The Persistence of Life

•July 25, 2018 • 14 Comments

As always, if you’re viewing this in an email, please click the title of this post to see the blog, which offers a better viewing experience!

 

Recently, we had to take down a tree that was growing just two feet from the foundation of our house. Left unchecked, the roots would have begun to work their way into the foundation and cause cracking and other issues.

This particular species, called Paulownia, or Princess Tree, is actually considered a “weed tree”, and grows at a very fast rate.

In fact, this particular tree grew over 25 feet in one season!

In some parts of Asia, the wood from this tree is prized, and is used for making small boxes and furniture.

After taking down the tree, we noticed that several of the logs were still putting out new growth!

This made me think about the persistence of life. The basic will to survive can be very strong. Whether we are talking about plants, animals, or humans, there is an inherent will to live.

I have my own reasons for photographing this tree trunk with its sprouting leaves, which didn’t appear until weeks after the tree was taken down. My goal was to try to capture this in an image as a reminder to myself about the delicacies of life.

Photographer Harold Ross's Light Painted Photograph "Persistence"

Persistence

Photograph by Harold Ross

If you want to learn all about my process, and how to make images using it, consider attending one of my Light Painting Workshops, seen HERE.

What do past workshop attendees think? See their testimonials HERE.

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LensWork Issue #137 – The Biltmore House

•July 7, 2018 • 7 Comments

As always, if you’re viewing this in an email, please click the title of this post to see the blog, which offers a better viewing experience.

I’m very honored that one of the most respected photography publications on the planet, LensWork, has decided to publish my Biltmore House series in Issue #137.

I’m doubly thrilled that they chose to place one of my images on the cover!

 

LensWork #137 Cover by Harold Ross

 

The images were shot at the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina, America’s largest private residence.

It was an exciting opportunity to be able photograph there, thanks to my friend Jim Ryan, who made sure that we had complete access to anything we wanted to photograph. This was in itself a challenge; the Biltmore is absolutely chock full of the most amazing things, all personally collected by George and Edith Vanderbilt: priceless hand-carved furniture, 16th century tapestries, a library with 10,000 volumes, 65 fireplaces (each more interesting than the next), original paintings by Renoir and John Singer Sargent, and on and on.

The images are, as always with LensWork, beautifully reproduced.

Here is the opening page of the article, with an image of the Biltmore House as we approached it.

 

 

LensWork #137 Introduction by Photographer Harold Ross

If you aren’t a LensWork subscriber, please consider subscribing HERE; it is a beautifully printed publication, and it contains thought-provoking articles dealing with the state of fine art photography today. I look forward to receiving every issue!

There is also a very content-rich online subscription available HERE.

You can pick up a copy at Barnes and Noble bookstores!

 

 

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Vintage Croquet Set (time lapse video)

•June 14, 2018 • 2 Comments

As always, if you’re viewing this in an email, please click the title of this post to see the blog, which offers a better viewing experience.

My good friend (and fellow light painter) John Corcoran gave me a gorgeous (and quite old) croquet set. Some of you may remember this game, which is played on a grass lawn. The challenge was to hit the ball (through “wickets” made of wire) with mallets.

This picture (by Alice Austen, a pioneering woman photographer who worked in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s) shows us that croquet was very popular well over 100 years ago!

I remember playing this quite often as a kid, and our family owned a set like the one John gave me. I love to photograph objects that carry personal memories for me, so I had to do so with this croquet set.

Proper use of light painting gives us tremendous depth, shape and color! The color in this image was not modified; just white balanced.

Color is just one advantage of using a very small light. Small lights are inherently quite hard and unattractive, but by using them properly, we make them look as soft as a large light.

This is the essence of Sculpting with Light; we get the advantages of both a large light (beautiful soft shadow-to-highlight transitions) and a small light (surgical application, tremendous depth and texture, and great color). This is the only method that gives us the best of both worlds.

When we use the light properly, we are literally sculpting the object by controlling how the light defines the shape.

Part of this thought process is to use the light from an angle that gives us depth, shape and texture.

I made a quick (VERY quick) little time lapse video for my Instagram account, and thought I’d share it in the blog here for those that don’t follow me on Instagram. It shows me light painting the croquet set, and below that is the final result.

 

 

Light Painted photograph of croquet set by photographer Harold Ross

Photograph by Harold Ross

If you want to learn all about my process, and how to make images using it, consider attending one of my Light Painting Workshops, seen HERE.

What do past workshop attendees think? See their testimonials HERE.

 

 

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The amazing power of light.

•May 18, 2018 • 4 Comments

As always, if you’re viewing this in an email, please click the title of this post to see the blog, which offers a better viewing experience.

*****

I’ve been light painting for almost 30 years, yet I’m still excited every time I make a photograph! Why? The process I developed back when I transitioned from light painting with film to light painting with digital (I call it “Sculpting with Light”), is absolutely transformative.

Said another way, I’m constantly delighted by how my lighting techniques, combined with my simple masking techniques (which are more akin to painting than to photography), completely change how we see the subject.

This is also interesting to me on a psychological level; when making a composition, we are seeing the subject under “normal” lighting conditions. The subject itself, in most cases, doesn’t thrill me to the level that it will after I apply my lighting techniques, and to an extent, my sculptural masking techniques. This actually makes it more difficult to compose an image.

We normally want to feel excited by the composition itself, and although this phenomenon also exists in “regular” photography, my Sculpting with Light process creates such a powerful transformation that we cannot really pre-visualize the result!

The problem is that one might be tempted to continue working on the composition (and in many cases this means putting more objects in the composition) until one gets excited, and this may never happen. Therefore, we can “overwork” the composition, wasting time and possibly making things too busy in an attempt to make a “perfect” image.

For this reason, I always do a preliminary light painted version of my composition before making a final decision on it. In fact, I do this very early on in the composition stage.

This is something I discuss in depth at each workshop that I teach.

To demonstrate this, I am going to show you some “before and after” images, which were shot as demonstrations at my workshops; images of the set that I made as I finished the composition (under “flat” room lighting), and the final image. In this way, one can see the changes that happen as a result of my process.

The easiest way for me to do this is by video, so please click on each video to see the transformation:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*****

To learn more about my workshops, click HERE.

And if you’re the spontaneous type, we just had a last minute cancellation for 1 spot for our upcoming workshop on Friday May 25th, 26th, and 27th, 2018. If you’re interested, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Photography by Harold Ross

*****

Oggetto ricordi d’Italia (Mementos from Italy)

•May 6, 2018 • 12 Comments

As always, if you’re viewing this in an email, please click the title of this post to see the blog, which offers a better viewing experience.

My father-in-law, Joseph Toglia (the “G” is silent) is from a little town (on a big mountain) in Italy called Pescopagano (in the province of Potenza). He is one of 5 siblings – falling between two older brothers and two younger sisters.
Joseph (or Giuseppe) emigrated to the U.S. in 1954, and, before retiring, was Professor of Neurology at Temple University in Philadelphia. Below is a photograph I made several years ago of Joseph with his beloved tractor.

Photographer Harold Ross' Light Painted Image, Joseph Toglia

Joseph Toglia, Photograph by Harold Ross
His father (Antonio) was also an amazing man; he wore many hats, as was more common 80-100 years ago (and in a rural mountainous town) than it might be today.
He and his wife owned a general store, complete with a gas station, and he was a blacksmith, as well as the town’s pharmacist!
And it doesn’t stop there; he also practiced veterinary medicine and surgery, and was knowledgable in botany (probably due to his practicing pharmacology), as well as being an electrician!
Not long ago, Antonio’s grandson gave me some of his grandfather’s possessions from those days; a set of brass weights, probably used with the pharmacy scale; and a coffee grinder, most certainly used in the general store.
I recently made some photographs (using light painting, of course) of these very old, but beautiful objects:
Photographer Harold Ross' Light Painted Image, Brass Scale Weights from Italy

Brass Scale Weights from Italy, Photograph by Harold Ross

 

Photographer Harold Ross' Light Painted Image, Italian Coffee Grinder

Italian Coffee Grinder, Photograph by Harold Ross

I believe that objects carry tremendous meaning, and the objects that were used daily by my wife’s grandfather and grandmother in Italy might even carry their spirit. In photographing these objects, I hope to somehow capture that spirit. – H.R.

 

For general workshop information please click HERE .

All images from students over the years are HERE.

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I’ll be speaking at the 2018 Macro Photo Conference in Cleveland, Ohio – October 27th & 28th

•March 6, 2018 • 4 Comments

As always, if you’re viewing this in an email, please click the title of this post to see the blog, which offers a better viewing experience.

Photographer Harold Ross' Light Painted Image "Red Anvil"

“Red Anvil”

Photograph by Harold Ross

(This miniature red beauty is a favorite from my anvil collection. My grandfather, with whom I was very close, was a Swiss blacksmith, and as well as teaching me how to weld and work with metal, he inspired me to collect anvils, some of which I use!)

If you’ll be in or near Cleveland, Ohio on October 27th & 28th, 2018, I’ll be speaking at Mike Moats’ 2018 Macro Photo Conference, which is in its 5th year. As the name would imply, the conference is based around macro and close-up photography. Please take a few minutes to look at Mike’s beautiful work HERE.

The event is being held from Saturday 8AM to 6PM, and Sunday 8AM to 3PM, at the Crowne Plaza in Middleburg Heights, Ohio.

The hotel group block room rate is $119. Ask for the “Macro Photo Conference Rate” at (440)-243-4040. If you register for your room online, use the code MPC for the $119 group rate price.

The conference will be featuring 6 speakers (myself included). I will be giving an hour long lecture titled: Sculpting with Light: A Transformative Process. At the Macro conference, which is for all skill levels, there will be plenty of “how-to” lectures, and 4-5 hours (2-3 hours each day) of participation in the photographing of various subject matter throughout the day. The 6 speakers will be milling around the shooting area, giving advice on composition, general lighting principles, and other technical matters. Participants won’t be light painting, but I’ll certainly answer questions about it!

There is a limit of 100 participants and there are less than 45 seats left! The conference has sold out in all previous years, so if you’re interested, please don’t hesitate. The cost is only $199.

You can find more information about the conference HERE.

The speakers are:

Mike Moats 

Don Komarechka

Jackie Kramer 

Steve Gettle

Mike Matthews 

and lastly, myself!

This is a conference for all skill levels, and it will be inspiring, educational and fun!

I hope to see you there!

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Recap of Student Images From Recent Workshops (and new workshop dates just added)

•February 14, 2018 • 8 Comments

As always, if you’re viewing this in an email, please click the title of this post to see the blog, which offers a better viewing experience.

*****

Today, I’m posting images that were shot by students who attended relatively recent workshops.

Sometimes I don’t get to the the recap for awhile, so I’m playing catch-up!

You’ll notice that some students have more than one image. These are students that took an individual workshop, and/or stayed for an extra day of training.

I need to take a moment to say one thing; I feel very fortunate and honored that students have travelled from near and far to take a personal workshop with me!

A big THANKS goes out to every one of them!

In this recap, there is recent work by students who travelled here from: Switzerland, Ireland, India, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, as well as from all over the US: Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota, Texas, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Massachusetts.

I am truly humbled.

Also, I am once again so pleased and surprised to see the compositions that students come up with; things that I wouldn’t think of. This is one of the most rewarding things about teaching this amazing process.

A personal word about my workshops… I developed this process (which I call “Sculpting with Light”). It is a process that I’ve been perfecting for almost 30 years. Yes, I used light painting with film, and I developed a way to bring those concepts to a digital workflow. It is a challenging process, and the workshops are intensive; we work very hard because I want my students to leave with a deep understanding of the process. For this reason, I teach a maximum of TWO students (I also teach individuals), and this is why I teach quite a few workshops per year. I believe that a workshop such as this, where hands-on technique needs to be taught on a personal level, can only be successful if the class size is very small. It is simply impossible to go deeply into my process with a large group. What matters to me is the deep satisfaction I get from teaching photographers how to make extraordinary images – Harold

On to the images…

*****

Marie-France Millasson, brought this amazing red shoe with her, along with a vision of what she wanted to do. The form of the shoe is captured beautifully by light painting:

Photograph by Marie-France Millasson created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Photograph by Marie-France Millasson  (Switzerland):

Marie-France also did a classic photograph of garlic, one of my favorite subjects:

Photograph by Marie-France Millasson created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Photograph by Marie-France Millasson  (Switzerland)

*****

Chandler Barrett did something I would not normally do; he used a white piece of fabric which nestles a black teapot (one of the favorites of my collection). Only in my Sculpting with Light process can you maintain detail in these extreme subjects. I think he did a terrific job.

Photograph by Chandler Barrett created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Photograph by Chandler Barrett (North Carolina)

*****

Morris Liss wanted to combine glass and metal, two challenging subjects. I think his result speaks for itself!

Photograph by Morris Liss created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Photograph by Morris Liss  (Maryland)

*****

Jorge Villarreal made an unusual composition, one in which the background gets most of the real estate! I think it works beautifully.

Photograph by Jorge Villarreal created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Photograph by Jorge Villarreal (Mexico)

Jorge also combined the challenging properties of metal and glass. Lighting these kinds of surfaces is covered thoroughly in the workshop, and I think Jorge’s image is simple yet beautiful.

Photograph by Jorge Villarreal created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Photograph by Jorge Villarreal (Mexico)

*****

Laura Bennett (who came to the workshop along with her husband Doug) created this beautiful and soft image. In the workshop, we explore how to render fabric in a soft, sensuous way. Great job, Laura!

Photograph by Laura Bennett created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Laura Bennett (Colorado)

*****

Doug Bennett’s goal was to learn to light many different kinds of surfaces, including light coming through the champagne bottle. Nice work, Doug!

Photograph by Doug Bennett created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Doug Bennett (Colorado)

*****

Victor Civita was able to do two images. This simple image of a leaf, although of only one element, is quite engaging.

Photograph by Victor Civita created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Victor Civita  (Brazil)

Victor also pulled together this eclectic combination of things from my prop collection. I think he did a great job composing these disparate elements.

Photograph by Victor Civita created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Victor Civita  (Brazil)

*****

Sam Gray’s composition is simple, yet strong. I believe that simpler images have the potential to be more powerful than do complex images. Great work, Sam.

Photograph by Sam Gray created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Sam Gray (Pennsylvania)

*****

Canice Dunphy, here from Ireland for the third time, brought along some props with him. I was so excited to see this “Space Beam” Lamp! It’s right up my alley, but sadly, I couldn’t convince him to leave it here! Light Painting allowed Canice to bring up every little detail of this mid-century gem!

Photograph by Canice Dunphy created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Photograph by Canice Dunphy (Ireland)

This image is another example of simplicity at its best. Look closely (click on the image for a larger view) to see the gorgeous light that Canice applied to the elements in the image.

Photograph by Canice Dunphy created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Photograph by Canice Dunphy (Ireland)

Canice also brought this very old lock from Ireland. Don’t let the scale fool you; the lock is quite large, approximately 5″ x 7″.

Photograph by Canice Dunphy created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Photograph by Canice Dunphy (Ireland)

*****

Steve Hick’s composition speaks to me; oil cans and vintage tools. What’s not to love? Very nice work, Steve!

Photograph by Steve Hicks created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Steve Hicks (New Mexico)

*****

Patricia Isbell brought along this great hat and hat stand. As often happens, this is a composition that I would not thought to have done, but Patricia made it work, and that is one of the most rewarding parts of teaching. This image has such character.

Photograph by Patricia Isbell created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Patricia Isbell (Texas)

*****

Praveen Prakash is a professional jewelry photographer from Mumbai, India. He came here to learn how light painting could help in his commercial studio. We spent several days together, and made several images, but I am not sharing the jewelry images for proprietary reasons. He also made this luminous image of one of Vera’s perfume bottles. It was very interesting to learn about his culture and to work with someone who had never been to the U.S. before!

Photograph by Praveen Prakash created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Praveen Prakash (India)

*****

Juleann Vanbelle did a great job working through the challenges of this rather complex setup. There were lots of surfaces here, and therefore lots of learning opportunities. I think she did a fantastic job!

Photograph by Juleann VanBelle created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Juleann VanBelle (Massachusetts)

*****

John Smeeton photographed one of my favorite possessions; a torch that belonged to my father. He would be so pleased to see how this simple tool is celebrated and (one might say) monumentalized by John’s composition and great lighting!

Photograph by John Smeeton created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

John Smeeton (Ontario, Canada)

*****

Bob Maynard chose the challenge of photographing objects that are all somewhat similar; almost everything in the image is made of wood. It’s not a problem, as in my Sculpting with Light process, we decide the brightness of every surface in the photograph. Therefore, Bob was able to create an image with depth and dimension, even though the subjects were very close in color and tone. Nice work, Bob.

Photograph by Bob Maynard created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Bob Maynard (Colorado)

*****

Deanne Nigro’s composition is so cool; she chose to combine elements of different surface qualities and of very different sizes, adding to the challenge of pulling off a good composition. I also love the color scheme of her image. Nice work, Deanne.

Photograph by Deane Nigro created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Deane Nigro (New Jersey)

*****

Naomi Johnson has it all; glass, metal, texture, patina… but the most interesting part was how she dealt with the ruler and the box, and making sure that the ruler came forward and separated from the box. Of course, we can control the brightness of every element in an image, but figuring out how bright things should be can present a challenge. I think Naomi nailed it.

Photograph by Naomi Johnson created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Naomi Johnson (Minnesota)

*****

Chris Jewett, also back for his third workshop, created a very eclectic grouping! I love images in which objects don’t necessarily belong together, and the task of meshing these objects through light and tone is always so interesting to me. Once again, I love to see compositions that I would not think to do myself. Terrific work, Chris.

Photograph by Chris Jewett created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Chris Jewett (Maryland)

*****

Jack Upchurch pulled a fast one on me. In the workshop, I strive to keep the sets as simple as possible, yet there needs to be enough complexity for teaching opportunities. We had Jack’s set close to being worked out, and as I was working with the other student (I only have two students per workshop), I looked over at Jack’s set and saw this little human model sitting on it! Jack brought it with him, and snuck it in there, but I’m so glad he did, as the little guy is a perfect subject with which to teach the nuances of lighting and masking! Thanks, Jack, for bringing your little friend, and for adding in that hip implant!

Photograph by Jack Upchurch created at Harold Ross Light Painting Workshop

Jack Upchurch (Maryland)

*****

I like to say that the workshop is not about making a masterpiece, but is designed to teach a process and a way of thinking about light. I believe that my “Sculpting with Light” process is very transformative, and the images of ordinary objects shot by my students is a testament to that.

There are three ways to take a workshop with me:

Join a regularly scheduled workshop (new dates just added), see the schedule HERE.

If you have a friend or partner / spouse, you can set up your own workshop dates. More information HERE.

Take an individual workshop, and set up your own dates. More information HERE.

All images from students over the years are HERE.

For general workshop information please click HERE .

*****

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