May 27th, 2021
Captured on medium format film a few decades ago. There are more lights in the Snake River Valley of east Idaho now. Over time, as technologies developed, first allowing for home office drum scanning, then later adequately combining of images into panoramic. Film will always remain quite a struggle in comparison. Dust spotting alone is time-consuming and even larger film sizes like medium format still created a kind of noise and what I describe as color blobs. Although it takes more work, I can now minimize these problems satisfactorily with more ease than say even just five years ago.
Noise was less of a problem in 4x5 inch and larger film but factors like dust spotting regardless of prep could take a couple of hours per image. Some talk about several major aspects we lost in all the transitions and I can agree. Still, if I use a 4x5 field system, it’s more for nostalgia. The hand-crafted 4x5 Wisner Classic on a Reiss Tripod stays in my living room as a decorative piece of art.
May 24th, 2021
Another silver state surprise. An artsy fireplace in the back of beyond. Evidence implies some of the later inhabitants of this ghost town were of unique character, inspired, or something else depending on interpretation. A variety of bricks, some concrete plus nearby stone, provided the canvas for a fireplace like no other.
The carefully fashioned walls are only of white sandstone gathered from a nearby bluff. But don’t stop there. Why not also paint every wall stone a different earth tone and then outline them with black where the motor holds them in place? Unfortunately, the characteristics of sandstone and of course weather caused much of the wall color to deteriorate. You can get a better idea of what the walls looked like under the fireplace mantel where it is more protected. It must have been quite a sight.
I suppose they might have considered it an experience to sit and watch a flickering fire glow bounce off multi-colored wall stones. Hmm, well, if given the opportunity, to me it would seem healthier to observe and not absorb. Maybe all the overly bright earth tones represented hues of the nearby cliffs or overall landscape. They are extensive, a fact I became more aware of after pondering this creation.
There’s more. They adorned the cabinet doors with perhaps a representation of the stars. It’s hard to say for sure based on the artwork, but with zero light pollution in such an isolated place, no doubt they took pleasure in the night sky as I did. Only two of the painted doors remain. I guess some (art fans) found the other doors theft-worthy. More of the work has fallen too senseless destruction. So much better if everything was just left alone for natural Wabi-sabi fading. Although the home/art project is now completely roofless, the fireplace is still in good working order, so it seemed an idea to build a fire for this image. I hope the spirits of artists’ past didn’t mind. Heat poured out with no smoke.
And in case you're thinking, I spent the night — no way. My camp nearby provided comfort without varmint infestation.
May 24th, 2021
These extraordinary and colorful patterns were discovered in rare Idaho gemstones. The official name for the stone is agate, which as a mineral variety is not all that rare, but incredible mineral assemblages and depositional textures like these are very rare. In fact, preliminary investigations by geologists show a one-of-kind discovery, unmatched anywhere on earth in texture, form, and color. Specialized equipment is used to cut the stone into slabs, revealing astonishingly intricate shapes and forms. These remarkable designs were naturally created in the Alder Creek Eruptive Center of the Challis Volcanics. Intrusive magma served as a heat source that created a convective (rising) mineral-bearing solution that interacted with the surrounding rock. Temperature, pressure and chemically controlled reactions between the mineral-bearing solutions and the surrounding rock wall resulted in the deposits that eventually hardened within open spaces or cracks in an epithermal (hot springs like) system. Temperature and pressure variations created a wide variety of textures and forms that can resemble impressionistic landscape paintings. An exquisite example of art in nature.
March 7th, 2021
We spend an astounding amount of corporate money creating structures in which people conduct business and pursue community goals. We expect human beings to be creative, to work, and to function at their best in the interior environments of these buildings. And yet, disturbingly often, little attention in maintaining a healthy, stimulating, and inspirational interior space results in their original purpose being dampened.
The simple, yet often overlooked reality, is that art and architecture have measurable effects. Any industry that relies on the productivity of human beings will benefit if we pay attention to this basic principle. Investments in wisely chosen artwork alone result in a more productive, healthy, competitive, and spirited group of individuals. There may even be fewer sick days, and people get along with each other better when surrounded by expressive and moving works of art.
An extensive business might spend millions on structures to house a workforce and then cover the walls with cheap or faded poster images under the guise of cost savings. This is standard practice, even in hospitals, where art could be of enormous benefit. It makes no sense, even in financial terms.
Organizations can reap the benefits of well-chosen art regardless of population size, regional culture, or business model.
Art is not something we live with, it’s something we can’t live without.
November 24th, 2019
Last July on the Continental Divide looking west into Idaho pre-sunrise, which means these light rays are anti-crepuscular — opposite of the sun. The convergence to a vanishing point is a visual illusion created by distance, same as looking down a railroad track where the lines seem to converge. Capturing them on a two-dimensional surface might spark some further pondering. Anyway, the anti version is almost always much dimmer than the counterpart but I’ve witnessed this a few times at high altitudes.
November 18th, 2019
Early 20th century truck in the ghost town of Berlin in central Nevada. Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park is called a hybrid park since it consists of the old town and some ancient fossil grounds in the nearby hills. Berlin is one of several towns that sprung up after a major ore vein called Union Ledge was discovered in the 1850s. A few residents remain in some of the other towns but history records Berlin as abandoned since 1911. It’s remarkable how much of it remains, this is largely due to some pretty heroic preservation efforts
October 2nd, 2019
I’m fortunate to have a first-hand history of this homestead written by Bernard L. Oberlander. It was his uncles, Miles and Karl Hollingshead that filed a claim for this 160-acre plot on the Idaho side of the Tetons in1910. Oberlander explained the details of everyday existence. Including their routines winter and summer while living in what must have seemed a remote and extraordinary place. In many ways, it is still remote and remains no less extraordinary. The earlier log cabins are nearby and I’m not sure when this cabin was built. The concrete foundation on the right is where an old-style windmill once stood. The Teton Land Trust and others have had a hand in preservation and artists need to get permission to paint or take photographs from the current landowner.
September 2nd, 2019
Many see fog, clouds, and mist as kind of depressing or cold. For me not only does it lend depth but also feelings of calm and quiet. There is a trail in the forest below where one can make silent steps on soft needles under huge old-growth trees. This is a true old-growth forest with an ecosystem all its own in the tip of Idaho near Canada.
August 25th, 2019
This is an area of historical significance in the Clearwater National Forest of northern Idaho. It’s a section of the Lewis and Clark route and the place were later 350 soldiers led by General Howard suffered from lack of experience in rugged mountain travel while chasing 750 Native Americans. Being much more accustomed to mountain travel, the Nez Perce outran Howard and his crew by 5 days, anyway, this is one historical timeline. What seems to be clear is Howard didn’t catch them in this country and the suffering of his group becomes apparent upon observing some of the older trees still showing the scars of stripped bark, the only thing they had to feed their horses. Unfortunately, after running for survival and making it through the mountains, the Nez Perce were slaughtered in the area now called Battle of the Bighorn by a different calvary group. This, in general, seems to be the course of events, details are sometimes debated similar to fine details regarding the Lewis and Clark expedition through this region. My work consisted of watching and trying to capture a sunrise over a vast dense forest, mountain layers, and steep canyons.
August 7th, 2019
In landscape art, hopefully, an image has something to say about an environment or maybe it reflects an emotional reaction to a scene. Regardless, the sensor (or film as the case may be) is the canvas and light is the brush.
August 5th, 2019
Some say Jarbidge Nevada is the most remote town in the lower 48 states however, this isn’t the only claim to fame. It might be where the last stagecoach robbery in the US took place. The speed limit is 10 MPH on the dirt road through the town which you might expect is called Main. Apparently, a few dozen year-round residents keep the place in check. There are some tiny art and gift shops and the people I encountered offered a friendly wave.
April 12th, 2018
Thousand Creek Gorge, northern Nevada. Hiking in the gorge requires some painful brush busting through head high rose bushes with needle-like thorns and some avoidance of poisonous plants. So overall a good experience with a few small wounds that will heal. Shorts and sandals are out of the question. Some narrow sections are boulder choked resulting in a few murky cascades and pools. Making this water drinkable would necessitate some serious settling and filtering — still questionable in my view so an overnight stay would be hard. Wildlife includes pigeons and raptors so it isn’t always silent as their utterances resonate off the cliffs. A shuttle could be arranged and it can be hiked from either direction. If raining, the roads to the canyon entrances are likely to be wicked mud.
April 1st, 2018
Another great thing about this work is the potential for a legacy. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Idaho used my photographs to raise over 33 million in donations for land preservation along the Snake River. At fundraising events the BLM presented slide shows of my work highlighting the largest riparian cottonwood forest in the west; and sixty miles of the South Fork of the Snake River, one of the most unique and diverse ecosystems in Idaho.
This is a good example of the power of photographic art. History shows that artists like Ansel Adams were instrumental in developing an awareness that led to the preservation of national treasures like Yosemite, Teton, Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. Millions of acres in the USA, and globally, have been preserved following awareness campaigns that included fine art photography.
When I first began to get serious about making images of nature, I had no way of knowing how many lives I would have a positive effect on. It feels good knowing that prints of my work hang in thousands of homes and offices and are serving as a calming reminder of the beauty of wild places. This story continues through the books, all of the other printed matter and anywhere else it has been reproduced or featured.
April 1st, 2018
The term for what I specialize in is generally referred to as fine art nature photography. When I'm ask how I got started doing this, I can't pronounce momentous events, sudden inspirations or a mentor experience. I'm not even sure when it was that I first picked up a camera. For me, this experience has been more like a lifetime of learning with dedication and practice. Similar to the commitment required for becoming an accomplished musician, painter, sculpture or a professional in other chosen mediums.
April 1st, 2018
Image of Leland Howard with Wisner 4x5 view camera. Even though a camera is just the tool used in this trade, the question most often asked is "what camera do you use"? So here goes, I've used a lot of different equipment over the years and one of my favorites was a Wisner 4x5 Technical Field. I lugged it around coupled with a wooden Reis tripod for about 15 years. When Hasselblad introduced their medium format D series I made the switch but I don't care much if someone uses an 11x14 view camera or an iPhone, what's important to me is the work. I just choose equipment to fit my style.
March 28th, 2018
Black Magic Canyon in south central Idaho. Sad to say some of the formations are now showing signs of graffiti and vandalism. I wonder sometimes if it would have been better to not show any photographs of this unique and amazing place but for the most part - as usual, awareness wins that debate for obvious reasons.
I spent more time in a deeper section during this last trip and became aware of something I hadn't fully realized before. Although the dominant colors in the carved basalt are of course black, gloss black and gray, light reflected off adjacent rock reveals different color hues ranging from light blue, to tan and sometimes varying shades of purple. It would take a much better writer than I to adequately describe the color changes depending on the angles of reflected light in this canyon that is an exquisite example of art in nature.
Over a period of about ten thousand years, the Big Wood River carved these sculpted forms in the hard basalt. So, someone in this time comes along and chisels their name and some verbal garbage - I would suggest not doing that.
Very Important information if you plan a visit: The water is now controlled by the Big Wood Canal Co. in Shoshone and the canyon is full during the irrigation season so early spring and fall are clearly the best times to visit. If you plan a visit you must call the canal company first. If you are in the canyon when they release water from the dam, it would be like a southwest flash flood in a slot canyon and there would no escaping. The number to call is 1-208-886-233.
March 28th, 2018
Montana, east, The famous wild horse, known as Cloud in the Pryor Mountains. This wild horse, given the name Cloud as a newborn colt by Ginger Kathrens when she did the PBS Nature series, has become kind of famous and his likeness is painted on the walls of buildings in the small towns beneath the Pryor Mountains. He was still an impressive and strong horse in 2012 when I made this image of him. He got very comfortable with my presence in a short time, which surprised me a little. I suspect the legend will live on for quite some time.
March 28th, 2018
Oregon, north-central, Geological formations aptly referred to as the Painted Hills in the John Day National Monument area. Years ago when I first started displaying images from here, the colors, shapes and patterns seemed unbelievable to some and were at times dismissed as unreal. As the area became more popular, that kind of skepticism has been subdued. Weather conditions, moisture content and of course time of day can dramatically change the tones, color density and hues. This phenomenon can also lead to comments like “I’ve been there and it doesn’t look like that”. The terminology that I like to use is art in nature and in this case, the look is related to geological eras including floodplain deposits from when this region of Oregon was warm and humid. Laterite soil (deposits rich in iron and aluminum) account for the reds, whereas the blacks are identified as lignite - a low-grade coal formed by the compression of partially decayed vegetation (Peat). The other more typical grey coloring is shale, mudstone or siltstone. Then there are the mixtures that vary from gold to yellow and may even appear a light blue under the right lighting conditions. Overall it was a unique set of events that created this magnificent place.
February 2nd, 2016
Despite possible cultural pressures, one shouldn't be apologetic when enjoying natural beauty as subject matter in an art form. It is an island of respite in a world focused on tragedy. Beauty and nature offer the kind of hope and uplift we need for balance and health.
February 4th, 2015
Autumn view from the Cress Creek Preserve. Idaho is my home state and sometimes I can receive a little bereavement from residents when I travel and work in other states or regions. I think for the most part though people do understand what it takes to make a living at this and then of course there is the added benefits of exploration and adventurous travel. Still, it's always a pleasure to represent Idaho when I can, after all it is home and without question, a great place to live.
February 28th, 2013
Capturing the grandeur of a large landscape scene can be one of the most difficult challenges. Far to often the magnificence is lost when rendered on a small two dimensional plane. A lifetime is spent in search of ideal conditions along with beautiful light that might, among other things, create the illusion of a three dimensional space. This clearing storm in Zion National Park of southern Utah was just such an opportunity. I refer to it sometimes as the attempt to do a landscape justice. When the conditions are right, everything has to be done correctly in what can be a very short period of time. Over the decades I've missed far more opportunities than I've been successful at. It's the nature of the game and the learning process.
December 18th, 2012
Recently, while giving a talk, I was ask: "What makes your photography better than others"?. The question caught me a bit off guard because I don't think in terms of being better than others. For me its about sharing a vision and maybe along the way if I could raise awareness, that would be a positive contribution. So I just do what I can and it's gratifying to learn when I have helped someone gain a better appreciation of our brief moment in the sun.
May 10th, 2011
Bronze award winner in the Epson International Photographic Pano Awards
April 21st, 2011
I look for areas that have different and far less photographed perspectives such as this view of the cliffs of Zion National Park from the BLM land just adjacent. It pays off sometimes with unique work and another advantage is not having to fight the crowds.
March 31st, 2011
The Cress Creek Nature Trail and preserve in east Idaho is becoming increasingly popular. The BLM has so far procured about 24 million for land easements, trail and bridge work at this site using my work in slide shows. It's a nice place to go for a hike, is less than an hours drive from Idaho Falls and the trail offers great views of the Snake River. Cress Creek itself is a wetland and spring on the side of the mountain with nice cascades and Cottonwood trees.
March 24th, 2011
Over the years I have had the opportunity to visit hundred's of businesses large and small involved in about everything you could imagine. An unbelievable amount of corporate money is spent creating structures for people to conduct business or whatever in. Humans are expected to create, work and generally function at their best in the interior environments of these buildings. What I find disturbing is how often so little attention is paid in creating a healthy, stimulating and inspirational interior space.
Here is a simple yet often overlooked reality. Art has an effect on us. Just about any industry that requires people will benefit greatly if they pay attention to this basic principle. Investments in wisely chosen artwork can result in a much more productive, healthy, competitive and spirited group of individuals. There may even be fewer sick days and people tend to get along with each other better when surrounded by expressive and moving works of art.
A large business might spend multi millions on a structure to house a work force and then cover the walls with cheap and even faded images on poster paper under the guise of cost savings. Believe it or not, I've seen this happen in hospitals where art could be of enormous benefit. It makes no sense. In the past I have seen so many offices, work areas etc. that are depressing and one could even describe as painful to enter. When I require a service, I do what I can to avoid these places and I know others do the same. Imagine the effect it must have on employees who have to spend what could be a fairly large portion of their life in a place where what makes us human is denied.
What a difference a relatively small investment can make. It didn't bother me waiting for help in my local cell phone providers building - Edge Wireless. There were a least a few nicely produced landscape works on the walls that I enjoyed looking at. It's obvious that the marketing agents for Edge Wireless decided on what they see as remote landscape art to promote their signal coverage. I kind of doubt they realized the other positive effects this display would produce.
Some corporations have realized how important the arts are when designing an environment to house people. It seems to happen more often in larger population centers and resorts. There really isn't a valid reason why this happens more in these areas, most organizations can realize the benefits regardless of location, regional culture or attitudes.
Art is not something we live with; it's something we can't live without.
August 24th, 2010
Knowing what to photograph by Leland Howard
Knowing what to photograph is similar to the process involved in other mediums. How does a painter know what to paint or how does the musician know what to play? Mostly it's what moves you in some way. Photographically if you care about the subject it will show in the work.
Of course conditions, weather and assignment contracts play a big role. If I'm not under a contract obligation then experience that allows for hopefully maximizing opportunities comes into play. However, explaining the requirements for knowing where and what to photograph might perpetuate the common myth that once in a location, the tool (camera) does the work.
Take for example your cold winter day with a sky full of stars and sparkling snow. What can the artist create that will do this justice? Remember how you felt looking at that scene. Did you wonder if it was possible to create something, a piece of art, which would make a viewer feel something similar?
An artist may never be able to do nature justice, but some gratification can be found in the challenge. Occasionally an image might be created that at least can be described as worthy.
I'm never completely satisfied with an image. If I were, this could indicate a point of stagnation and one thing an artist must do is continue to grow. I can say I accomplish what is necessary, especially when under contract, but otherwise the goal is never so concrete that would allow me to say that I accomplish what I set out to do. There are to many variables. Sometimes I'm able to create something better than what I was visualizing for an area simply due to conditions like the quality of the light or the balance of a scene. Other times (far to many) the opposite is true.
Here is something to think about. Instead of calling it taking pictures, try calling it creating an image or painting with light. You're not taking anything and all you are recording is light - all we see is light. Objects, color and contrast become apparent because of how light reacts with the elements in an environment.
I don't always know where to go but educated guesses are very helpful. Since I specialize in wilderness, seasons play a role. Then simple things can also help like topo maps. By studying the terrain on a map, I can often tell what areas would have the most potential in different light conditions. Also I will often travel to the same area many times over to learn it and get a feel for when conditions might be right.
Having said this I can tell you that it is also fun to just hit the road and see what I find. Many times I don't where I will end up. This is good feeling, I guess it's freedom. I can burn sometimes and find myself having to stop due to exhaustion in a place that's nothing to write home about but I live for the times I come upon a spectacular place. I've seen some amazing things in my life and very often there're not in the most famous places.