Developing My Style

April 20, 2022

It's easy to discover an artist or photographer or writer when they are more advanced in their craft, and feel like they've always been that good at what they do. Often the hard work, the learning, and the growth goes on behind closed doors, and rarely do we get to see evidence of that growth when the work is taken one piece or image at a time, as it so often is when shared on social media. When a collection created over several years is presented, such as on my own website, sometimes the hints of growth are there, but even then, websites do not usually serve as a retrospective where the learning process can be truly observed. It's only when a true retrospective of an artist's work that we can truly appreciate the growth that took place from the earliest work to the most recent.

Over the years, viewers of my work have described my work as detailed, with bold color, sharpness, and depth that appears to allow you to enter the scene. It's gratifying to hear when someone says that, because it means I'm close to achieving my goals in creating an image. Not that any of the above was the result of a single conscious decision. Over time, as a photographer, I've learned what I like in my own images, and through viewing other photographers' work, I've seen elements I would like to incorporate into my own work.

Wells Beach, Maine, illuminated by the predawn twilight at low tide, is a study in tranquility. The sky painted in shades of...
Dawn on Wells Beach

Wells Beach, Maine, illuminated by the predawn twilight at low tide, is a study in tranquility. The sky painted in shades of lavender, deep purple, and orange as the dawn breaks, casts an ethereal glow over the landscape. The wind and water have created intricate patterns in the wet sand, showcasing the fluidity and artistry of nature. Glassy and still, the tide pool is a perfect mirror for the breathtaking sky, while the rocks behind it are rugged and textured, adding depth and dimension to the scene. The combination of the calm water, rippled sand, and the colors of the sky make for a stunning image, capturing the peacefulness of the beach in the early hours of the day.

The growth in my own work is especially evident when similar subjects are viewed side by side with images taken early in my career as a photographer. "Dawn on Wells Beach", above, is a perfect example. I made that photograph in March of 2017, shortly after moving to Maine. All of the hallmarks of my style are present - vibrant color, deep, enveloping depth of field, detailed foreground, fine sharpness to the scene, and strong composition. In addition, you can see my affinity for reflections in water, as I captured the reflections of the clouds in the pool on the beach.

Wells Beach, Maine.

Wells Beach, Maine, taken in 1999.

In the above image, taken at Wells Beach in November 1999, almost 18 years earlier, you can see the beginnings of my style. I had just begun to photograph landscapes. This was taken on color slide film, Fuji Velvia to be exact. Velvia was known to have vibrant color, which due to the nature of the light, didn't matter all that much. But Velvia was also very contrasty, and you can see the loss of the detail on the left side of the photo. The composition isn't quite as strong as I would have liked, but you can see where I paid attention to the reflection in the pool, and included the textured sand in the foreground. Learning to control the contrast and better compose the photo were things I still needed to learn, but it was a start.

Fire Island Lighthouse after a winter storm.

This is an early outing to Fire Island Lighthouse for me, taken after a January snow storm. You can see the indications of the way I like to work now, with a strong foreground full of interest. The bold color at that time was due to my choice of film- Fuji Velvia. I've carried through that look to my current work.

The image above, of Fire Island Lighthouse after a winter storm, was taken in January of 2000. At this time, I was working full time as a sports photographer but was becoming more interested in landscape work as a way of relaxing with my camera. I was living on Long Island and Fire Island lighthouse was a favorite subject of mine. This image again shows that strong and detailed foreground, with the dune grass encased in ice, as well as the bold color provided by my film choice. I still had quite a bit to learn, however.

Fire Island Lighthouse at sunset.
Sunset on Fire Island

Fire Island Lighthouse stands tall and proud, silhouetted against a fiery sunset sky above the rolling dunes of Fire Island National Seashore. The dunes and dune grass catch the warm light of the setting sun illuminating the landscape in a dramatic fashion, as the oranges and yellows of the sky, transitioning to blue, create a stunning contrast with the warm hues of the lighthouse and sand dunes. Thin wispy clouds scattered across the sky, add to the dreamy, ethereal atmosphere of the scene. This breathtaking image showcases the stunning natural beauty of Fire Island and the surrounding landscape, and is sure to inspire awe and wonder in those who view it, and recall fond memories for those who have spent their summers there.

The above image of Fire Island Lighthouse was taken in 2016. One of my biggest lessons was waiting for better light. The snowstorm photo was taken at midday, when the light was at its harshest. The image still works, but I think it could have been much stronger taken later in the day, or earlier in the day for more dramatic light. I think the biggest change is that in my transition to digital, I now have far more control over the final photo. Slide film is the true "straight-out-of-the-camera" experience, where what you get is it. Using print film gives you more control, if you have your own darkroom, but at the time I didn't, and I wanted to do my best to get everything correct in camera. I didn't do too badly, but I do enjoy the freedom of post processing to darken and lighten areas of a scene as needed. To me, it's the complete photographic experience, well beyond pushing the shutter button.

The Nubble Lighthouse

The Nubble Lighthouse, photographed in 1999 on Fuji Velvia.

Above is the first time I photographed the Nubble Lighthouse in Cape Neddick, Maine. It was November 1999, and again I was using Fuji Velvia film. I hadn't yet learned to control the contrast with this film, something I would learn later. But here you can see an early attempt at trying to photograph moving water. Over the years, people have commented on my use of various shutter speeds to create a certain look with moving water. It took quite a while for me to understand the nuances of this. While in this photo I caught a nice splash, to me it's not perfect and I'm not a fan of the form the wave created in the shot.

Cape Neddick Lighthouse stands on a rocky island during a storm as waves crash on the rocks.
Autumn Storm at Cape Neddick

Its white tower standing strong against an ominous sky, the Nubble Lighthouse in Cape Neddick, Maine keeps its watch over the southern Maine coastline as the thunderous boom of the breaking waves driven by the incoming storm echoes over the rocky shore.

"Autumn Storm at Cape Neddick" was taken 11 years later, using a digital camera. By this time my compositional skills had gotten better, and I better understood the use of shutter speed to manipulate the look of moving water. You'll also notice the second photo has more depth in the scene, a result of more subtle contrast and better use of the foreground.

Sunrise at Montauk Point, NY, as the lighthouse stands on a bluff in the distance.
Sunrise at Montauk Point

Montauk lighthouse stands tall against the backdrop of an early morning sky, filled with the mist of a summer morning. The historic structure stands out against dark clouds, while the sun rises above a cloud bank, illuminating the fog with a soft peach-colored glow. The incoming tide washes over the rocky beach, filling the air with the salty and calming smell of the ocean, as a gentle breeze stirs across the sand. The lighthouse’s guiding beacon shines across the shore, signaling for ships to come home and beckoning travelers to explore the coastline.

So the question then becomes, how does a photographer develop his or her style? Step one is to keep photographing. Beginning in 2007, I started photographing landscapes far more, and the development of my style happened quickly. I very quickly began to see what I liked and what I didn't in my own work, and from that, was able to repeat those elements. In addition, I began to see what I liked in others' work and was able incorporate it into my own.

Sand Harbor in Lake Tahoe.
Sand Harbor Tahoe

The crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe rhythmically lap at the shoreline at Sand Harbor. A picturesque lake abounding with splendor, the sun reflects off its surface like a million diamonds. Gigantic rock formations and towering evergreen trees frame this peaceful scene, while above, a few white fluffy clouds dot the sky, adding to the tranquil atmosphere. Sand Harbor lies on the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe, high in the Sierra-Nevada mountain range.

As I continue to create new images, I'm seeing smaller changes in the composition and exposure side of my work, while I'm seeing greater jumps in the processing of my images - the manipulation of color and contrast in the scene. It's an area I've been focusing on for the past few years. Prior to that, I used one-size-fits-all recipes for my images, and while they weren't too bad, I find I am getting better results using a more customized approach to adjusting color and contrast, that only affects certain tones, or certain areas of the scene, rather than trying to force a change over the entire scene that might work for one portion of the photo, but is too heavy handed for another.

Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, rises above the tundra in Denali National Park, Alaska.
Shrouded In The Clouds

Limited Edition

Majestic and powerful, the tallest peak in North America stands as a symbol of the beauty of the last frontier, Alaska. Denali rises into the swirl of clouds above the Alaska Range, basking in the late day sun as the vast wilderness spreads out below.

Limited Edition of 100 prints. Each Limited Edition Fine Art Print includes a signed Certificate of Authenticity, mailed separately.

For that reason, many of the images offered as prints on my website are reworked using new techniques to provide a more nuanced edit of the photo, breathing new life into images captured years ago that my processing failed to do justice to. Examples are "Shrouded in Clouds", "Sand Harbor Tahoe", and "Kaaterskill Creek".

A canopy of autumn foliage arches over Kaaterskill Creek near Hunter, New York.
Kaaterskill Creek

This stunning photo of Kaaterskill Creek allows you to experience the beauty of autumn in the Catskill Mountains all year long. Taken at dawn, the mist creates a magical aura around the glowing creek surrounded by lush trees displaying their autumn foliage. A silent canopy of color looms over the creek, while the water flows through the rocky creek bed. Kaaterskill Creek is located in the eastern Catskill Mountains of New York, on the north side of Kaaterskill Clove, between the hamlets of Haines Falls and Palenville in Greene County's Town of Hunter.

To be clear, photographers, painters, sculptors, writers, and musician continue to grow as long as they continue to create new work. Sometimes those changes in style are obvious, but more often, it is an evolution of style, changing slowly, in ways that often go unnoticed unless looking at the body of work that includes the earliest images as well as the most recent. With any luck, my style will continue to evolve for years to come.

The sun rises over the rocky coastline of Ogunquit, Maine along a path known as Marginal Way.
December Sunrise in Ogunquit

The rising sun burns through a marine layer of fog on Marginal Way in the coastal town of Ogunquit, Maine. As the sky above glows with yellows and oranges, a long exposure artistically captures the movement of water around the rocky shoreline as if painted by an artist's hand, showcasing the wondrous natural beauty of the coast of Maine.

The sun sets behind a field of sunflowers.
Aroostook Sunset

The sun is slowly sinking behind a field of bright yellow sunflowers, casting a warm, hopeful glow on the horizon on a summer evening in Aroostook County, Maine. The sky is a sight to behold as the sun paints it with vibrant orange and pink hues that slowly graduate to a soft, light blue as the night sky begins to take over. Amidst the beauty of the natural world, hope and light continue to blossom in the hearts of those who take the time to appreciate it.

T.A. Moulton Barn in sunlight as the Teton Mountains stand in the background.
T.A. Moulton Barn

T.A. Moulton Barn greets the first light of a summer morning in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Early morning light shines on colorful aspen trees as Mount Sneffels stands in the background.
Autumn in the San Juan Mountains

Golden aspens blanket a hillside near Mount Sneffels in Coloardo's San Juan Mountains on an autumn morning.

An old shack sits among the sand dunes at sunset on Cape Cod.
Solitude in the Dunes

Limited Edition

Set amongst the dunes near Provincetown, Massachusetts, dune shacks like this one began popping up in the early 20th century as a retreat for artists and creatives to rejuvenate on Cape Cod.

Limited Edition of 100 prints.

Waves wash over the rocky shoreline at Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
Sunset at Two Lights

The waters of Casco Bay rush in over the rocky shoreline of Cape Elizabeth, Maine at Two Lights State Park.