Fine Art Photography Around The Web: Falling Leaves Edition

“The falling leaves drift by the window. The autumn leaves of red and gold.”—JOHNNY MERCER


Leaves haven’t started falling on Daisy Hill, but soon will be, and just as quickly the number of leaves needing to be raked reminds me of the thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of websites I’ve looked at and written about for Web Profiles over the years. The best are presented here but there are almost as many—maybe more—near misses that fail to make the grade because they lack focus. Not the pictures, mind you, but the purpose of having a site in the first place. While it may seem obvious to you it may not be to the person who lands on your homepage. Fall is a good time to reappraise and perhaps redesign your site for the New Year, giving it not just a new look but also a new purpose. Set a goal for your site and make sure that everything from the colors used to the words and images that appear go toward achieving that goal.
Santa Fe-based Elliott McDowell is best known for his composite imagery and a collection of these photographs are found in his book Mystical Dreamscapes, but this nicely realized site contains more than that in its six galleries. I dived into Photo Composites because that’s what McDowell is known for and was greeted by a page of thumbnails that, when clicked, display a large image with Next and Previous navigation. What immediately strikes you about McDowell’s lovingly crafted composites is that they appear to be “straight” shots but a second look tells you otherwise, all in the service of telling a story or creating a mood.

“Heartland Stigmata Triptych” could be real but of course it’s not, making the image of a silo with a graphic wrap all the more poignant. The monochrome “Stone People” appears to be an homage to Jerry Uelsmann but like all of McDowell’s work, is not what it looks like. It’s the subtlety of the faces in the rock pile that make exploring this image as much fun as perhaps searching for its inner meaning. By contrast, his Black & White photographs seem confrontational until after looking at several of them you realize the subjects seem completely relaxed in McDowell’s presence. And to keep you off-balance, his Balinese Portraits burst with color, creating images that could have been made for National Geographic when they started printing color in 1914. Here you’ll find a sense of the exotic mixed with beautifully executed traditional images. Elliott McDowell is a masterful photographer who resists being pigeonholed to a single genre, preferring to explore the possibilities of the medium.

© Elliott McDowell
Hunt Harris is located in the Quad Cities area and his perfectly realized website showcases his travel-oriented images in much the same way as his seemingly effortless but quietly beautiful imagery. Select from any of the 16 galleries and the screen fills with thumbnails; click on any one of them for screen-filling images that are navigated using forward and back arrows that appear when you need them. Bhutan Landscape captures much of the mystery and color of this unique country, but Harris is not just a “pretty picture” photographer and his Portraits of Bhutan gives an intimate look at the people of this small, landlocked Asian nation. For these images Harris’s style is an interesting mixture of documentary and traditional portraiture, producing an idealized, Kiplingesque view of his subjects. You see this again in his Portraits of India, which includes surprising and lyrical monochrome images of a colorful culture.

When he switches to color it produces portraits that are more direct than his Bhutanese images, including one that mixes color and black and white for a dramatic effect. Harris wants to keep you off-balance and after you see a few images you think you’ll see others like it, then he makes a hard turn showing you something different. His infrared images are perfect examples of this where he attacks architectural subjects, often turning them into a mesmerizing experience (see “Naperville Carillon”). In this way Hunt Harris shows himself to be a poet with a camera offering a highly personal yet stylized view of the world.

© Hunt Harris
David J. West is a photographer whose gallery is located in Springdale, Utah, not far from Zion National Park, so it’s not unexpected that two of his website’s galleries feature images made there. The landscape images in these collections feature tight, crisp compositions with a strong emphasis on color but don’t hit you over the head with unnaturally saturated colors. Especially worth noting are the images made in snow, showing an unseen side of Zion, and when he combines his skillful use of the panoramic format with a snowy landscape, as in “Winter Wonderland,” the results are stunning. There are more winter images in Zion National Park TWO, including “Winter Patriarchs,” that are noteworthy.

He moves out of the park into the South West gallery with images that sparkle with color and detail and there’s even a wonderfully peaceful snowy landscape shot in Canyonlands National Park that would look great hanging on anybody’s wall. All of these images are available for sale as limited edition prints at affordable prices. Slide your mouse over “prices” to see print sizes and prices. His Other Photographs gallery includes a sprinkling of seascapes captured with the unmistakable David J. West style applied to travel images, including photojournalism, proving that he is not a one-note shooter. But it’s the Western landscape that’s clearly his home turf and the sensitive images of Utah will stick in your mind.

© David J. West
November’s Shutterbug Reader-of-the-Month is Mike Biggs, whose website employs a stealthy yet elegant interface. Clicking “Menu Options” pops up a window that displays eight available galleries along with sample thumbnails. Even the scroll bar is disguised as the word “Portfolios” but when clicked reverts to a scroll bar, letting you skim through the thumbnails. While some collections contain travel-oriented photographs of Italy and other locations in Europe, I was drawn to his images of his former home in Delaware where his style roams between tranquil landscapes to a photojournalistic look at the state’s recreational activities. I was drawn to the landscapes not just by his emphasis on color but the strong sense of composition that makes you want to jump in and explore.

Biggs has since moved to Arizona and is working on building a stock library of that area. You can get a peek at what to expect in his Western Images collection, where the wide-open spaces expand his view of the landscape and include a few monochrome images. Then his creativity explodes with images such as “Antelope Sculpture” that looks like it was made on one of Jupiter’s moons. Best wishes to Mike Biggs in his new home and we await new images from “The Grand Canyon State.”

© Mike Biggs Photography