The Road to becoming an Artist in Residence

My first view of Crater Lake included making a time lapse sequence of 300 still photos along the rim of the Caldera ©Kit Frost

My first view of Crater Lake included making a time lapse sequence of 300 still photos along the rim of the Caldera ©Kit Frost

The Adventure Begins in Crater Lake

What an understatement! The actual path to these two plus weeks as the Artist in Residence began long ago.  As I retired from teaching, moved to Durango and built up my Chase the Light Photography Adventures, I planned and envisioned a life of travel, art, photography, and exploration.  One of the dreams I’m pursuing is to spend serious time in our National Parks, as a Resident Artist.  Many of our National Parks have an application process available to established and emerging artists. The program offers time and accommodations in the most beautiful places. These are not paid gigs in the formal sense, but a real opportunity to spend quality time and follow my bliss.

In 2013, I began the process of research and writing necessary to apply.  The first priority: establishing a timeline for applications, organizing site specific portfolios, writing essays and gathering letters of recommendation.

Here’s an online site listing all the National Parks offering art residencies.

After review of each Park’s program and taking a look at my motivations to be at a specific park, I set deadlines and began writing proposals. Each application is a challenge to write, demanding of time and is a huge commitment, requiring a thorough examination of my portfolio for the “right” kind of images to send.  Most of the applications require a 1-2 page statement of intent, a small sampling of  4-8 images, letters of recommendations, and curriculum vitae.  And all applications include a proposal for the project to be completed during the residency.

The residencies provide an opportunity to devote 2-4 weeks’ time in a cabin or other rustic accommodations, time devoted to making art, and sharing that process with visitors.  Artists chosen for this prestigious and competitive award are also required to make a public presentation while at the park, and to donate one piece of art within a year of their residency.

A list of current and past applications:It helps to be “thick skinned” and not take the application process personally.  Just as with juried exhibitions, there is a standard of excellence in the level of artists applying, and the “right” person for each residency, the right image to fit an exhibition theme. Some review committees will provide comments, while others just don’t have the time to respond to the more than 250 artists competing for a few residencies a year.  This process is highly competitive and responding to deadlines and following the procedures is imperative.  One reviewer told me that the additional letters of recommendation I submitted were cumbersome and too much for the committee to read. Other park’s do not respond other than a letter of thanks (no, I’m not calling it a letter of rejection)

I’ve applied to all the following:

  • Acadia NP
  • Crater Lake NP
  • Glacier NP
  • Grand Canyon NP
  • Great Basin NP
  • Great Smoky Mountains NP
  • Isle Royale NP
  • Joshua Tree NP
  • North Cascades NP
  • Petrified Forest NP
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
  • Zion NP

And in 2015 I’ve been offered residencies at Crater Lake and Acadia.  I gladly accepted.  I have submitted 2016 applications to Joshua Tree, Durango Arts.org, and will meet the deadline for Zion in July.  In 2016 I was offered residencies at Bighorn Canyon in Wyoming, Glacier National Park, in Montana and Mesa Verde in Colorado.

I’ve posted some images and blogged about my experiences and inspirations while a visiting artist. Join me on this wonderful, creative, journey

Top 10 hints for Winter Landscape Photography

Near Telluride, Colorado.  By using a long lens, the mountains appear even bigger in this composition. ©Kit Frost

Near Telluride, Colorado. By using a long lens, the mountains appear even bigger in this composition. ©Kit Frost

When it snows in the mountains of Colorado, you can hear the locals shout POWDER DAY!   Those of us who don’t alpine ski, but who LOVE photographing snow it’s time to get out and play.

Snow-laden spruce and fir, snow-covered mountainsides, and the pure white of new snowfall make for wonderful subjects.  The challenge is to grab your gear and drive, hike, bike to locations before the snow melts.  We get bluebird skies here in Colorado, even on days with a foot of snow;  get out early to take advantage of a small window of opportunity for great images before the snow melts from the trees.  I also prefer to photograph mountains with snow; I think they look better, bigger and more seductive than when snow has melted in the spring, summer and fall.

Here are a few hints for proper gear.

  1. Bring snowshoes, gaiters, hand warmers, thermos of your favorite hot beverage, gloves, hat.
  2. And for the more adventurous, load up your x-country skis too
  3. When pulling over to the side of the road, be sure your car is safely parked, away from any ditches.
  4. If you’re hiking, wear waterproof boots, gaiters, and be cautious of “tunneling” into the snow banks.
  5. When using a tripod for deep depth of field, make sure the legs are secure.  Sometimes the snow melts and the legs “plunge” into the snow.  Take time to set up your composition and check it carefully.

Now some hints for improving your photography.

  1. Give your subjects a sense of place and grandeur.
  2. Use shadow and highlight to your advantage.
  3. For hand-held photos without your tripod, set your ISO to 500 (so you can achieve deep depth of field when needed)
  4. Set your exposure bias (+ -) for a bit of overexposure (+), but don’t overdo it.  I like +.07
  5. Focus on the nearest object in the frame, and let a small aperture capture the rest clearly (f22-32)
Separation created by using shadows and highlights to your advantage.  ©Kit Frost

Separation created by using shadows and highlights to your advantage. This photo shows “near/far” relationships too. By using the 75-300 lens the background “compresses”, appearing closer. ©Kit Frost

Get out and play! © Kit Frost

By showing the near and far mix in the photo you can give the viewer a deep sense of space. Wide angle lenses capture the grand landscape. © Kit Frost

Revisit the same location for Photography

I often stop at a few favorite locations along 550 North of Durango.  The Grenadiers and the Weminuche Wilderness Peaks are visible in these images. ©Kit Frost

I often stop at a few favorite locations along 550 North of Durango. The Grenadiers and the Weminuche Wilderness Peaks are visible in these images. ©Kit Frost

Another view of the Grenadier Range and the Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado.  ©Kit Frost

Another view of the Grenadier Range and the Weminuche Wilderness. That’s the Wham Ridge, and the Trinity Peaks near the middle and far left of this frame; popular with mountaineers and climbers. This image is one of a series shot with Fuji Velvia film. ©Kit Frost

I love the Mountains in Colorado, the changeable light, the mountain weather.   I often return to the same location so I can play with the many possibilities of light and time.  The scenic drive between Silverton and Durango Colorado is nearby and I often take a drive to scout Wildflowers, Waterfalls and Grand and Intimate landscapes for personal photography and to select locations for Photography instruction and workshops.  At the crest of Molas Pass, I have a few favorite viewpoints where I photograph the Grenadier Range, and the peaks of the Weminuche Wilderness looking east from the pass.

I often use a 2-stop graduated neutral density filter (Tiffen is my favorite).  I have YET to get a spectacular sunset from this location as the mountains at my back place a huge shadow on the scene.  You can see the shadows casting dark values on the snow scene.  The foreground gets pretty blocked up once the sun sets in the west.

Engineer Mountain is a local favorite, and a familiar site along the Scenic drive from Durango to Silverton too.  Many of us hike to the top of Engineer each year.  It’s a great place to view the surrounding San Juan National forest and the peaks of the Weminuche Wilderness.  Very close to the Durango Mountain Resort, Engineer looks great year round.  I was fortunate enough to live in Cascade Village, just south of the peak for a year and was able to watch the light and clouds paint patterns on the mountain from my living room.  When I was seduced, I’d grab the gear and head out of a few hours of photography.  Often, in October, the fall colors mix with an early snowfall.

Engineer Mountain with fresh snowfa

Many years, early snowfall occurs in the mountains while the autumn colors are at peak. Engineer Mountain looks alot closer in the above image because I used a 75-300 lens which compresses space and makes far objects appear closer.©Kit Frost

Oftentimes, early snowfall occurs in the mountains while the autumn colors are at peak. ©Kit Frost

Photographed just a few days earlier, you can see the clouds building up in this scene.  ©Kit Frost

Winter Landscape Photography Examples

The stories behind some winter photos in my portfolio

As the sun was rising, the mountains cleared, revealing themselves on a winter morning.

I am lucky enough to have a dear friend who needs his dog and house taken care of when he’s out of town.  His cabin is on a lake just 20 minutes north of Durango in the San Juan National Forest. Snowfall began in the evening and I set my alarm for just before sunrise, knowing it would be a “powder day”. I woke up to almost 3 feet of fresh snow, quickly shoveled the stairs, and set up my tripod and gear.
Shortly after sunrise, the mountains started to appear, revealing themselves. I love the blue, cold, tones of fresh snow on trees.  It’s important here in Southern Colorado to get out early before our bluebird day begins and the snow melts from the spruce, fir forests. Oftentimes, a bit of over-exposure (+) helps to make the whites in the sky sing.  But be careful of too much exposure; “blowing out” the highlights can cause post production problems in that there is no density in that part of the image to work with.  I used Adobe Lightroom to file and edit the image and “sweetened” it up a bit with adding just a tad of magenta to the image above.

The white middle ground of this image is a lake, with about 2 foot of fresh snow.  ©Kit Frost
The white at the lower 1/3 of this image is Haviland Lake, in the San Juan National Forest, with about 2-3 feet of fresh snow.  I used the ponderosa pine tree on the right to balance the view from foreground (pine tree) to background (highlighted Twilight Peak).  You can see the blue sky as the low-lying clouds and ground fog clear.  No graduated neutral density filter was needed here.  I use the Tiffen .06 for about 85% of my landscape images, to hold detail in the sky while letting the foreground and middle-ground metering guide the exposure.

This peak, located in Southwest Colorado is one of fifty two 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado

Located in Southwest Colorado, Hesperus Peak is the highest summit in the La Plata Mountains in Colorado.  At 13,232 ft, Hesperus is notable as the Navajo People’s Sacred Mountain of the North, Dibé Ntsaa, which marks the northern boundary of the Dinetah, their traditional homeland. I could see this view from my front porch in Mancos.  I set up my tripod and enjoyed photographing the fast moving, low lying clouds from the winter storm reveal and hide the mountain tops. A few moments after taking this image, the clouds covered the scene and the mountains didn’t appear for the rest of the day.

Winter in California

A few years ago I spent the holidays along the coast of California, traveling each day from “home base” in Monterey. The coast of California in winter is quite a dramatic change from Colorado. I loves the shapes of the succulents in the sand.  The light in late December was quiet, almost somber, and the ocean was a beautiful blue-green color.

Capturing the waves in the background and the shape of the succulents on the beach required the use of my Nikon 12-24 lens and deep depth of field. Sometimes I used the boulders to block distracting elements in the distance.  The earth “curves” at ultra wide angle, so I would check in my viewfinder to be sure I had not distorted the horizon lines too much.

Capturing the waves in the background and the shape of the succulents on the beach required the use of my Nikon 12-24 lens.

The coast of California is quite a change from winter in Colorado.  I loves the shapes of the succulents in the sand.

Near Santa Cruz,  I loved “dodging” the waves after they came through these “Natural Bridges”.  By moving my camera only a few inches I could choose what to frame within the opening. Slow shutter speeds and capturing the light on the rocks were important aspects of creating these photos; knowing when to press the shutter release was half the fun too.  Timing the waves, cautious about getting the wet sand on my tripod, and framing the distant scene, while choosing a small aperture for deep depth of field were all part of the workflow.

Setting our tripods up in the sand, running away as the water flowed under the "bridges" added to the fun of this winter photo excursion ©Kit Frost

Christmas Day photography.  I loved "dodging" the waves after they came through the bridge. ©Kit Frost

Top 10 Winter Photography Ideas

The Twilight peaks, near Durango Colorado, after our first dusting of snow.  November 2012. ©Kit Frost

The Twilight peaks, near Durango Colorado, after our first dusting of snow. November 2012. ©Kit Frost

Snow was in the forecast this past weekend here in Southern Colorado.  It didn’t snow but instead was very cold, below zero. So I spent lots of time indoors. I cleaned the studio, listened to a podcast about time-lapse photography, edited my January shoot from Capitol Reef, printed some images from Nepal, watched a few episodes of Foyles War, on Netflix, played with my favorite 2 year old, organized my maps and began reading about the Pacific Northwest and the California Redwoods.  I love to plan the next adventure, even if I don’t know the dates yet.  I also posted a map of the Redwood National Park on my wall and one of the Northwest too.  At home I pinned up a map of the Annapurna Range in Nepal, planning for 2014.  Wow, what a fun weekend.

And, of course, if it snows, let’s get out and play.  With or without the camera!

Here are a few suggestions for things to do in the “shoulder season”:

  1. Send your camera in for sensor cleaning. Or clean it yourself using Sensor Swabs.
  2. Organize your image library, delete photos that really don’t hold up to scrutiny.
  3. Prepare a slideshow of the top 50 images of 2012, backup those files, invite friends to a show at your house, serve popcorn and beverages.
  4. Print your top 5 images, in house or using your favorite online service.
    I like Aspen Creek Photo, great service, love their high gloss photos.
  5. Sell any gear that you haven’t used in the past 2 years. Or give it away to your local schools.
  6. Buy a bunch of flowers, set up an indoor still life, practice shallow and deep depth of field, use your smartphone too.
  7. Take a class.  (maybe you always wanted to learn pottery, silversmithing, glass-blowing)
  8. Read a book. (see my current reading list below)
  9. Watch some great online videos about artists (see suggestions below)
  10. Pour over maps to plan your next adventure.

Prepare for your 2013 photo season: Learn a new technique:

Kit’s reading list:

  • Wild Trees, Richard Preston
  • Across Many Mountains, Yangzom Brauen
  • Blood and Thunder, Hampton Sides
  • Married to Bhutan, Linda Learning
  • Coming into the Country, John McFee
  • The Golden Spruce, John Vaillant
  • Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner
  • From the Redwood Forest, Joan Dunning

Suggested videos about artists, DVD, online and Netflix

Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

A local landmark mountain, Spud is visible on the left of this photo, and reflected in a pond, In Durango Colorado

A local landmark mountain, Spud is visible on the left of this photo, and reflected in a pond, In Durango, Colorado ©Kit Frost

At the changing of the seasons, between Fall and Winter, we usually experience a few early snowfalls. November, 2012 ©Kit Frost

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When the Fall colors fade in Southern Colorado, I often drive to Utah to see the change of the seasons. Reflection along Potash Road, outside of Moab, Utah ©Kit Frost

When the Fall colors fade in Southern Colorado, I often drive to Utah to see the change of the seasons. Moonrise and Reflection along Potash Road, outside of Moab, Utah ©Kit Frost

Red Rock outside of Moab, looking like some sort of snake skin. ©Kit Frost

Red Rock outside of Moab, looking like some sort of snake skin. ©Kit Frost

 

I often drive from my home in Durango to Utah after the Aspen Color show ends in Colorado.  Although the last week in October is usually a good time to explore the cottonwoods on fire with color, this year the season changed a bit early. ©Kit Frost

I often drive from my home in Durango to Utah after the Aspen Color show ends in Colorado. Although the last week in October is usually a good time to explore the cottonwoods on fire with color, this year the season changed a bit early. ©Kit Frost