Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson: Blog en-us (C) 2017 Dusty Demerson. Please do not use our photos without permission (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Thu, 05 Nov 2015 23:10:00 GMT Thu, 05 Nov 2015 23:10:00 GMT Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson: Blog 90 120 5 Must-See Places for Crested Butte Fall Color Local pro photographers never miss these locations during the fabulous fall color extravaganza around Crested Butte, Colorado. You won’t want to miss these spots either!

  1. The East River valley between Mount Crested Butte and Gothic.East River Fall Color Near Gothic ColoradoDSC4121 2. Gothic Mountain from Washington Gulch.  Gothic Mountain fall colorDUS9544st-Panorama 3. Colorful Mount Whetstone just outside of town.Tucks cabin and Mount WhetstoneDUS6553 4. Kebler Pass and The Beckwith Mountains.
    East Beckwith Mountain fall colorEast-Beckwith-Fall-Color1

    East Beckwith Mountain surrounded by brilliant fall color near Kebler Pass in western Colorado.

    5. Ohio Pass and the Castles.

    The Castles rock formations in the West Elk Wilderness Area of Colorado surrounded by an aspen forest in peak fall color.Aspen-Castles

    The Castles rock formations in the West Elk Wilderness Area of Colorado surrounded by an aspen forest in peak fall color.

    5. Ruby Mountain, Mount Owen and the dyke. Keep your eyes peeled for photographers from all over the USA at this location. (It’s best visited in the late afternoon)

    Ruby, Owen and the dykeRubyRangeColorofFall

    Mount Owen, Ruby Mountain and the dyke from Horse Ranch Park.

    Bonus…if you’re up for a bit of an adventure you’ll want to extend your journey over Kebler and McClure passes to the famous town of Marble, Colorado. From there it’s a rough 6 miles to the historic Crystal Mill, one of the most photographed places in Colorado.

    The historic and famous Crystal Mill along the Crystal River between the Colorado towns of Crystal and Marble. While not actually a mill, the historic building actually provided compressed air to run local mining operations on Sheep Mountain.Crystal-Mill-Colors

    The historic and famous Crystal Mill along the Crystal River between the Colorado towns of Crystal and Marble. While not actually a mill, the historic building actually provided compressed air to run local mining operations on Sheep Mountain.

    For those who want a more guided experience, I offer half and full day private and small-group tours which would take you to the best color available during your visit. Email me a for more information.

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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Photography Aspen autumn Crested Butte fall fall color Landscape Thu, 24 Sep 2015 11:41:54 GMT
Using Adobe Photoshop to Achieve a Hand-Tinted Effect hand-tinted Crested Butte ColoradoCBSpotColor-610

Colorful homes and buildings of Crested Butte, Colorado below the towering peaks of Paradise Divide.

Technology makes achieving old-time techniques easy

The earliest forms of color photography involved applying oil paints to traditional black and white images. There are lots of examples of these hand-tinted photographs still around. Most of them were tinted using less-vibrant colors and ended up looking like pastel-colored soft, romantic images. The effect was really popular with portraits but still somewhat acceptable with landscapes and architectural studies.

When I first opened my studio I was constantly searching for ways to set myself apart from the other photographers in town. I tried my hand at hand-tinting photographs that I had created. I could never get the technique down. I guess my hand-eye coordination was a little lacking because I spent more time trying to take the paint off places than I did putting it on. I still liked the effect but I just didn’t have the skill or patience for creating this type of art.

Twenty years and lots of digital technology later, achieving a hand-tinted photo look is amazingly simple to achieve. By using traditional digital printing techniques we only have to “paint” the first copy making the technique a cost-effective way of creating a unique piece of art that we can re-sell over and over again.

Here’s how it’s done. Using Adobe Photoshop open your color photograph and do your usual edit/enhancement work. Use “save as” and save your edited photo as a .psd or .tif file with a different name or just add “bw” to the file name. If you were using layers to achieve your edits (as you should) you should flatten your photo before saving. Don’t close the image.

At this point you want to duplicate your background layer giving you two identical copies of your photo on two layers. Create a layer mask on the top layer. Now, using your favorite method of converting a color image into a black and white image, turn the top layer into a black and white version of your photo. At this point you will have a black and white photo on your monitor with a color version hidden underneath.

Now click on the layer mask you created, highlighting the mask. Using the paintbrush tool with the foreground color set to black, paint the black and white layer allowing the color of the layer below to show through. You can adjust the opacity of your brush as you paint on the mask to allow more or less color to show through as you paint although on the image above I used 100% opacity since I wanted more-vibrant colors. I usually start with a big, soft-edged brush for larger areas, then clean-up the edges with a small, hard-edged brush.

Once you return the color to the parts of your image that you want to be in color, you can adjust the saturation and hue of the colors by making those adjustments to the bottom (color) layer. You can play around with soft and hard-edged brushes of different sizes to get the effect you like best. Now save your layered photograph so you can continue to refine your edited version.

“Playing” is my favorite approach to learning new techniques because it takes all the pressure of “creating a work of art” off of the photographer. With a little practice this technique can be added to your toolbox and can provide an “old-time” look to some of  your favorite images. You may even find that this technique can “save” a photo that you like but just isn’t hitting a home run. Have fun!

You can always see more of my photography at

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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Art Photography Technique black and white color instruction photoshop Tech Talk The art of photography Thu, 20 Mar 2014 13:24:59 GMT
Creating Emotional Photographs iconic estess barn in snowIconic-Estess-Barn

The landmark barn between Gunnison and Crested Butte, Colorado during a snow storm.

Breaking the Rules to Create Photographs With Feelings

by Dusty Demerson

Way back when I was learning photography in school the concept of a white point and a black point in a finished print could not be expressed strongly enough. It’s a concept that Ansel Adams writes about in his materials and most other photographic educators, myself included, tend to agree with.

The principal states that there should be some area within the image that should fall on pure white and an area that should represent the darkest black within the image. If this approach is followed the print will contain a full range of tones and thus will be a “perfect” print. It will also be visually pleasing since a full tonal range is presented. This concept more-strongly practiced in black and white photography but still holds true in fine color print-making as well. How many landscape images have you seen where the area below the horizon looks great but the clouds are “blown out” and pure white? Where does your eye go when you look at such a print? It goes to the sky. Our eyes tend to fall on the brightest areas of a scene first. If that area has no detail or texture, we have created a weak print that pulls our eyes away from the subject and into the sky. While having both an area of black and area of white represented in the print, we need to be careful how much area within the print represents these tones.

While this approach is not the worst way to teach print-making to new photographers it falls far-short of providing good guidance in making expressive prints. While most great photographs will have a black point or a white point within their edges, not every scene offers a tonal range that broad. The scene above is a great example. I could have stretched the tonal range of the image so there was a black area in the loft of the barn. I could have also made the snow pure white. The photograph would have been technically excellent since a full tonal range would have been represented. The photograph would have also looked garish and unnatural. The finished image would not have created the emotional response of a barn in a snow storm. Creating an emotional response by our viewers is the whole point of professional photography. Ideally, we can evoke the same emotional response we had when we stopped to make the photo. Sometimes our photographs will contain a full tonal range. Sometimes we must be willing to bend the rules to create an emotional photograph.

The next time you sit down at your computer to prepare an image for print, step back for a moment and look at your screen. Does your photograph recreate the feeling that caused you to pick up the camera or have you edited the “life” out of your image? Rules and guidelines are a great place to start learning a craft but at some point we have to be willing to move beyond rules and create images with feeling and emotion.

See more of my photography at


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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Art Photography Technique atmosphere Dusty Demerson instruction Tech Talk The art of photography theory Sun, 09 Feb 2014 10:48:32 GMT
It’s Easier to Earn a Living as a Photographer Crested Butte Colorado winter panoramaCBWinter2010

The past several years have been difficult for artists. Many brick-and-mortar galleries have closed and that trend seems to be continuing into 2014. Even very successful galleries in art destinations like Santa Fe, New Mexico are closing their doors and “going private”.

Difficult times for art galleries mean difficult times for artists too. Several galleries that were quite successful selling my work a few years ago have dropped to zero sales in the past year or so. Sales of art through the traditional gallery model have been challenging, to say the least, for the past several years now. It’s not just photography either. Sales of all types of art have been declining since the economy turned south. Only the extremely high-priced collectible and rare works have been able to hold their value.

That being said, 2013 was my best year ever for selling my landscape photography. Since I live in rural Colorado where there are relatively few gallery opportunities and even less potential buyers, I had decided a long time ago that gallery representation would have to be supported by a strong online presence and other opportunities. Art fairs have provided great opportunities to find new collectors in the past few years. Another growing niche for landscape photographs is stock photography. While the stock photography market in general is a challenging place to earn any real income, unique local images can still demand good money from clients wanting a strong geographic presence on their websites and in their brochures and advertising.

As an artist that loves most aspects of his craft, I also enjoy creating lifestyle family portraits and a few portfolios for high school seniors. While the family portrait and wedding photography business used to be my “bread and butter” only the family portrait side of the business provides significant income today. While many photographers are complaining that the iPhone is putting them out of business, I would maintain that if they are competing with iPhone users they aren’t really photographers at all. Real photography clients are still investing in adequately sized and beautifully presented images of landscapes and their families. However, 2013 marked the first time in my history that my landscape photography income eclipsed my portrait and wedding income.

With all the diverse ways to turn photography into income-producing work I have to say that as artists, we have it pretty easy. Painters, sculptors and other artists don’t have nearly the variety of outlets for their artwork as photographers do. Even though photography, in general, doesn’t command the same prices, our costs are generally much lower and our opportunities are greater than any other medium. Art belongs on the walls and in the halls of homes, offices and public spaces but photography, like no other medium, can also be used on web pages, note cards, brochures and anywhere else an image can tell a story or support a concept.

It’s time to get back behind the camera!

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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Art Business Photography Artist Crested Butte Photographer Tue, 28 Jan 2014 12:04:46 GMT
Why Artists are Starving The Business of Being an Artist


We’ve all heard the term “Starving Artist” and we probably all know friends who fit the description. I’m sure there are many reasons why artists tend not to be prosperous financially. Of course, there are a few great exceptions to this statement but I’ll bet there are more that are struggling than prospering. I’ll use a personal situation as an example.

I’m involved with a local co-op gallery of wonderful artists. We have a good (but not great) location on the main street of my small, tourist – oriented town. Our rent is partially subsidized by another organization that uses the back of our location for their offices. Each artist pays rent of $80 per month and works an 8 hour shift in the gallery each week. Let’s assume that any of the artists could get another job for $8 an hour which is the low-end of the pay scale in my town. If you crunch the math the monthly cost of participating in the gallery is $80 in rent plus 32 hours at $8 each, or $336. Typically we only pay rent for the 4 months of the season so our seasonal cost would be $1344. The gallery keeps a 20% commission for its operating expenses so each artist needs to sell $1,680 in art each season to break even….sort of. Put another way, we each need to sell $420 worth of art each month.

Let’s say I do sell $420 this month. Great! Well, not really. First of all, I’m doing this calculation using a minimum wage formula that would still qualify me for food stamps and other social bail-outs. It’s also an affront to my college education, not to mention grad school. But let’s move on. So I sold $420 worth of my art this month giving me $336 in take-home pay. To achieve those sales I also have had to invest time and materials. Let’s say it took me 5 hours to create the art I sold for $420. Again, at $8 per hour I must subtract $40 as an expense. I also had the work printed, matted and framed for $100 bringing my total expenses to $140. I have invested $140 to create $420 worth of art which now provides me a net income of $196.

Artwork sale                    $420

Gallery commission    -$ 84     $336

Materials cost                -$100    $236

Labor cost                       -$40      $196

I think you can see where this is headed. My 8 hours in the gallery and 5 hours creating my art has made me $196 or roughly $25.50 per hour invested. That sounds great until April 15th. On tax day I will pay self employment tax of about 14% on all of my income. I owe $27.44 on this month’s art sales. But I will also end up in the 15% income tax bracket so I owe $29.40 in federal income tax. Here’s the silver lining! This income level will probably help me avoid any state income taxes and I’ll have $139.16 left over after these expenses to buy food, insurance, gas, my car, tools, etc. I’m essentially working for $10.70 per hour after taxes.

What seems like a decent deal in a co-op gallery really doesn’t count for much at the end of the month unless my art is selling like hotcakes. $420 in gross sales provides a net of $139.16 after taxes for 13 hours of work.

The reason there are so many starving artists is not because they are bad at their craft. It’s because they don’t crunch the numbers. There are a few solutions. Raise prices, cut expenses, shift to being a part-time artist or just enjoy a great hobby and forget trying to make a living at art. What will you do with this information?

By Dusty Demerson

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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Art Business Artist Starving Artist Mon, 20 Jan 2014 14:59:51 GMT
Photographing Transitional Seasons Late fall in the Rocky MountainsDUS7156

by Dusty Demerson, photographer

I love photographing fall colors. It’s my favorite time of year. The vibrancy of yellow aspen leaves against a “robins-egg-blue” Colorado sky is tough to beat. Majestic snow-covered mountain peaks add a sense of drama to subjects that are already pretty awesome. The colors of fall added to my reduced workload from portraits and weddings team up to make me a very happy photographer.

When it starts getting colder and the windy storms start blowing through the high country, the beautiful colors can quickly fall and fade to a variety of browns and tans. The contrast changes from vibrant to subtle almost over night. The catharsis of this situation is enough to make a photographer put the camera away until snow covers the once-colorful earth. While I believe it’s more difficult to create strong compositions with a monochrome landscape dotted with snow, it’s not impossible. When the scenery reminds me of a Bev Doolittle painting I love trying to replicate her hidden subjects in the landscape.

I don’t think that happens with the photograph above but it was a warm late-autumn day and the clouds were providing an amazing dance in the sky. I couldn’t just sit by and watch. Trying to find a good foreground was a challenge. This frozen beaver pond and dam wasn’t too bad. I like how the swirls in the ice seem to mirror the shapes of the clouds. And those clouds! They were changing pretty quickly but I got lucky and caught this scene with a subtle line leading into the image toward the towering peaks of Paradise Divide. The direction of the stream helps support the line of the clouds pulling the viewer’s eye into the center of the photograph.

Our eyes are naturally drawn to the brightest portion of a scene or areas of highest contrast. I want that area to be well-inside the frame, not anywhere near the edge of the photograph. Having bright areas near the edge of the image can create confusion to the viewer and allow their view to exit the photograph too quickly. The brightest area of this image is the snow-covered mountains in the middle of the frame. They are smaller and less-dominant than I would prefer but changing to a longer lens would have destroyed the perspective of the frozen pond. Life is full of compromises. The clouds were also pretty bright and their location and shapes tended to pull the view away from the peaks. Some subtle vignette allowed me to darken the edges and corners of the photograph to retain the viewer’s attention toward the snow-covered peaks. My camera is inadequate when it comes to capturing my perception of the warmer values of a scene. I frequently need to lighten and increase saturation of the reds, oranges and yellows to recreate my perception of the colors of photograph. I also removed the vapor trails from two jets and a couple of houses and driveways on the hillside to the right. That’s about it for this image. I hope you like it.

You can always see more of my images at If you visit, be sure to check out my “Print of the Month” gallery were I present new images every month at discounted prices.

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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Art Photography Technique autumn Colorado composition Dusty Demerson fall Landscape Photograph The art of photography Mon, 11 Nov 2013 10:04:20 GMT
Why Use a Tripod Blue Mesa Lake PanoramaCurecanti-Mirror-1448

Most of my photography students hate using a tripod. I hated them too, when I was learning photography. Over time, I’ve learned to love this indispensable piece of equipment however. They are a pain to learn and slow to use in  the beginning. Here are a few reasons that I cannot live without my tripod.

Tripods hold the camera still

The first function of a tripod is to hold the camera still when the chosen shutter speed is too slow for successful hand-held photographs. Using a good tripod during long exposures can insure sharp photos during photos from seconds to hours long. They are also necessary for images using long telephoto lenses since any motion by the photographer is greatly magnified by the telephoto lens. This is the most-obvious reason to use a tripod.

The tripod makes panoramic photos possible

I shoot lots of panoramic images. I love the format and they are great solutions to decorating long, skinny spaces like over a sofa. To create a successful panorama it is necessary to take multiple, overlapping images and to stitch them together in software. The best way to accomplish this is to use a tripod with a camera platform that can pivot around the axis of the camera. To keep the finished image from running up or downhill, the camera platform must be level. It must remain level for all the photographs needed for the panorama. The tripod is a necessity for good panorama photography like the image above.

The tripod helps you think about composition

The third and most important reason to use a tripod is to aid in artistic composition of your photographs. By allowing you to let go of the camera without your initial composition changing you can take time to fine-tune your images. This seems unimportant on the surface but most professional photographers will adjust their initial composition during a sequence of images. By being able to step away from the camera and refine the composition we are able to create tighter, more compelling images which highlight the necessary elements of the photograph and eliminate those that don’t enhance or strengthen the story we’re trying to tell with the image. Tripods help you think. Thinking about what to include or exclude from a photograph is absolutely critical for great images.

I’m not trying to say that good photographs cannot be created without a tripod. I’ve made many myself. All things considered, however, I would rather use a tripod if I have the opportunity.

Tripods help you get perfect light

The images in my last post “Waiting for the Light” are a perfect example of how the tripod was used to retain a strong composition while waiting for better light in the scene. Over the course of 45 minutes I was able to create numerous exposures without changing the composition of the photograph. The only change was the light and shadows moving across the scene. Without the tripod I probably would have abandoned the scene before the light got great, thus coming home with a mediocre image instead of a really strong, compelling landscape. The tripod made the image possible and was a necessary part of the gear required for the final photo.

Those are a few of my favorite reasons for using a tripod. I know there are others. What are your reasons?


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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Photography Technique composition Landscape Panorama Panoramic Photo Photograph Tech Talk The art of photography tripod Mon, 04 Nov 2013 10:10:54 GMT
Waiting for the Light I have no idea how many times I’ve been really excited about photographing a fabulous landscape to only be unhappy once I began editing or selecting an image to print or share. I think it’s because I let the excitement get the better of me in the field. When I’m “on my game” I try to slow  down, analyze the scene, and figure out what combination of light, timing and technique will best replicate what captured my initial excitement about the subject.

East Beckwith Mountain 1Beckwith-Blog-1-300x199

The image at left is a great example. East Beckwith Mountain, just below the west side of Kebler Pass in western Colorado, offers many great viewpoints. This view is one I usually ignore but this autumn provided a great reason to stop and make photos. The sky was beautiful with very photogenic clouds. The light on the mountain was great. The colorful foliage was beautiful. There were several other photographers at the overlook, justifying my excitement.

I set up the tripod, chose my “standard” lens (Nikon 28-70 f2.8) and popped on the Moose Peterson Warming Polarizing filter to pop  the sky just a touch. I don’t often us a polarizing filter but since a lot of the fore and middle ground was yellow I thought a strong blue sky would add a little color-contrast and some detail to the clouds. When using the polarizing filter I rarely use it at its strongest rotation.

Anyway, I shot this frame. Not bad. Not great. What would make the image better? (I talk to myself when I photograph. Don’t you?) Well the light on the foreground and middle ground had fallen off due to the clouds and they were too dark and uninteresting. A little light there might be better. So I waited for the clouds to move.

East Beckwith Mountain 2Beckwith-Blog-2-300x199

After a bit of time the middle ground lit up nicely so I made another exposure. The foreground was still in deep shade and now the light on the mountain was failing. Since our eyes are naturally attracted to brighter areas and areas of higher contrast this scene really wasn’t working at all. The interest in the mountain was being replaced by the aspens in the middle ground which were now competing with the clouds. What is the subject here? So I waited some more. The other photographers have left. Yay!

While I’m waiting for the clouds to move and the good light to come back I have some time to really think about what I want this scene to look like. There’s enough conifer forest to provide depth and texture if the scene is completely sun-lit without any shadow from clouds at all. Although that scenario is not likely to happen, I could live with it. The shadows moving across the valley are providing interest, depth and texture when they cooperate. The sky would be pretty boring without the clouds. If the sky was clear I probably would compose the scene with less sky and get the mountain out of the center of the frame. Having a clear sky on this day was not going to be an option. It was supposed to snow in the afternoon so the clouds were going to become a problem rather than a blessing.

East Beckwith Mountain 3Beckwith-Blog-3-300x199 Slowly the sky began to cooperate with my plan for a beautiful photograph. The light returned to the mountain. Middle ground was illuminated nicely. Shadows from the clouds were still interesting. The foreground though is just not that great. I usually like to employ a darker foreground to keep my viewer’s eye from leaving the images. If clouds don’t cooperate I can use a split neutral density filter or vignette to darken it. That work is usually done in post-processing via Photoshop or Lightroom.

I didn’t really want the foreground in this scene to be very dark though. There are these colorful aspens placed against the dark conifer trees creating a beautiful and interesting contrast. There’s also a cool little pond in the lower left that I wanted to keep in the scene. Everything but the foreground is coming together nicely. I could live with this image. Being in no hurry, I decided to wait for the “Wow”.

More photographers show up. It was a pretty compelling scene but I think seeing a truck parked on the side of the road with “Photographer” written on the side makes people stop even if they don’t know what to look at. Really! I’ve done this experiment with my classes. We stand at the side of a road with our cameras all pointed at “nothing”. Cars drive by, slow down, and cameras pop out the windows taking photos of the “nothing”. It’s a good thing they’re not Lemmings. They’d be jumping over a cliff.

So eventually patience prevailed and I got what I was waiting for. Beautiful light illuminated a striking mountain peak. Great, puffy clouds floated in a deep blue sky. A golden aspen forest filled the valley floor with color, contrast and texture. The illuminated foreground provided additional interest and texture. Life was good!

East Beckwith Mountain AutumnBeckwith-Blog-4

My Mom always accused me of being a perfectionist. I thought it was a compliment. Good things are worth waiting for. The trick in photography is being able to figure out what the “good things” are. Having a little voice in your head saying “How can this be better?” is a really good thing too.


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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Art Photography Technique autumn Colorado Crested Butte Photographer Landscape Mountain Photograph Rocky Mountains The art of photography theory Mon, 21 Oct 2013 09:35:33 GMT
The Photoshop Computer The Custom Photoshop Computer is Up and Running

Crested Butte Mountain and wildflowersDUS4361_2_3_tonemapped

A few months ago I shared some specs. here regarding a PC designed to run Adobe Photoshop perfectly. Today I would like to announce that computer is up and running. It’s very fast!

Before readers begin to berate me for building a PC instead of a MAC let me say that you can still get a lot more computer for your money with a PC. The computer I build is not available at any price from MAC but a Power MAC G5 with 12 gigs of ram and a 1tb hard drive is just under $4000. I built my system which includes a Core i7 quad core processor, two 1tb hard drives, a 500gb hard drive and 16gigs of ram for under $1400. I chose Windows 7 as my OS since I really don’t like Windows 8 at all. Who wants their desktop computer to act like their phone?

Originally I had planned on using an MSI motherboard but several consultants and numerous forum posts convinced me to choose an Intel DZ77GA-70K board instead. That was a great choice even though it was more than twice the cost of the MSI board. Installation instructions couldn’t have been any easier to follow. That was a good thing since I had never built a computer from the ground up before. I had  added some drives and expansion cards but that was the extent of my computer-building experience.

I chose to load Windows on a separate hard disk from my Adobe Photoshop program so the computer could read from both places at the same time. I have also chosen to place all the data on another separate drive for faster access. That being said, my current workflow involves keeping all my photos on external Raid hard drives so access to the images is slowed through the Firewire 800 ports. For larger files I can easily copy them to the internal data drive and work more quickly from there. Once I completely abandon my old PC I’ll take one of its drives and install it as a dedicated “Scratch” disk for Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop doesn’t like to share its scratch disk with programs or data from what I’ve read. Even though it should never get used, I’ll have 320 gigs of scratch disk available if I need it. The new drives are all Western Digital Black drives because I appreciate the 3 year warranty and they make no sound at all.

I also chose two 8 gigabite sticks of Crucial Ballistix RAM. These will function as dual-channel fast memory leaving me room to double that number in the future if I choose. If I become  even more concerned about speed, all the components will handle “Overclocking” of the processor but I doubt I’ll never feel that need.

I’m still tweaking stuff so I haven’t put this computer to a stress test yet. Once all the programs are loaded (brutal!) and the network settings are correct I’ll see how my new tool handles some heavy-duty bit-crunching. If you want to see the rest of the components they’re listed on my June blog post below.

So, you’re probably wondering what the photo above has to do with this blog post. Absolutely nothing. But check back soon for more thoughts on the images.

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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Photography Adobe Computer Computing Hardware photoshop Software Thu, 22 Aug 2013 14:06:56 GMT
Half Dome From the Other Side On Playing Nice and Getting Lucky

Sunset light provides a golden glow from snow and Ice on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park


A few years ago I visited my uncle in southern California to celebrate his 80th birthday. He celebrates on Halloween so it becomes quite a lavish costume party and tons of fun with family and friends. For a lot of the family, it’s the only time we get together so most of us make an effort to get to LA for this event.

Since I don’t get to visit the west coast very often I decided to make a trip up to Yosemite on my way back to Colorado. It’s not really on the way but Yosemite is my favorite national park to photograph so somehow I found the time. I decided to travel north along the historic coastal highway and head east from beautiful Carmel. The weather was terrible for photography on my drive up the coast so I didn’t make a single stop for photos. After a warm bead and great dinner in Carmel I turned east the next morning and enjoyed the easy drive to Yosemite National Park.

Being late autumn in the mountains I really didn’t know what to expect in the park. Finding places to stay was unusually easy. Upon my arrival I discovered that the park had received some early snow and all the leaves were off the trees. The valley was brown and not all that photogenic so I decided to try the Tioga Pass Road for a higher vantage point. It was closed!

A simple saw-horse-like barricade was set across the road and there I was with another photographer from Colorado looking at the signs and wondering if we should just move the barricade or turn back. We talked about our options for a while. After 20 or 30 minutes of contemplation a park ranger approached us. She told us the road was closed because there were a few patches of ice on the road and that California drivers had no idea how to handle a car on ice. After checking our Colorado plates she suggested we meet her at the barricade the following morning at 8 am.

The next morning the ranger pulled back the barricade and allowed us to pass, closing the road behind us. I’m not sure about the other driver but I enjoyed an awesome day on Tioga Pass Road high above Yosemite valley making photos and just being in nature. That evening I caught up with the other photographer at an overlook across the valley from “Cloud’s Rest”. The sun had set and the sky was turning orange. We hurried to set up. A different ranger showed and told us that we must leave. We took turns distracting the ranger while the other took photos of an incredible sunset on Half Dome. The ranger must see this view all the time because he was only interested in us packing up and getting behind the barricade before dark. We didn’t quite make it but we did get some unique photos. At least they were unique to two photographers from Colorado. The ranger wasn’t terribly upset.

If I can find a moral to this story it would be this. You’ll get more cooperation from authority figures if you’re willing to play by the rules even if you’d rather not. We got some great photos because we treated the rangers with respect. We never begged or put up any kind of fight or argument.

Respect. It’s just another tool you should keep in your camera bag.

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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Art Photography autumn California fall sunset The art of photography Yosemite Sat, 10 Aug 2013 15:01:49 GMT
Sun or Shade – Which is best to photograph wildflowers? If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.

Robert Capa


 Sunny Columbine wildflowersColumbine-Sunny Columbine wildflower in shadeColumbine-Shady

After a week of teaching wildflower photography techniques with the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival I’ve become a bit opinionated about how to photograph wildflowers in their best light. One of the key factors in photographing any subject is to determine the most flattering light to use. While there may be different opinions on what is best, this is my blog so you’ll get my opinion.

For wildflowers with complex shapes like the Colorado Blue Columbine, I prefer open shade or otherwise diffused light. I find the higher contrast of direct sun harsh and not very flattering. Softer, diffused light does not have to be flat or boring however. With a little luck or skill direct sunlight can become softer, directional light.

Coming from a portrait background, I always prefer to have the light on my subjects appearing to come from some direction rather than being flat or coming from over the photographer’s shoulder.  Kodak’s suggestions are great for selling film but not-so-great for making interesting photographs. The image below is one of my favorites because it has a beautiful subject captured in soft, directional light with no harsh shadows or bright highlights. If I can’t find a nice subject tucked under some trees in open shade with a little direction to the light, I make my own using a large diffuser. You might try a reflector as well but mine create too harsh a light for wildflowers. The diffuser does a really nice job and creates an adjustable effect based on its distance to the subject. Generally, I use the diffuser as close to the subject as possible without getting it into my photo.

While flowers with simple shapes like daisies and sunflowers seem to look great in direct sunlight, blooms with more complex shapes like Columbine, Bog Orchid and Elephantella look better with diffused light like open shade or under a cloudy sky. That’s just my opinion. You are more than welcome to disagree. If you would like personal instruction in wildflower or landscape photography check out my private and small-group photo tours through the Colorado School of Photography.

Colorado Blue Columbine in shadeColoradoBlues

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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Photography Technique Columbine Crested Butte Crested Butte Photographer Crested Butte Wildflower Festival Dusty Demerson Flower instruction Photo Photograph Tech Talk The art of photography Wildflower Mon, 15 Jul 2013 09:08:25 GMT
Sunflower Photography in Paradise Sunflowers in Crested ButteA-Sea-of-Yellow-1538x1024

A Sea of Yellow Sunflowers

Sunflowers are nothing special in Crested Butte, Colorado. They’re everywhere! Numerous varieties bloom here throughout the summer months (June – August). This year, however has been an especially vibrant sunflower summer. We’re witnessing flowers where we’ve never seen them in numbers that are hard to imagine. Whole hillsides are bright yellow.

The field above was photographed moments before the sun spread its warmth across the flowers. They were brightly lit by the open sky above but the contrast associated with full sun was absent. That’s a scenario I prefer for photographing flowers. I tend to think they’re more attractive in softer light with less contrast. Not having to deal with blown-out highlights or deep shadows makes post-production work easier too, but that’s not a good reason to choose a flattering type of light. When given an option, it’s important to photograph your subjects, whether they’re flowers, people, buildings or mountains in light that enhances what you like about your subject and diminishes attention to their flaws. For the subjects above, that meant making photographs in soft light. I could have waited for overcast skies and made a similar image except that clouds around here are usually accompanied by breezes. Moving flowers are much more difficult to photograph.

I wanted to show the expanse of flowers and their fresh, intense color. That meant that I would not include the sky or any surrounding trees. Including those would add an element which would detract from the “sea” of flowers. I began by using a small aperture to keep most of the flowers in focus but upon review, decided that there was no clear point of focus and thus no single place a viewer’s eye would end up. That’s generally not a good photograph. It should be apparent to the viewer what the photographer wants him/her to look at.  To solve this visual issue I chose to open up the aperture to f5.6 which would keep the background flowers recognizable but out of focus. I chose to focus on the taller and somewhat isolated sunflower in the lower right of the scene simply because it was a little taller, isolated against the green foliage and a perfect specimen. For me, this flower was an obvious choice since it was also facing slightly upward making it a little different from its surrounding flowers.

There was almost not post-production work on this image. I did warm the color temperature a tad and sharpened the photo as I usually do but nothing was added or subtracted and the scene looked the same in camera as it does above.

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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Art Photography Technique Colorado Crested Butte Flower Photo sunflower Wildflower Wildflower Capitol of Colorado Tue, 02 Jul 2013 11:28:40 GMT
Photographing Wildflowers – Pro tips from Colorado

Wildflower Photography Workshop Notes

 By Dusty Demerson, Crested Butte, Colorado

          Beautiful wildflower photographs have several things in common. They all have great subject matter, interesting compositions, light that enhances the subject and they are technically excellent.  Occasionally (very rarely) luck is involved. As the flowers begin to bloom in the high country I thought I would share some tips the professionals use when photographing wildflowers. These tips can also be applied to almost any other subject matter too.

 Choose Great Subject matter:

            Choose subjects you find beautiful or interesting. Ask yourself why you respond to a subject. What is it about the subject that excites you or causes you to want to make a photograph? Is it the color, texture, shape, environment or other feature? What do you find exciting about the subject that causes you to want to make a photograph? By analyzing your response you can choose how to best arrange your image, enhancing your subject’s strongest features and downplaying any distractions. Choose subjects that are as near-perfect as possible. Explore your subject to find the best angles, light, etc. Know your subject! If you’re photographing a wildflower, will your subject look different at a different time of day? Does it close up at night and reopen when the sun hits it? Is the color more intense when the specimen is in the shade? Have bugs been eating the leaves or petals? Is the pollen still on the flower or gone? Whether you are photographing wildflowers, architecture, people or landscapes better images can be made if you know your subject thoroughly. Spend time with your subject exploring different points of view and compositions until you have the “perfect” shot. Your photographs are your interpretations of the subject. Only you see this way. Bring your unique point of view to your subject and show the world how you see it!

 Use Composition Guidelines:

          Use elements of composition to show what is interesting about your subject. Arrange your image to eliminate distracting elements and include those that enhance your image. Use limited depth of field to help eliminate distractions. Know all of the tools at your disposal: leading lines, framing, focus, contrast, camera angle, balance, symmetry, proportion, repetition, diagonal lines, rule of thirds, etc.

Use Great Light:

          Choose flattering light or arrange to return to the scene when the angle, color or quality of light makes your subject look its best. If you can’t come back, use light modifiers (diffuser, reflectors, gobos, flash) to control the light so your subject looks its best. Pay attention to the sky. Wait for clouds to soften light or wait for the sun to increase contrast. 

 Create the Best File Possible:

            Choose the lowest ISO possible. Expose correctly! Focus precisely. Use a tripod to steady the camera and help refine your composition. Know how your camera works. Know and use its best features. Choose the best lenses you can afford! Use a cable release or the timer. Do your cropping in the camera when possible. If digital, shoot in RAW whenever possible. If shooting JPG, use the least compression possible. Don’t practice the “fix it in Photoshop” mentality. Do it right in the camera. If in doubt, bracket your exposures.

             If you’re not thrilled with the wildflower photography you create, don’t delete them. Ask yourself why you’re disappointed. What don’t you like? What’s wrong? Try to communicate the issues using photographic and artistic terms. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

 Learn to see the way your camera sees. Don’t just point and shoot. Pay attention to the corners and edges of the viewfinder/screen. Is there something in there that you want to remove? Change your position/composition so that you are only including what you want in the photograph. Watch for power lines, fences, bugs, cars etc.  Remove dead sticks/flowers etc. Refine your images before you push the button.

 Use the zoom lens to tighten your compositions. Use your feet too! Bend your knees! Photographing a subject from above psychologically demeans the subject. By using a lower point of view you can add importance and respect to your subject. Similarly, complete items within your composition will have greater importance than elements which are cut-off or truncated. So if you want a tree, for instance, to have importance and weight in your composition try to include the entire tree. If the tree is drawing too much attention you can crop some of it off to add importance to other elements of your photograph. Elements like a field of flowers will psychologically continue on forever if they extend out of the frame whereas, if there is a visible edge to the field it will appear smaller.

 Try to photograph each subject in a vertical and a horizontal composition. Although it’s not always possible, it’s a great way to learn to see different compositions and achieve different feelings from the same scene.

 Use the camera’s histogram to check exposure levels. The LCD screen will lie to you if you are shooting in RAW or TIFF formats and the screens vary in brightness from one camera to another.

If you would like to learn more about how to make great wildflower photographs, join me in one of the many classes during the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, from July 8 – 13, 2013. Visit their site for more information: The Crested Butte Wildflower Festival. If you can’t get here for the Festival, I offer private and small-group tours all year-long.

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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Photography Technique class course Crested Butte Flower inspiration instruction Photo Photographer Summer theory tips Wildflower Mon, 17 Jun 2013 08:44:04 GMT
There is a Delicate Nature to Spring crested butte photographer - snow on bare aspen treesDelicate-Nature-of-Spring-199x300 crested butte photographer - new leaves on aspen treesSpring-Number-3-199x300

There is a delicate nature to spring in the mountains. What were once hillsides covered in white are now brown turning to green. Trees too, stood in stark contrast to our blue skies but now begin to sprout fresh, lime-green leaves resembling kitten’s toes. Spring here only lasts a week or so. We go from snow on the branches to green on the branches in a matter of days that seems more like overnight. Spring invites sitting on a warm, sunny deck with a good book or the Kindle instead of editing images in preparation for shows and galleries.  This slow change of seasons makes it easy to turn a quick trip to the Post Office or bank into an afternoon on a bench solving the World’s problems with friends.

It seems these changes want me to ease into a new season via incremental changes instead of jumping right in. I like the easing but summer sneaks up on me. Within a matter of days a schedule can fill with appointments, shows, fairs and work. I’m not complaining. I love to work. In fact, that’s kind of the problem with spring. It tends to lull me into complacency even though I know I need to be preparing for a busy summer. There’s something about spring that makes me extra-critical about my work though. Nothing looks good. There’s something “wrong” with every image I see. I want to re-shoot everything but that’s impossible. It won’t be winter again for another 8 months and summer is still a month away.

What to do? Do I grab the book and head for the deck? Do I put my nose to the proverbial grindstone and work through my frustrations with the winter photos? Do I head for the Post Office hoping for another distraction? Maybe I’ll do a little of everything today. Writing this seems a little like work so I guess I can put a check by “work” on my list. I’m a little out of practice with the writing. Hopefully I’ll become less rambling and more to the point as I get back into this. Thanks for putting up with me. I’ll give it another shot next week.


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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Photography Artist Colorado Photographer Spring Mon, 10 Jun 2013 10:40:49 GMT
The Problem With Photography The Problem with Photography

Red Sunset over Mount Emmons


Every artistic endeavor has difficulties involved. I don’t actually know all the struggles a painter might go through although I can imagine some. Neither do I know the challenges of writing music, composing a novel or screenplay, sculpting a statue or making pottery. I do, however, know about the problems associated with creating a compelling photograph.


Technical difficulties used to plague photographers. Understanding shutter speeds, film speed and apertures rendered many aspiring photographic artists impotent. The many variables, especially in black and white film and print processing, were mind-boggling and could take a lifetime to master. Even focusing on the subject could be a challenge if you didn’t have adequate light and great equipment. Then along came the “digital revolution”. While the start of this technological revolution was fairly rough and camera companies made plenty of promises that were not true, breakthroughs were in the works that would change photography forever. Over the last 30 years or so the technical struggles we used to face as photographers have largely vanished. Most of today’s cameras set on “automatic” will produce an image that’s in focus and exposed well enough to get an untrained “photographer” in the ballpark. The technical issues of photographic art are not the problem.


The real problem with photography as an artistic medium of self-expression is that in photography the scene has to actually happen. We can’t imagine a beautiful landscape and make a photograph of it. We can’t create an image of a fabulous sunset unless the sunset actually happens.


There are a few notable exceptions however. I had the privilege of visiting Verve Gallery of Photography in Santa Fe a few weeks ago. They were featuring the work of Maggie Taylor, an incredible artist who uses photographic images and her phenomenal knowledge of Adobe Photoshop to create amazing images of whimsy and fantasy. While her work usually shows in photography galleries and she does use photography to create her images, I have trouble calling her art “photography”. Her scenes don’t happen except in her imagination and computer. They never actually existed. I am always amazed and inspired by her work though, whatever it’s called.


That’s where the problem with photography lies. That’s were the art of photography lies as well. It’s easy to go to Best Buy and purchase a camera that can deal with the technical issues of the craft. It’s more difficult to know what to point that camera at and to know when to press the shutter button. That’s where the “art” comes in. That’s where a photographer’s “vision” comes in. There’s a lot of distance to be covered between “seeing” an image in our minds and “capturing” that image, much less presenting it in a two-dimensional print that creates an emotional response. The image has to actually happen…in real time…in front of the camera. We can’t just imagine it and press a button. We can’t create it from scratch in a computer.


Today it’s really easy to take a picture but creating art with a camera is just as challenging as it ever was.

By Dusty Demerson, May 24, 2013




Death Valley sand dunes

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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Art Photography Technique Artist Crested Butte Photographer Dusty Demerson Photo Photographer Thu, 06 Jun 2013 11:36:12 GMT
Building a New Photoshop Computer  

By Dusty Demerson


I love technology. Advances in photography software and hardware have made it possible to create images we couldn’t even dream of back in the days of the darkroom. The tools at our disposal today make it pretty easy to deliver any image we can imagine. But there is a downside to technology too.

We have to keep up! Over time, our tools become less effective, slower and changes in operating systems can make them dysfunctional or render them useless until something gets upgraded. Even upgrades eventually require changes in equipment.

That’s where I find myself today. Adobe Photoshop CS6, my “go-to” program for image work, is fine but slow with larger files and more layers. Attempting to upgrade Adobe Lightroom didn’t work at all since it is incompatible with Microsoft XP, my current operating system. So I find myself needing some new hardware to run current versions of some software. New hardware will also be much faster and more efficient in rendering images. It’s not all bad! Some of the bugs that have crept into my 5-year-old PC will be finding new homes as well.

So, what do I have in mind? Here are the components and some thoughts on the choices. If any readers have other thoughts or cautions on these choices, I would love to hear about them sooner rather than later.

I plan on starting with an Intel motherboard: Intel-Desktop-Motherboard-LGA1155-DDR3. This board is optimized for the i7 processor I’ve chosen and, while there are a handful of competing boards a little less expensive, the Intel boards seem to be better-built and have fewer bad reviews. I really can’t imagine taking the time to build a computer to find the motherboard is faulty and must be returned. I’ll hopefully avoid that nightmare. This board will work with a number of processors but I’ve chosen the Intel Core i7-3770K Quad-Core Processor 3.5 GHz 8 MB Cache LGA 1155 – BX80637I73770K. It’s about what I can afford and is designed for the board above. It also will “overclock” if I ever choose to do that. Even if I don’t, it’s a huge step forward from what I’m using now and will run 64-bit software like a champ.

16 gigabytes of fast RAM should be a great start for my system but I can add an additional 16 later if I need to. I am leaning toward Corsair Vengeance Blue 16 GB (2×8 GB) DDR3 1600MHz (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory although I really don’t care what color they are. My reason for choosing the Corsair over the other contender, Crucial, was the lifetime warranty offered by Corsair. All of these memory modules are within a dollar or two of the same price.

Here’s where the computer design begins to look like an imaging machine instead of a word processor. The specs so far would be overkill for a word processing or accounting computer but I’m going to try to take efficiency a little further still. The system will contain four drives; one for Windows 7, another for other programs like Photoshop, a third drive will hold the data (photos) and a final Solid State Drive will be the Photoshop scratch disk. Here’s the thought behind these choices. If everything is on one drive, even if it’s a fast drive, the computer can only work in one direction at a time and with one program at a time. If the operating system, Photoshop and the images are on their own dedicated drives, they can all be written to at the same time. Additionally, if any of these fail, they are easier to replace if everything isn’t in the same place. I’ve chosen Western Digital Black 500 GB Desktop Hard Drive: 3.5 Inch, 7200 RPM, SATA III, 64 MB Cache because they’re fast, have a large cache and a 5 year warranty. I already own three WD Raid drives which I use for my photos and backups. I’ve been very pleased with these external storage drives even though they are a little slower than internal disk drives. They give me piece of mind. These are connected via Firewire 800 cables and cards.

I’ve chosen a 60 Gigabyte Solid State Drive from Corsair for my Photoshop scratch disk. You might wonder why I would spend a ton of money on a scratch disk. Me too! Again, it’s really about efficiency. When using multiple layers and filters Photoshop can eat up more than my 16 gigabytes of RAM pretty quickly when working on large panoramic images, something I do quite often. When we run out of RAM, Photoshop uses space on available hard drives as extra memory. Having a dedicated drive for that purpose fits within the “multiple drive for efficiency” plan above. Another reason for dedicated super-fast scratch disk is that I’m using a 32 bit Adobe Photoshop. Apparently, you can’t upgrade Photoshop from 32 bit to 64 bit for less than several hundred dollars. This approach is cheaper. I’ll wait until I upgrade Photoshop to CS7 or whatever comes next, because the 32 bit version of Photoshop can only use 3 megabytes of my 16 megabytes of RAM before using the scratch disk. Bummer!

I mentioned that I intend to use Windows 7 operating system. The reason is simple. I really don’t want my work computer to operate like my phone. I don’t use touch screens at work. I use a mouse, tablet and keyboard (like most people). I have poked around Windows 8 and I don’t think I would like it for my day-to-day work computer.

The final piece of this puzzle is a graphics card. I could use the graphics capabilities of the CPU but I like using two monitors when I work on images. In Photoshop I have one monitor dedicated to the image and a smaller monitor with all my tools, layers, filters etc. It’s a real estate decision. I don’t like windows popping up on top of my photos. Most graphics cards will work Photoshop pretty well so I’m not spending a ton of money on a card. I think I’m going with an EVGA GeForce GT 640 2048MB GDDR3 Dual DVI, mHDMI Graphics Card because it will run two monitors, has a lot of its own memory and is under $100.

Other than a box to put all this stuff in, a CPU cooler, some case fans and a beefy power supply that’s about it. I have saved all of these items in my “wish list” at if someone feels really generous and wants to help a not-quite-starving artist. It comes to just under $1400. which is about half what my last desktop cost. I would love to hear from you if you think I’m headed down a rabbit hole with my ideas. I’m still open to suggestions for a few weeks. Thanks!

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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Art Artist digital Photo Photographer Photography photoshop Thu, 06 Jun 2013 11:33:04 GMT
Where Do You Find Your Most Popular Images by Dusty Demerson


As an artist who earns his living by producing and selling artwork, I’m always interested in where other photographers find their most commercially viable images. Most of us photographers love to travel to exotic and scenic locations to capture those iconic images we’ve all seen in magazines. I’m no exception. I’ve done trips from above the Arctic Circle to the mountains of central Mexico and the Cayman Islands searching for photos. More locally, Yellowstone, Yosemite, The Grand Canyon and Canyonlands. I love to travel and to photograph the places I see.

My real question, though, is where do your most profitable photos come from. Do you find your travel images generating much revenue? Or are your most lucrative photographs from near your home? I hope several of you chime-in on this because I’m really curious.

Personally, I can’t seem to sell an image from outside Colorado to save my life. In fact, I only have one image that sells on a regular basis created outside Gunnison County, where I live. Most of my more successful images are captured within a few miles of my home. My most successful photographs are intimate landscapes. They are not “about a location” so much as they are “about a moment in time”. They tend to have a more universal appeal or tell a story rather than be a documentary about a location.  I’m not complaining. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled when a client connects with one of my images. I’m just wondering how to market and sell more of my travel images before the IRS decides to dis-allow all those photo travel expenses I’ve been racking up. What are your thoughts?

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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Art Photography image Landscape Photo Photographer Thu, 06 Jun 2013 11:29:16 GMT
Risk Versus Reward in Photography Injured at Big Air CompetitionCL163165DustyBleeding-300x199

by Dusty Demerson

This evening in Crested Butte, Colorado the main street is blocked off and covered with snow. There’s a large bump in the middle of town and a snow grooming machine has been smoothing out the snow-covered street for a crazy annual event called “Big Air on Elk”. It’s lots of fun to watch and a significant challenge to photograph. The street is your basic two-lanes with parking on each side so about 40 feet wide. The “runway” and jump take up all of the street leaving the sidewalk for spectators. Imagine squeezing several thousand people onto two 10 foot wide sidewalks while a snowmobile going 50 miles an hour pulling a skier (like water skiing) down the middle of the street. Sounds like fun huh?

The first year for this event I positioned myself on the roof of a nearby bar. I had a wonderful observation point and captured an “overall” view of the event with our iconic mountain peak in the distance. A near-full moon made shooting the event like a landscape possible. Nobody has seen any of those images. My vantage point made the skiers and snowboarders too small and my distance from them made using a flash ineffective. I got colorful blurs in the middle of a street full of pedestrians. The images were not very good!

The second year I decided to get up close and personal with a wide-angle lens and a position right on the side of the jump. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. There was a nice little step carved out of the snow on the side just for us photographers. There was only room for one of us at a time.  When I arrived my friend Chris Ladoulis was in position on the step as I patiently awaited my turn by putting fresh batteries in the flash and camera. Did I mention it was about 10 degrees? It was a tough night for batteries!

Eventually Chris decided he had what he wanted and climbed down to the street. We traded places and as I climbed to the step I was envisioning these super-cool, close-up images of skiers and snowboarders flying through the air only a few feet away. I found my balance, placed my pack at my feet and stood up to begin making these amazing images I had in my mind. Then WHACK! The next thing I remember was being dragged by my collar down the street and being told by my EMT buddy Shaun to keep pressure on my forehead. I noticed there was blood on my coat. “Hey Shaun, whose blood is this?” I asked. “It’s yours, keep pressure on your head. You’re getting stitches” he said. That’s about the time Chris caught up with us with my camera gear….well, most of it. After handing me my stuff he took my picture. Smiling and bleeding and being escorted down the street by Shaun and keeping pressure on my head. It was quite a sight! I have no idea what happened to the snowboarder who missed his take-off and caught me instead.

I was missing my lens hood for the 17-35mm lens I was using. When asked about it, Chris said “The lens hood didn’t make it!”. I guess I got off easy! I didn’t get any pictures. Not even one! I did get 11 stitches and a nice tiny scar. It’s handy to have a physician who wanted to be a plastic surgeon. But I digress.

The third year I took an entirely different approach. I had “pre-visualized” the photo at the top. There was exactly one place I could stand. I didn’t need to be on a roof or the side of the jump. The only difficulty was trying to keep tall people from standing in front of me. I did need to get the shot pretty early in the event before it got too dark because I didn’t want to haul lights around for such a speculative venture. It turned out that one of the local orthopedic surgeons was standing right beside me this time. I was well protected! I did get the shot! It only took three years, 11 stitches and a lens hood.

So, if there’s a point to this story I guess it’s to try to plan how you want to cover an event. Being too far away and being too close both have their drawbacks. If you’re shooting a speculative self-assignment it’s better not to put yourself at risk. My experience has been shared in local newspapers and all the local photographers have been able to learn from my experience. What they choose to do with that knowledge is totally up to them. As for me, If I photograph Big Air on Elk tonight I’ll be a safe distance away. I may just be a spectator. That could be fun too!

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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Crested Butte Dusty Demerson Photo Photographer Photography Thu, 06 Jun 2013 11:23:44 GMT
What is in your Artist Statement by Dusty Demerson

At some point just about every artist is asked to provide an “Artist Statement”. Students studying art in school may even take an entire course about how to write an artist statement. Galleries and shows frequently request the artist statement to be printed as part of their presentation of your work or even as part of a submission process. These statements are frequently used by peers to judge the maturity of an artist’s process or approach.


My artist statement has evolved over the past 20 years or so. My first attempt seems extremely juvenile when I read it today. I assume that the statement I use today will seem just as juvenile in 20 more years.

Artist Statement – Dusty Demerson

My goal is to share the beauty of Creation with anyone interested enough to look. This doesn’t necessarily mean an unedited view however. I feel that our perception of beauty is highly influenced by not only what we see but also the sounds, smells and feelings we are experiencing when viewing our subjects. In fact, I further believe that the way we respond to what we see is a culmination of everything we have experienced through our history up to that instant.


My reason for being is to show my viewer something he or she would not have seen on their own. This unique viewpoint may be the result of perfect timing, an optimal play of light or a non-traditional point of view. Whatever the technique employed, art requires that a subject be treated in a unique way or that the artist captures a unique slice of time to share with the viewer.


My job as an artist is, at the very least, to create a two-dimensional representation of my subject that generates some type of emotional response by the viewer. At best, I would like my viewer to experience the same emotional response that I experienced and that caused me to record the scene in the first place. I must then be able to reproduce the scene with a high degree of craftsmanship and skill so that my original experience can be shared and experienced repeatedly by others for an extended period of time.


This goal requires that I move beyond the camera, lens, light and tripod and utilize additional tools to elicit the viewer’s response. The available tools have grown dramatically in the past several years as photographic artists have embraced digital image enhancement. Like any tool, these can be over used and abused as well as used poorly. While fully embracing the tools in my toolbox I attempt to use them to recreate the feelings and emotions I experienced when capturing the image. Since film, cameras, lenses, printers, papers and the other gear necessary for the capture and display of these images impart their own color, perspective, atmosphere, etcetera to the photograph; I need to alter some elements to recreate the scene as I experienced it originally. This process may include cropping the image and the elimination or addition of elements to the photograph. While I may utilize my digital tools to remove unwanted items like power lines or errant tree branches I never add or delete substantial elements of the scene.


Generally, my photographs attempt to restate the original presentation in a manner that evokes the emotional response I experienced without appearing manipulated or fake. My abstract images are, of course, an exception to the last statement. When I am asked if a scene “really looked like that” or was it “Photoshopped” my answer is usually “yes”.  


“Art implies control of reality, for reality itself possesses no sense of the aesthetic. Photography becomes an art when certain controls are applied.”

Ansel Adams

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]]> (Colorado Landscape Photography by Dusty Demerson) Art Artist Dusty Demerson Photographer Photography professional Thu, 06 Jun 2013 11:20:07 GMT
Hiring a Wedding Photographer What Every Bride Needs to Know!

by Dusty Demerson and

Long after the guests have gone home, the tux is returned, your dress is cleaned and lovingly packed away and you’ve eaten that last bit of stale wedding cake the memories of your wedding day will remain forever archived in your wedding albums and prints. There really are no second chances with your wedding photography so choosing your wedding photographer will be one of the most important decisions you will make. This is especially true if you’re planning a destination wedding. These weddings create unique situations requiring specific skills and advanced training as well as knowledge of other vendors and locations to guarantee your wedding photos are captured with technical precision and artistic flair. Your photographer should have years of experience not only in photography but also working with people in stressful situations and under variable conditions.

So, what should I know about hiring a wedding photographer?

Your photographer will be a very important part of your wedding day. They will work very closely with you and can have a huge impact on how your day goes and how well it is remembered. You will probably spend more time with your photographer than with any other person on your wedding day. The better wedding photographers do much more than just snap photos. They will help with planning, timing, the fine details, calming nerves and lots more. Establishing a good, honest and open relationship with your photographer is critical.

It’s important to understand a little about the industry, its best practices and how things work before choosing your wedding photographer.

There are so many wedding photographers – How can I choose the right one?

Choosing your right wedding photographer really comes down to two things. First, you should love their work. Look for a photographer who shows the type and style of photos you want for your wedding. Look at complete albums, not just a few photos on the website. The second factor to consider is personality. Is he or she a person you are comfortable being around? Will they make you feel confident and relaxed? Could you be friends with this person even if they weren’t your photographer?

It’s great to get referrals but planning a destination wedding can make that difficult. Check out the photographer’s testimonials from previous clients. Ask other vendors who they like working with.

You can’t really choose a photographer from a price list or brochure. Narrow your search to 3-4 photographers and spend some time with them. If you can’t visit with them in person spend some time on the phone getting to know them. You’ll want to address their style, creativity, quality of finished albums and prints, compatibility and their qualifications.

Aren’t all wedding photographers qualified?

Unfortunately no! Anyone can hang out their shingle these days and lots of hobbyists “with a good camera” have done just that. Your average wedding photographer probably has a “day job” and does weddings on the weekends for extra cash. There are, however, wedding photographers who do possess qualifications and training and these are the photographers you’ll want to consider to document your wedding day. Membership in professional organizations like Professional Photographers of America or WPPI are one way to check qualifications.

Why should I hire a professional when my friend has a great camera?

It’s not the camera that makes the photographs, it’s the photographer. Although a friend may be a very good amateur photographer, they will not have the experience, knowledge, training and back-up equipment that a professional has. Capturing your wedding photographs requires a highly specialized set of skills that takes years to master. A professional will be able to produce consistent results regardless of the various challenges that weddings can present. They know how to make the best use of light and can adapt to constantly changing circumstances.

Professional photographers know how to work with the drama and occasional stresses of an emotional day in a calm manner. They know how to finish and present your photographs in ways that will bring you joy for ages to come. Will you hire someone to create your wedding cake because they have a good mixer? Will you have your wedding gown made by a friend who has a good sewing machine? Probably not. You should select your wedding photographer based on the work they produce rather than whether they have a “good camera” or not.

How far in advance should I book my wedding photographer?

The earlier the better. Once you’ve made your choice you’ll need to book your photographer, usually with a deposit, to guarantee that they’ll be available for your wedding day. Prime summer and winter dates for weddings can be taken a year or more in advance while off-season and weekdays may be available closer to the wedding date.

How much should I budget?

This was probably your first question, right? This one can be tough because professional photographers don’t advertise their prices. There’s a good reason for that too. While most wedding photographers offer packages, many will customize those collections for your personal needs. There are so many products available these days that you’ll what to have some idea of how you’ll remember and share your wedding memories. While these products are comparatively priced, wedding photography prices generally reflect the level of service, experience, skill and training of the photographer. Here’s a rough guide:

  • $0-$3000 – friends/amateur/new photographers with poor to average skills.
  • $3000 – $5000 – starting prices for full-time professional photographers with good skills.
  • $5000 – ? highly skilled and experienced professionals with more creative flair and premium products.

Before you set your budget consider these wise words: “It is unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much you lose a little money, that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything – The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run. And if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.” John Ruskin, Artist & Philosopher

Why is it so expensive?

Wedding photography today is expensive for many reasons, though relative to the cost of your reception or even your gown it’s still a very good value. Your photography and your rings will be the only memories preserved over time. Good professional photographers use the highest quality equipment, materials, labs and albums. The running costs and overhead of a business are significant. Professional quality cameras, lenses and lights cost tens of thousands of dollars and must be maintained and replaced on a regular basis. In addition to the camera gear, digital photography requires a substantial investment in computer equipment too.

Wedding photography is a highly skilled profession requiring years of training and experience. Your photographer’s skill and training is likely reflected in their fees and your photographs.

Your photos and albums will be original works of art, involving lots of time, skill, talent and artistry. For example a typical wedding photojournalist may take a thousand photos at your wedding. They will then spend hours, days or even weeks editing, processing and retouching your images. Designing a custom wedding album can easily take 40-60 hours. For every hour you see your photographer there’s usually 2-3 hours they spend behind the scenes working on your wedding photographs.

Is it cheaper to have an off-season or weekday wedding?

It can be. Photographers and other wedding vendors may offer discounts or bonuses for less-busy times. June through September are usually the premium wedding months.

Should I sign a contract or agreement?

Absolutely. This is your assurance that the wedding photographer you have chosen will honor his commitment to you. It also confirms everything in writing so there are no misunderstandings. You will also be expected to place a deposit to hold your wedding date. This amount is usually 1/3 to 1/2 the total cost of your wedding photography. If you’re interviewing a photographer who doesn’t offer a  written agreement or contract you should keep looking.

What happens after I sign the contract?

You should have occasional written or email communication from your photographer leading up to your wedding day. Feel free to share ideas, favorite shots, locations and changes to plans. Plan on meeting with your photographer a few days before the wedding to finalize times, locations etc.

Should I give my wedding photographer clippings or a list of photos?

Every photography studio has a different working style. Some are happy to see examples of photos you like while others may not. Trying to copy the style of another wedding photographer can be an exercise in frustration and can hamper the creativity of your chosen photographer. Tread lightly here. If your photographer invites your ideas, great. Otherwise you should have confidence in your decision on hiring a photographer whose work you love. A professional photographer with the experience necessary to photograph weddings should not need a list.

How much time will the photography take?

This seems to vary from one wedding to another. It’s a good idea to ask this question up-front when interviewing photographers. Having photos created in alternate locations will affect the time involved too. Be sure to share your photo ideas early with your photographer so you can receive their ideas. Creating special images the day before or after your wedding might be another option. Generally allowing at least an hour for photos would be a good idea but if you want photos in the forest, around town or by the lake you’ll need significant extra time. Consider doing the Bride and Groom photos before the wedding for these special images.

What if I hate posing for photos?

While lots of couples choose photojournalist style photographers to avoid this problem, most of the candid images they love are not as candid as they seem. Truly candid photography can result in lots of pictures of people’s backs or with uncoordinated expressions. While candid photos during the service and reception can truly capture the spirit and emotions of the day, family groups and the wedding party images will benefit by some direction from your photographer. Also, having only candid images means compromising the lighting and composition of your photos which may result in less-than-flattering memories. To look your best and have beautiful memories of your wedding you’ll want a professional photographer who knows how to capture candid and artfully composed photos in all types of light.

How long will the photographer stay at the wedding?

Photographers are usually happy to negotiate the coverage requirements for your wedding from a few hours to all day if you so desire. Most weddings with a reception require 3-4 hours while dinner and dancing could easily extend the requirement from 6-8 hours or even longer.

What’s the best time of day for the photos?

This really depends on the weather and the style of photographs you’re looking for. It’s important to choose a photographer who has a good working knowledge of your wedding location. This is a major reason for choosing a photographer from your wedding destination and not bringing in someone from another location. Your photographer’s ability to work in all types of light will greatly affect the quality of your photographs. Generally the hour before sunset is always a safe bet.

When do I get to see my photos?

Today most photographers of destination weddings use online display for their wedding images. It’s the most convenient way to share images with wedding family and guests from all over the country…even the world. As we discussed above, the studio may invest significant time before your photos are ready to view but you should expect to see images soon after your honeymoon is over or within 30 days of your wedding. Busy summer months may require a little extra time.

By now you can consider yourself a Rock Star of a bride for educating yourself about how to choose your wedding photographer. Good luck and happy shopping!

I would love to take credit for the above information but to tell the truth, most of it has been compiled from Louisiana photographer: She’s done such a great job compiling a lot of good information in a small space and deserves the credit. If I were getting married in Louisiana she would be my first call for a wedding photographer. Of course, if you’re planning a Crested Butte wedding, I would love to talk to you. You can get lots more information at

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