ABOUT THE ARTIST – Artist Statement, Background, Other Interests

Artist Statement

I engage in creating photographic images documenting our magnificent natural environment so the exquisite beauty of what I have seen and experienced can be remembered. I also want to convey those memories in some kind of moving portrayal for others to enjoy. To me, the photographic medium is a means of faithfully reproducing landscapes and elements of nature, while it also offers a means to exaggerate/enhance/modify some aspects of the scene while still maintaining a degree of realism. The result is what I call my real views of our world.

Synergy With Nature

When I am out at a favorite location, a special synergy comes into play between the landscape, my vision/feeling about what I see being represented as a two-dimensional image, and the equipment in terms of cameras, lenses, and film. The equipment is perhaps the least important element of this synergy because without visualization and emotion, the resulting images are rote and uninspiring.

On many occasions, I find there is little or no time, or I am too tuned in with what I am seeing, to obsess about using perfect technique. There is a trade-off between generating technically ideal images and capturing what I see/feel in short bursts of time. Therefore, I tend to use films with reasonable latitude for error and simple equipment such as a camera with only a "normal" or slightly "wide" lens. Then there are no distractions to interfere with capturing what I see. Using high-quality but very simple cameras has resulted in some of my best images.

There are also times when I am more inclined to work with a variety of cameras and lenses. This usually happens when I am visiting new places or want to have plenty of flexibility to respond to unexpected visual situations. Wide angle and extreme wide angle lenses are some of my favorite tools to obtain a less literal translation of certain landscapes than the eye perceives. Sometimes, however, they are necessary to capture what is seen and felt, and a simpler approach may be incapable of delivering good results.

Favorite Locations

I spent most of my life in Michigan and Wisconsin. I lived and worked in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for 17 years, and that's where my photographic work really took off in the early 2000s. I moved to North Carolina in 2010 for a change of weather, scenery, and for economic reasons. Much of my current and future work will be there, but I will continue traveling to Michigan's Upper Peninsula and the Lake Superior region, which are very special places.

There is something ethereal about Lake Superior, more so than the other Great Lakes. I lived within a few miles of Lake Michigan for a long time, but it never evoked the same feeling or essence. Superior is very remote in many places, and exhibits an incredible array of geology, vegetation, landforms, and combinations of color and texture where land meets the shore. This includes well over 600 miles of shoreline between Grand Marais, Minnesota on the western end to Sault Ste. Marie on the eastern end–and that doesn't even include the Canadian side. The "moods" of the various Superior landscapes vary immensely with the seasons, weather conditions, and location, especially among the bays, palisades, jutting rock formations, and even some of the cities in the region. I'll be traveling back there as much as I can.

The southern Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia are another of my favorite places on earth, especially the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains. I discovered this area back in 2004, when I decided to diversify vacation destinations and photographic subjects. I came back in 2005, 2006, and 2007. This area is similar to the Lake Superior Region in that it is vast, contains an incredible array of landforms, color, and textures, and changes moods with the seasons. I'll certainly have more to say about this region in the future as I experience and photograph more of it.

Favorite "Tools"

My favorite tool is the 6x9 cm folding camera of the 1940s and 1950s. These are very simple cameras with few moving parts, a small bellows, one lens, and basic viewfinder. The more complex variation of the folding camera are "press" cameras of the same era, which enable the use of many different lenses and films on the same camera. Either way, they are simple to use and light to carry, have very high quality lenses, and provide few distractions when capturing images.

My favorite material for capturing images is medium format color negative film. It enables a significant margin for error and can capture a very wide range of brightnesses in a scene, resulting in an excellent "raw" capture. I scan these and digitally convert to positives.

Other Thoughts on Photography

I enjoy the satisfaction of being able to share what I see with other people, and creating unique representations of what I perceive to be the presence of God in our midst. I get the feeling an image has turned out really well when I can look at it and remember the experience of being there when I took the picture. My techniques and experiences in doing my artistic work are primarily self-taught and are very different from those used by other photographers. I have received no formal instruction, other than the many books I have read on the subject of photography and associated techniques. The idea of using 60 year old cameras and film in the era of digital photography seems absurd and limiting, but it's part of the fun and creative process in the way I create photographs. I call this my vintage+digital technique.

When I work with old "vintage" cameras and equipment, I am reminded that photography is pretty much the same artform regardless of how one gets the subject into a two-dimensional picture. Whether it's film or digital, the end result is a picture on paper or a screen, so if my vintage+digital technique is working and generating great results, there is no need to buy more expensive/elaborate equipment. Regardless of the technique used, I know an image is done when other people take a keen interest in it, study it, and offer comments. That means that it evoked/inspired some form of meaning in someone else's mind, and most importantly, that I the artist was able to communicate a real view to them through the photograph.

Professional Background and More

My professional background has not been as a photographer, but I must say that I have used photography to some degree in every job I've held over the past 30 years. I first learned photography when I was 12 years old, and eventually mastered many aspects of it by the time I was 18. I spent two years on active duty in the U.S. Army in Germany at age 18-20, and photographed some of the interesting cities I visited and lived in there. I extensively photographed vortexes of dye in viscous liquids while working as an engineering lab tech during my college years at Michigan State. I used photography to prepare presentation materials and publications during my first job in the urban planning profession.

I ended up pursuing urban planning for 20 years, mostly with the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. I enjoyed that because of the wide variety of skills gained and used, all the interactions with many different people, and the fact that I was doing something meaningful to make the world a better place. Also, I had a blast using GIS (geographic information systems) every day, and gaining an outstanding working knowledge of that technology. I left the job in 2008 (really bad timing!) to complete an MBA-Finance degree at Marquette University. Since mid-2009, I've been doing investment research and management for a few close associates while seeking a job in finance, accounting, or urban planning. Of course, I've been working on this website too since photography is always on my mind. Please visit my LinkedIn profile for more information on my professional background.

I developed the vision for the Real View about 10 years ago out of a strong desire to take my photography to a new level, and consequently get more enjoyment out of it for myself and others. I very much appreciate the interest and support I have received from people, and look forward to creating some of my best work in the years to come.

A "Real View" Image

Presented here the way really I saw it!

Synergy With Nature

Wide Angle View

This photo was shot with a 17mm extreme wide angle lens

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I lived here for 17 years. Here is a shot of the historic Milwaukee City Hall, built in 1895. A magnificent building.

Lake Superior

Southern Appalachians

Folding Cameras

From left to right: Voigtlander Bessa 6x9, Voigtlander Perkeo 6x6, Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta B 6x6, Ensign Selfix 6x9

Color Negative

Shot with Fuji NPS on a 4x5 Graphic.

All images and web design Copyright © 2012 Tim McCauley

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