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Heavy cameras and hot chocolate

john klearman

My grandfather, Sid Dubinsky, was my family's photo archivist. And he played an important role in spurring my interest in photography. When I was growing up in St. Louis, Missouri it was rare to see him without a camera. He loved taking pictures. My grandfather took over 20,000 photos of family. That was an expensive endeavor in the day of film. He enjoyed fiddling with the equipment. He loved working in his darkroom. And he understood the importance of photography. He understood that making a photo of a moment in time created a unique artifact.

Photography is important. Some photos allow us to look at and think about family members - to reminisce about the joy of a special occasion. The artifacts of photography can also help us heal from traumatic events. For doctors photography's artifacts save lives. John Muir and Ansel Adams used landscape photography to convey important messages about the management and preservation of our wilderness.

The amazing places of Mother Earth do indeed warrant reverence. Spectating a beautiful landscape is also good for us. Pondering our natural surroundings brings us a bit closer to God and connects us to our world. Sublime landscapes bring us peace and serenity.

Ansel Adams characterized wilderness as “a mystique: a valid, intangible, non-materialistic experience.”

A beautiful landscape indeed makes me curious. I wonder how the mountains and cliffs and millions of trees got "there." I wonder what it might take to hike into it - to experience it in its full grandeur. I wonder if I'll encounter a wild animal if I march into that unknown!  I wonder where the sun will set and how the light will reflect. I wonder what color the land will be during that day's "golden hour." I wonder where I should stand to see it in a unique way - and in a way that I can share with others.

I love recording all of this for us. That's why I go out into nature, as frequently as I can, and take images of the mystique.

When I was a late teen Grandpa Sid gave me two Zenza Bronica medium format cameras. It was through the viewfinders of those cameras that I started thinking about looking at our world in the context of a frame, a perspective, a view - with special mindfulness of the conditions that create that view. I realized how much looking through a viewfinder slowed my mind and gave me the capacity to more deeply observe my surroundings.  I was in the moment.  I dragged those heavy cameras down into the bowels of the Grand Canyon thirty five years ago, down the Grandview Trail before there was a parking lot at its entrance, with the intent of walking forty miles and recording with awe and reverence everything I was witnessing. A shortage of water and food and experience made that intended hike much shorter. I was enthusiastic though, still alive after the experience, and I did get my first two "real" landscape images that I sold in a gallery in Reno, Nevada in the late '80's. I shot those images after fueling up with raw powdered hot chocolate - my only remaining food.

After a little success in my early career I chose to really get into photography. I decided to buy a retail photography store in San Diego, California. It was a cool place, with thousands of artists walking through, each expressing their own personal bent on why photography was important to them. Each had their vision and opinion of what made a great photo. I opened a Gallery in one corner of the store and we hosted world class photographers presenting their wares. I got to meet thousands of enthusiasts and professionals alike - some of the most recognized photographers in the world. Each brought their perspective. Frequently as it related to a photographic aesthetic, those perspectives differed or conflicted. After that experience I felt more strongly that if a photo engages you and makes you happy that is really all that matters.  My primary goal in my own photography is to convey a sense of grandeur and reverence - through perspective, texture, contrast, color, and all the other tools in the photographer's toolbox. But Nature is the real image maker.  I just spectate and record.  I strive to make my images easy to view. Nature is complex.  Our brains and eyes like easy.

I think we can tell when the photographer has worked hard to get a great image. If we perceive they've worked hard, given the scene the circumspection it deserved, then it warrants our view - if for no other reason than to consider what the recorder was thinking.

I sold the store in 2004 and nowadays I'm consumed with getting out there and searching our amazing wilderness for unique landscapes and golden light - and recording it with my camera.  

Ever since I can recall, serious photographers banter about photographic ethics. This has become more prevalent in the age of the Apple Mac. How much saturation is appropriate? Are "correct" colors being represented in an image? To what extent is digital manipulation appropriate? Here's where I stand on that. Notwithstanding creating black and white photos (which I enjoy creating), I feel strongly about producing images that reasonably accurately reflect what I'm witnessing. My color images are not overly saturated - for instance. We don't see the world that way.  I go to great lengths when I'm preparing a photo for viewing that it be "appropriate" and beautiful. But, like many photographers, including Ansel Adams, I recognize no photographs are "pure." Chemicals and computers don't reproduce something exactly as we see it with our highly sophisticated brains and eyes. Ansel Adams would, for instance, apply unrealistic contrast to a black and white scene if he felt it helped him convey an emotion. I'm not immune to using some artistic license. I just prefer to keep what you're looking at appropriate - sufficiently real.  I don't consider myself a digital artist. I don't superimpose objects onto images. And "most of the time" I won't remove a man-made object from a photo. I'm a photographer - recording a scene in front of me.

I'd prefer nature present a gorgeous scene to me, and that I record it and present it to you. I don't ask for much! I plan and hunt for these special conditions with unrelenting energy. The other side of that, and wholly possible in today's world, is that a scene is presented and highly embellished on a computer. That seems very wrong to me and it would feel like I'm telling you an untruth. I'm very mindful of that.

My wife, Sheryl, and I live in Prescott, Arizona. We love being here because it's very central to the places we revere and explore the most - Arizona, Utah, Colorado, the deserts and coasts of California, the Pacific Northwest, and so many other beautiful places.

It's my privilege to welcome you to my Wilderness Photography Gallery. I look forward to taking you on future journeys and sharing reverence for our beautiful landscapes.


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We currently offer two very high quality print surfaces / substrates on our site. Fujiflex Paper, used for our Open Edition prints is widely recognized as having 100 year archivability. Our UltimateMetal-Chromaluxe surface, used for our Collector's Edition prints is "virtually ageless" in terms of durability and color fastness. The material is even impervious to sun and rain.


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