Best in Show

Last summer I took part in my first fine art photography show in over ten years– the Bar Harbor “Art in the Park” show in Maine. This annual fair at the gateway to Acadia National Park is a showcase for painters and photographers to show and sell their art.

The most popular print at the show- a 40×60″ metal print

I custom printed over forty-five large (16×20 to the large 40×60-inch metal print above) limited edition prints for the show, as well as over 120 open edition 8×10’s, a new Acadia Centennial poster, and sold several copies of my book. It was my first time participating in the show, but the response to my work was very gratifying. The icing on the cake came a few days later when I was surprised to learn my photography had been awarded “Best in Show.” I’ll definitely be back next year to do it all again.

Personal Projects: Fine Art Photography and the Essence of Trees, Part 1

 

 

I make my living as a commercial photographer– I listen to my clients and do my best to carry out their vision, whether that means photographing a luxury apartment complex, a famous politician, a medical team, or executive portraits. I ask a lot of questions- how will the pictures be used, who will the audience be, and what’s the end result you want from the pictures? I have to listen carefully, then translate their ideas into a well-crafted photo.

But every once in a while, I have to get away and photograph my own personal vision. This is where the fine art photography side of my business comes in. For over two years, I’ve been working on a new project photographing trees. But just not any trees; these are special trees photographed in a unique way. I call the project Essence, because I’m not making literal photos of the trees– their trunks, branches and leaves. Instead, I’m using camera movement to capture their essence- what makes them special. It might be the color of the leaves, the shape of the trunk or the size of the trees.

In these images, I’m photographing the trees from multiple angles, often walking 360 degrees around the tree, taking pictures every few steps then combining up to fifty images into one finished photo. I end up with some very unique tree portraits. I’ve looked around but I only know of one photographer making similar images, so these are unique portraits. As much as they look like standard pictures of trees, often the trees don’t look anything like their finished portraits. The image below is one of twelve pictures that make up the image above.

The technique doesn’t work with any tree; I’ll sometimes look for hours to find one that will work. Then it can take two or three hours or more on the computer to combine all the images into a finished photo. I’ve been using a medium format, 51MP camera to make the pictures, and with the larger file size, the final photos can exceed 4 gigabytes or more. But the detail is incredible– layers upon layers of leaves and branches that combine to create an Impressionist masterpiece.

 

To see more finished images, visit my fine art website, www.hudsonfineart.com/trees-gallery-2.

 

Self Publishing a Coffee Table Book

For nine years, I had been traveling to Acadia National Park (Maine) every Autumn to photograph the foliage, coast, lakes, mountains and everything else on Mount Desert Island. And for most of those years, I found myself wondering what to do with all the photos I was making. I had a website, Images of Acadia, which is a nice way for others to see your photos, but website pictures are small, and the photos deserved a better venue to be seen properly. Though I’ve sold a number of prints over the years, wall prints are expensive, and finding buyers with free wall space and the money to buy a quality print isn’t always easy. Eventually I realized that most people can afford a book, and if it’s done right and the pictures are good enough, it will sell.

Towards the end of 2014, I’d decided I would publish a coffee table book. The biggest market for the book would be at the national park– in the bookstores, gift shops and Acadia visitors center. I already sell posters in the visitors center, so I had a contact there. I wrote to her and asked if she thought my book was worth pursuing, and did she think it would it sell. Her words to me were, “Love the idea. We are always being asked for coffee table type books. People want to give them as gifts or want a hardback high quality book for themselves. I think it will sell!” That was enough for me to push ahead with the project.

I knew it wasn’t going to be a small undertaking, but I had no idea how much work it would involve. I had to find an experienced printer to make the book for me. I planned to self-publish it, but someone had to print the actual book. I knew there were services out there like Blurb and Apple Books, but the quality is marginal at best. My book would have to be done on a traditional offset press. After searching around, I learned that the minimum print run I could do was 500 books. Any less just wasn’t worth the cost involved, and would push the per-book cost up, so I decided to do a print run of 1,000 copies.

I searched the internet and found a company in Michigan that could handle the printing. I had a sample book sent to me to check on the quality, but wasn’t convinced. I decided to drive the three or four hours from my home in Chicago to visit the company and look through other samples, ask questions and meet some of the people who would be helping with the production of the book. It was a good day out, and I left Michigan satisfied, knowing they were my printers of choice.

Publishing a book is very expensive, obviously. I couldn’t afford to print the books myself, so I turned to Kickstarter to raise the funds for the book. I read up all I could find about Kickstarter campaigns and a month later, I had scripted, filmed and edited a promo video that I liked enough to use on Kickstarter (click here to read more about my experience with Kickstarter). And amazingly… thirty days after the campaign started, 108 people had successfully funded most of the book’s printing costs. Work on producing the book could now kick into a higher gear.
I’d already laid out the design and chosen the photos before the Kickstarter campaign began, but now I needed someone with expert knowledge to help me lay out the design of the book. My good friend Dean, who works at a publishing house– and is a book designer– offered to help me out. For about three months Dean and I went back and forth, sending pdf’s to each other, gradually shaping the book to look just like I wanted it.
I own several fine art photographers’ books and based a lot of my design and choice of paper stock, etc. on those books. I had decided early on that the book had to be the highest quality possible within a reasonable price, so that meant using a heavyweight, 180gsm paper (for an additional $540) that would complement the photos well, along with a cloth cover and quality dust jacket.
By June, the book was at the printers and the long wait for proofs, etc. began. After several weeks and additional changes, the whole process was underway and the presses were finally rolling. A couple advance copies came to me by mid-September and I was able to take them with me on my trip to Acadia in October. I used these copies to show at the visitor center and to the president of the Acadia Corporation, which owns several stores around the Park. All agreed to carry the book when it became available.
Finally, in mid-November, I got a call to say my books were on the way. 167 boxes of six books each arrived on three pallets at my garage. A few days later, on my birthday, I spent the whole day driving to northern Illinois (twice) to pick up shipping supplies– my van couldn’t fit them all in one trip.
Now the Kickstarter backers have been given their copies of the book, and several copies have been sent to Acadia to be sold in stores there. A number of them have been sold though my website (acadiaphotobook.com), in three local stores and on Amazon. The tourists are all but gone in Acadia right now, so I’ll have to wait until Memorial Day when it gets busy again to see how the book sells. If it sells well, I’ll be ordering another 1,000 or more books, so a portion of my profits will be used to fund the next printing.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. Will the book be successful? Will it sell enough copies? I don’t know. Time will tell. But if the reaction of some of the people who have bought it are any indication, I think I’ll be re-ordering more books some time in the near future.

Under October Skies finished book

Under October Skies finished book

Under October Skies finished book

Under October Skies finished book

Under October Skies finished book

Under October Skies finished book

Under October Skies finished book

To buy a copy of the book, visit Images of Acadia. The cost is $75 and includes free shipping to all US addresses. This is the only place to get a signed copy of the book.

My New Book: Art, Beauty and Photography

Sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, Maine, USA

I’ve bought a few large, coffee table photography books (Michael Kenna, John Sexton and Nick Brandt are some of my recent purchases), and they’re beautiful works of art. Heavy paper, with rich, large prints that fill the page– you just can’t compare it to looking at pictures on the internet. You have to hold their photos in your hands to really appreciate how beautiful they are.

For the last nine years, I’ve been traveling to the far northeast corner of America every October, to a small island where I spend a week photographing the landscape at Acadia National Park. Now, I’ve put all my best images into my first coffee table photography book. I’ve been planning this book for years, and have spent a lot of time over the past few months putting it all together… and I’m really excited about how beautiful this is going to be. A professional book designer is doing the layout, and a book publisher with experience creating photography art books is doing the printing.

I wanted total control of which pictures would go in the book, as well as all the design elements, so I made the decision to self-publish the book. Unfortunately, publishing a book is incredibly expensive so I’m using Kickstarter to raise funds for the printing costs. If I get the money needed for an initial print run of 1,000 copies, I’ll be covering the remaining expenses of distributing the book and rewards for everyone who backs the project. If all goes to plan, the book will be done by mid-summer.

The book will be big (12×12 inches), with large color and black and white prints. Panoramas will cover the double page spreads, measuring almost two feet wide. The book is 144 pages long, with notes at the back about how I made some of the images, as well as some background information on Acadia.

If you’d like to get a copy of the book, please consider supporting my Kickstarter project by pre-ordering a copy starting at $50 (retail price will be about $60). On Kickstarter, you pledge money to back a project, and get rewards for different levels of support. I’m giving out copies of the book, large wall prints and a photography workshop with me in Acadia (or in Chicago) as just some of the rewards for backers of the project. If the project doesn’t get the full funding, you won’t be charged for your pledge, so you won’t lose money if you decide to back the project.

To find out more and watch a short video I made to promote the book, visit my Kickstarter page here.

One last thing- please share this post on your Facebook page, your blog, tweet about it and let your photography-loving friends and artists know. The more people that hear about it, the more chance we have of seeing the book get printed. Sharing buttons are below the last photo on this page.

I really believe this could be the most beautiful book you’ve ever owned. Below are some samples of images from the book. Email me with any questions. Thanks for your support!

Dawn at Otter Cliff, Acadia National Park, Maine, USA

single image dummy single image dummy 2 pano book dummy Sunset at Jordan Pond- the Bubble Mountains, Acadia National Park, Maine, USA Abstract Aspen Trunks, Acadia National Park, Maine, USA The coastline around Otter Cliff, Acadia National Park, Maine, USA Beaver Dam Pond at dusk, Acadia National Park, Maine, USA

The Most Beautiful Camera in the World

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

This past weekend, I gave my fifteen year old son a photography lesson. He’s interested in video more than photography (he’s actually really good at video production), but he still didn’t know the basics of exposure- aperture, shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, etc. So I brought out my old Zone VI 4×5″ large format field camera, with its Schneider lens, to show him what it’s all about. It’s a lot easier to teach someone how a lens works when you can see the aperture opening up and set the shutter and aperture right on the lens, like you can on a large format lens. I haven’t taken a picture with the camera for a few years, but every time I get it out, I’m struck by how beautiful it is. I’ve owned more than thirty cameras and the Zone VI tops them all for sheer good looks. It even has gold plated fittings (a little tarnished now), and is made from Honduras Mahogany. And it was made in the USA (Vermont).

I bought the camera brand new in 1993; most people seem to think it’s a relic from the 1920’s or older. It’s a large format camera, which uses 4×5-inch sheet film. That’s twenty square inches of film. As a comparison, 35mm film measures a little over one square inch. Most consumer digital cameras have sensors measuring less than an inch. With a large format camera, you can make images with incredible resolution and sharpness. Ansel Adams often used 8×10 or even 11×14-inch large format cameras. There’s a 20×24-inch Polaroid camera you can still rent in NYC or SF, with film costing $200 a shot.

But film was never cheap, and it took some time to set up a large format camera like the Zone VI, so you had to plan your photography before you ran out and shot off your camera like a machine gun. If you planned well though, and conditions were right, you could create some of the sharpest prints you’ve ever seen. I first used this one on a trip to Colorado in June 1993, then brought it to England a year later. The last time I used it was for black and white portraits a few years ago. I have a box of 4×5 black and white film in the freezer; I’d love to shoot some more portraits again soon.

I had a digital camera lying around when I brought out the Zone VI this weekend, so I started taking pictures of the camera itself. Some were taken with a Canon 5DMk2, others with a Pentax 645Z medium format digital camera (with a macro lens). Hope you like the pics.

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

My Zone VI 4x5 Honduras Mahogany Camera

 

The Adventures of Mike’s Camera is the blog of freelance photographer, Mike Hudson. He is available for commercial photography assignments– marketing, corporate, editorial, annual reports, lifestyle, web page photography, and events. His clients have included many regional and national magazines and newspapers, several healthcare providers, colleges, hotels, architectural firms, small businesses and more. Visit MichaelHudsonPhotography.com to check out his portfolio or contact him via email.