Dealing with a Low-Contrast Negative

written by: Bruce Barnbaum

In 2001, I made a extensive tour of some of my favorite areas of the Southwest, from the slit canyons of northern Arizona, to Bryce and Zion National Parks in southern Utah, then to Death Valley and the Owens Valley (i.e., along the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada Mountains) in California. I previously had been to each of the places numerous times, but the trip was a vivid reminder of the unmatched splendor of the scenery in that concentrated portion of our magical planet. The real purpose of the trip was to show an exchange student from the Republic Read more »

The Virtues of Abstraction and Patience

written by: Bruce Barnbaum

I began photographing Antelope Canyon on January 2, 1980, having discovered it late the previous afternoon, too late to begin any photography. I was the first person to ever photograph that extraordinary location, and several other slit canyons in the vicinity systematically, pushed by my fascination with them and my astonishment that such places could ever exist. In 1981, I began a series of workshops in nearby Page, Arizona, bringing many students to some of those canyons, and inadvertently helping to turn the area into the unfortunate tourist attraction it has since become. But the slit canyons have always remained Read more »


Death Valley Sand Dunes at Stove Pipe Wells

written by: Bruce Barnbaum

I visited Death Valley several times in the 1970s and became interested in photographing its sand dunes by the middle of that decade. But it was new subject matter for me, and one that confused me. I didn’t quite know how to approach the dunes, how to photograph them in a way that made them feel “right” to me. What I really was seeking was to have some amount of dunes at the base of a photograph with a spectacular sky full of exploding clouds above it. Well, you don’t always get what you wish for. I didn’t get the good Read more »


Your Light Meter Doesn’t Lie

Eyes may perceive light as even when it's not
written by: Bruce Barnbaum

Coutances Cathedral is located in northwest France. Though it is not one of the “storied” cathedrals of France (such as Notre Dame or Amiens) it is a marvelous structure. I visited the cathedral in 1999 on a 10-day trip through Normandy, prior to presenting a workshop in the south of France. The portion of the soaring structure that resonated with me the most was the east end of the cathedral, its rounded apse. The cylindrical columns holding up the magnificent vaults, as they curved gently around the eastern end was a truly amazing sight. Fortunately, I had a great deal of Read more »


Decision Time

Oftentimes one must choose the focus before composing an exposure
written by: Bruce Barnbaum

I always stress that two things are necessary for photographers to make a good photograph: they must have a strong rapport with the subject matter, and must understand fully how they respond to the scene at hand. When there are contradictions or crosscurrents, photographers must make a choice. For example, suppose you want to make a photograph of a person you find interesting and wonderful, yet you also recognize that the person is downright ugly. What do you do? Do you try to boldly depict the physically ugly person (who may then come across as repulsive to the viewer)? Or do you Read more »


Wait For It

written by: Bruce Barnbaum

In last issue’s Master Printing Class, I wrote about my impressions of Machu Picchu in Peru, and the photography I did there both prior to and during a workshop I instructed in April 2009 (specifically the first photograph I made there). This article deals with the final photograph I made at Machu Picchu, as the workshop drew to a close. I’m already looking forward to adding to the Machu Picchu portfolio when I travel down there again next year for another workshop. Machu Picchu lies at the head of the Amazon rainforest. It sits atop a knife-edge ridge 1,400 feet above Read more »


The Past, Present & Future Of Traditional Black and White Enlarging Paper

written by: Bruce Barnbaum

In the 1980’s fine art photography went through a wrenching period. The numerous excellent fiber-based enlarging papers manufactured by several companies were suddenly facing a huge threat: RC (or Resin Coated) paper. RC paper was quicker to work with, developing fully in just about a minute and was a fast way to fully process and dry prints. Plus it dried perfectly flat, not rippled or curled up like fiber based paper. It quickly became popular. So popular that it appeared possible that all the excellent fiber based enlarging papers would disappear under the onslaught of RC. In the midst of Read more »


A Study in Extreme Cropping

Cottonwood Sawtooth Ridge illustrates the advantages of radical surgery when required
written by: Bruce Barnbaum

One of the most spectacular roads I have ever driven is the Cottonwood Road in southern Utah, heading north from Highway 89 about 18 miles west of Page, Arizona, to arrive, approximately 75 miles later at the tiny town of Cannonville, Utah. Along the way—particularly the middle 35 miles—lies some of the most remarkable, ever-changing scenery anyone could imagine. But Cottonwood Road is a rough dirt road that is virtually impossible to traverse if wet. It crosses several streams, it gets washed out once in a while, and it often has other unpleasant surprises, so few people ever drive it. Those Read more »

Ghosts and Masks, straight print. The photograph is low in contrast, showing all the forms and details within the frame of the Mamiya 645 image.

Ghosts and Masks

Sometimes Images and Emotions Emerge from Photos When We're Not Expecting It- Be Ready to take Advantage
written by: Bruce Barnbaum

Throughout the 1990s, I led a huge environmental battle relatively near my home in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington State. A sand and gravel mining company wanted to put in an enormous gravel pit and hard-rock quarry in an extraordinarily sensitive area: The two-square mile proposed project was bordered by a salmon-spawning river on one side and a designated national scenic byway on the other. The gravel company had strong local political ties; other companies involved had very deep pockets. So despite winning a landmark legal victory in 1995 (when the project’s Environmental Impact Statement was found inadequate on 10 Read more »


Working with Abstraction in Photography

written by: Bruce Barnbaum

My entry into photography came via hiking and backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The monstrous river canyons with crashing waterfalls and cascades below 14,000′ granite summits and forests of enormous sugar pines, themselves dwarfed by giant sequoia trees, were so exciting to me that I was inspired to “capture them” on film. That was in the mid-1960s. Today my attitude has completely changed. First, I don’t think you can “capture” anything. I think you can document where you’ve been and what you’ve seen. If you’re really serious about things, you can go beyond mere documentation and try to convey Read more »