Monday, January 27, 2014


I rarely photograph other people's art, unless I can create my own art from it. Such was the case when I attended this year's annual Breckenridge (Colorado) International Snow Sculpture competition. Even though I photographed several of the 12-ft sculptures, my favorite images were those where I "tightened up," or closed in tight to only a small portion of the large and ornate sculptures.

One particular sculpture got my attention: the Wisconsin team's sculpture titled "Wander," a story in a sculpture of the pilgrimage of the Monarch butterfly--did you know those little critters migrate between southern Canada and Mexico? It was a relatively warm sunny day in Breckenridge--something the artists don't like because their art begins to melt. Their disappointment served as fodder for my art. I tell my students that there's always a picture within a picture. After I photographed the detailed sculpture, I started scanning several parts of it, which led me to the swan-like shape on the upper left part of the sculpture. As I carefully inspected that piece, I noticed that the warming temperatures were creating a slow drip from the beak. I instinctively knew that was my shot.

After I got my composition, my next challenge was to catch a drop of melting cold water in mid air. I studied it first and mentally timed how long one single drop took to separate from the melting beak. In doing so I could also tell that when it did actually fall, it went very fast. So I knew I had to use a very fast shutter speed. I already had my ISO set 200, which is where I normally keep it. I chose f/8 because I didn't have much depth of field to play with. That combination gave me a shutter speed of 1/1600--more than fast enough to "freeze" those little drops in mid air. It took me eight tries to get what I wanted. 

Below is the entire sculpture. For a sense of scale, note the person to the left of the sculpture. As you can see, what I saw can be easily overlooked. That's why I like to slowly scan to see what else I can extract from the scene before me. This is part of my "I.S.E.E SOMETHING" model, which I discuss in my 3-day workshops in Rocky Mountain National Park, and which I will introduce in my upcoming book, RIGHT BRAIN PHOTOGRAPHY (Be an artist first). 

So, go out and see what you can extract from the big picture! Have fun.