The Artist’s Sunset – Oregon Coast

Artists Sunset – Ken Whitmire in Pacific City Oregon. Fall 2011 by Gavin Seim.

It was one of those Sunsets. The ones with stunning clouds and radiant colors that seem to last forever. Like a great song that keeps on playing. I was on a road trip to the Oregon Coast with Ken Whitmire, the renown portraitist. Ken was working with a family on the beach in Pacific City and I assisted, while getting images and video for a project we were working on.

About halfway through Ken was on his ladder, having this family of five walk down the beach. I just stood back and watched. A bit envious of the amazing portraits he was going to take home. It was a stunning evening. I took in the incredible ocean landscape with some awe. In between video clips, I decided to go vertical and try to illustrate Ken as the working professional in his environment. I hoped for a sort of memorable feel that that artists and photographers could relate to.

This has been really well received. I admit, I did not realize it would strike such a chord, but I’m glad it did. To me this says something about creative craftsmanship and taking your time. It reminds us to take the extra steps up that ladder to make an image Great. That’s what Ken Whitmire has done for over fifty years and I’m glad I got to be  a small part of that.

Our road trip was a memorable one in more ways than one. In fact by brother and I wrote a short short story about this trip. You can read that here on the Brothers Seim blog.

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For photographers. How it was made…

Canon 5D MK2, 24-79L 2.8 @31mm, f5.6, ISO400, 1/800 sec, Induro tripod.

Though this was a long sunset, things were moving pretty fast at this point. Ken was working with the family and I was helping out with lights and such. That and working to get video footage for our project. But I remember realizing that I was moving too fast. I stopped about this time and said to myself “slow down, think about what you have here.”

It can be hard to slow and think while under even a little pressure. I made myself stop and think. Where’s the subject, where’s the rock, how much space, what about a vertical? I slowed down enough to visualize a bit and it paid off, as it always does. I also din the more I visualize, the more natural it becomes. We need to stop the clicking and take the time to “see” the elements in a scene and decide how they should be used. The rock provided a counter balance here and taking the time to consider that, told me I should move over, keeping that space between it and the subject. I just took a little time to think it through. Perhaps not even enough. There are still elements I think I could have done better. It’s easy to neglect to really “see” when we get caught up in the moment.

The light and color here was stunning already (the best kind) and processing was not complicated. I used Power Workflow 3 in Lightroom to start with. I believe it was the Super Gentle and Heritage presets, making things pop and colors shine. Then I took some extra time, dialing settings more precisely. This is generally how I use effects. In a large batch I may a apply a global corrections and call it good. But for my best, I’ll refine further and make them sing.

Next I went into Photoshop and did a bit of burn and dodge to bring out extra cloud detail and control tonal values. For the final version you see here, I went back with that same file into PS, and worked a bit more. A little pixel painting to control detail and even a tad bit of retouching to remove a few pieces of lens strap that were sticking out. Small things, but when an image is going to print I analyze the details. Interestingly there is almost no clipped black  and no clipped white in this. Though areas look black, there is some little detail in all but the smallest areas. I like keeping black and especially white clipping to a minimum.

In the end I’m really happy with the result. I must confess I did not expect this to strike the chord that it did. I’m glad I slowed down and thought about the scene. Every time that pays off, it serves to remind me to slow down and think carefully even more next time. Anyone can make a snapshot, but a photographer needs to do something more. We need to Raise the Bar.


Here’s me with Ken at WPC 2012 showing off the very first of the 36in edition.


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