The Photography Of Gerald Hill: Craft & Vision Combined

Gerald Hill has been involved in photography for over 37 years and often explored creative work while employed in the aerospace industry in Wichita, Kansas. In 2003 he began to exhibit in several galleries that sold his landscape images, many shot in western states. Hill recognized that a grounding in art is essential to making effective photographs, and he made time to take classes with artist Charles H. Sanderson, who encouraged him to consider photography as his means of self-expression, and to learn the basics of visualization so he could capture his subjects with greater impact. As Hill went deeper into his studies he saw results: his compositions became both more dynamic and more personal.

Trail Of The Ancients
Storms at sunset are always worth waiting for.
All Photos © Gerald Hill

Old Prairie Homestead
The prairie on this day was so clear you could see cloud layers at multiple altitudes.

He made the switch to digital in 2002 and commenced scanning his best slides and also became absorbed in digital printing techniques. He dedicated himself to creating photo opportunities that would provide images to both boost his enthusiasm and please his print buyers.

“I spend several months planning photo trips,” Hill says. “I research and choose areas that appear to have real artistic potential. I most enjoy travel in early spring and late fall, when rapidly changing weather can improve my chance of getting a variety of different lighting effects. During a photo trip I focus on making images extracted from views that might otherwise be ordinary. I try to make compositions that interpret inspiring landscape features.

“I look for pictorial elements that work together, or against each other. Some of these may be geometric that contrast with natural forms. When possible, I feature dark areas against light ones, soft lines against jagged. Finding striking natural scenes helps me make salable images.”

The Doors Of Loretto
Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe has inspired people to look beyond themselves since 1878.

Uprooted And Washed Ashore
Yosemite is magical in early spring, as in this shot, though there are frequent weather changes. El Capitan was only visible for seconds, then fog covered it again.

Antelope Canyon
Hill captured the light rays by tossing up sand and letting it settle and advised to keep your gear covered! He uses a gallon size baggie and minimizes lens changes; fine, dusty sand can intrude everywhere!

Field Techniques
Hill continues, “Stimulating photography for me consists of precise composition, exposure, and focus control. I usually stop down to f/16, depending on the lens and subject. Minimal diffraction may result, although it’s not noticeable without the aid of a loupe. I’ve found that eliminating the extreme hard edge of some subjects does not make them out of focus. What it does is to allow for selective sharpening that produces images that do not appear overly processed.

“I always bracket by varying shutter speeds because using a consistent f/stop maintains consistency of image appearance. Without bracketing I could not retain the highlights or shadow details that are needed to give my images an edge. My bracketing technique at different focus settings allows edge-to-edge sharpness to be obtained in postproduction.

“Typically, a photo set, as I call it, can take a half hour or longer to set up and shoot. My bracketing of exposure and focus can result in 18 to 24 photos, and if I do a series of compositions of a subject, I can spend an hour and take 50 or more frames.”

Pueblo Bonito #2
The Chaco Historical Area is full of ancient architectural photo opportunities.

Three
Many times the best perspective is the one most people don’t see. Take time to visually explore your shooting location.

Historic Clock Tower
This photograph shows how a different perspective can give an alternative to the typical image of a tall tower.

Processing Techniques
Hill does his processing work in Photoshop. “By cloning various details I assemble a single photograph from the best of the set in color, then I convert to black and white to take advantage of color’s extended tonal values. I use the quick selection tool to find areas for dodging and burning. I work extensively with the exposure adjustment. Later that offers enhanced exposure control, and offsets gamma corrections. It yields better results than using the brightness slider in contrast adjustment. The gamma correction slider in the exposure box allows me to make necessary local corrections. It works better than simply adding contrast because it can separate and define areas of contrast better than the brightness/contrast box.

“I like to move the gamma slider to 80 or 90, then use the exposure slider to increase that level. If this blows out lighter area details, I go back to my bracketed photos and clone in a corrected value. After this process is repeated many times the overall image becomes optimized and presents a scene as I envisioned it the first time I viewed it.

The Orpheum
Contrasting patterns like this stairway make great subjects.

Abandoned School And Piano
The piano had the backdrop of several textures, the bricks, peeling paint, and falling sheetrock. Decay caused the ceiling to collapse and the floors to rot.

“Finally, I add contrast globally to bring the image all together for printing. Some of the combined moves can take several hours work, and I may spread the process over a week or two. It’s worth it to me when viewers comment on the subtle or dramatic tones I can achieve in a scene. Sometimes both are there because I work for ultimate tonal values that satisfy my aesthetic vision.”

Hill is delighted with new black-and-white printing technology. He says, “It’s getting easier to make fine prints that galleries and collectors are pleased to hang.” His precise black-and-white exposure and processing work is linked to careful composition that pays off in sales.

Gerald Hill has authored an eBook titled ELEMENT: The Photography of Gerald Hill. For additional information and to see more of his work, visit www.ghillphotography.com.

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