know stars have different colors?
What inspires you the most?
Inspiration comes from customers who really feel an attachment to an image. The fact that someone makes a connection, understands the feeling, the emotion, the essence of an image is very rewarding. My goal is to bring happiness into people’s lives through my artwork. There is so much negativity and sensational news on the air that people truly need to find some other way to connect to their lives. Art is one of the ways people can find good feelings and happiness. The world needs more art.
Who is your favorite artist?
I have several favorites, but Salvador Dali made an impression on me at an early age. Others include; Ansel Adams, Charles Cramer, Bev Doolittle.
Tell me about any procrastination habits?
Laziness promotes laziness. I try to keep myself busy. I have many, many projects that I can never get all of them. Prioritization keeps me focused on the most important projects. So, overall I am not a procrastinator. I just need to clone myself!
How do you get an idea for your artwork?
Ideas usually come from seeing other artworks of paintings, photographs or collages. Sometimes, I experiment with Photoshop, starting with an object I photograph or create. During this process, I don’t really know what I am going to end up with. I start in a general direction but often am surprised by the results. In Photoshop, I can use a combination of artwork, technology and mathematics. For example, I create an object and a path. The object is transformed along a path for a full cycle. Then, the full cycle is treated as an object, and that object follows a path of transformations, usually growing in size. The results can be quite stunning. I am not sure if this is art, but it really strikes a fun creative nerve in my mind. Visually, the results are provocative. I will be working more on this.
What are your thoughts about learning art at this time in your life?
I am constantly learning new techniques and new ways to display and market my artwork. To this end, I am also learning new programming tools for the web and for data storage and retrieval. This includes storing and retrieving my images.
What makes you happiest about your art?
I love to create new things; however, I do not like to maintain them. A new program, a new image, a new song are all fun things that make me happy. The most rewarding part of my artwork is when a person really makes a connection and falls in love with the artwork. I have lots of experience selling my photography, and am quick to see the look on someone’s face when they really like the image. At that point, my job is not to push, but to guide the customer to make the purchase. The experience of creating a photograph in the field can also bring out happiness in my spirit. Spending lots of time in the outdoors will give you opportunities to experience unusually beautiful events, such as rays of light extending over a canyon as the golden light paints the highest mountain tops with gold. During these moments, it is easy to become overwhelmed by God’s creation. During these moments, I feel tranquility, peace and happiness.
Is there a particular time of day you enjoy photographing?
In photography, there is no set time to enjoy creating images. The time of day varies by what type of light is present or absent. Anytime the light is favorable is a good time to photograph.
Do you listen to music while photographing? What type of music? Do you prefer silence?
I definitely prefer silence when I am photographing. I don’t like any distractions and I usually get the best results when I am working alone. I suppose, if I am post processing images on the computers, then I do not mind listening to jazz or folk music.
What role does an artist have in society?
An artist creates art as an expression of human thoughts and emotions. The canvas can used to relate an idea about an object. It is not the real object, but a drawing, a sketch, a sculpture, a painting or a photo with represents the object. As artists, we can associate characteristics or emotions in the way the object is rendered. The face of a bear can be drawn as friendly, loving and nurturing. Or it can be rendered as a life threatening ferocious beast. Often, an artist tells us about his or her personality by the way the art is rendered.
Deep dark overbearing images may relate a stressful situation in the artist’s life. Artwork with very detailed patterns may reveal a musical talent. For example, the photographer, Ansel Adams created photographs with exquisite use of light, shadow, depth and detail. Ansel Adams had also studied to be a concert pianist before he began his photographic career.
What is the best advice you could give to an aspiring artist?
Be true to yourself. Learn your craft to the best of your ability and enjoy creating artwork. If you want something bad enough, you can achieve it, but first get rid of any negativity about your artwork.
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
This is an easy question. I am trying to communicate the feeling of happiness and awe, drawn from beauty of Nature.
Do you collect anything?
I collect data.
What is the last artwork you purchased?
Southwestern laser Indian art on metal.
What is the most important item in your studio or work area?
Photography is a process which requires several items including; the camera, lenses, filters, tripod, computers, software, printers and more. I cannot really pick one item. Now for a painter, perhaps there is a special brush, or a palette knife. But, this is not the case for photography. My camera is useless without a lens. 99% of the time I shoot with a tripod. Color balancing, tone correction, masking and print preparation must be done on the computer. The image comes to life when it is printed; therefore, I need the printer. And finally, the presentation of the image completes the artwork. This could involve matting and framing. Many choices are made throughout the process which affect the final outcome of the artwork.