The art of landscape has always been part of my creative experience. The old pen and ink Chinese landscapes shared their mysteries with me. Those and the vast landscape paintings of the Hudson River School were my prized art prints growing up. And being an Army brat, we traveled, a lot. So I experienced many of the great American landscapes, from the Southwest to Maine, at an early age.
I guess I’ve always understood the core premise of landscape photographers, that an image can evoke that connection we have with nature. Landscape is wired into our DNA, has been for a million years. And we’re more whole as humans when we can celebrate that connection consciously.
Like Ansel and David Muench and those Hudson River painters, I’m intrigued by light and land. I try to find some kind of perfection of composition, a balance of elements. I try to use light as magically as I can. I celebrate color. And I attempt to capture some deeper order to it all; because talking about the environment isn’t the same as seeing it whole.
As an artist, you push your mechanical tools to capture what you see around you, you play with shutter speeds and Depth of Field. You start seeing the world as foreground/background, leading lines or dark and light just because good composition is a law of Nature and of Art.
I use a different set of tools (software, etc.) in post production. I get it that some people believe that a file should never be manipulated, whatever the camera gives you is what you’re stuck with. But in a digital age every image is manipulated, whether by Canon and Nikon or Apple or the next Ansel Adams. It’s all bits and bytes and algorithm. Because the camera can’t see, certainly not in 3D, not with the perception of the eye. Not even close. The camera can’t see the sun and deep shadow in the same shot, the eye can. In fact, at its most basic level, every camera starts with a RAW file that looks flat, desaturated, 2 dimensional.
That RAW file looks nothing like the scene I first saw – neither does the jpg file the camera manufacturer delivers, with its heavy-handed saturation and contrast. The question I ask myself in post is, “how do I see this landscape, this place in my mind’s eye.
To get the image to reflect what you saw when you pulled the trigger means working with tools like Lightroom. I use a variety of software techniques to breathe life into the image. When I’m at the computer I try not to “fake” anything. I want the scene to feel truthful, to look as I first experienced it.
That’s why I tweak one area of an image and another, adding structure, adding the suggestion of wind to a field, hardness to a rocky cliff. It’s partly done to get rid of visual annoyances, a tourist in lime green. However, most of what I do is to add the painterly touches that give the landscape elements the appearance of depth and vibrance – to overcome the visual flatness.
Our eyes see depth, our hands touch our environments, we breathe a lovely place in. These elements define our relationship with Nature. Some hint of these flavors of landscape can be re-enlivened in post – allowing the viewer to have a more immersive relationship with that landscape photograph. So from beginning to end, my process is to use the tools of photography to evoke a deeper experience of light and landscape.
The Images Being Presented
My two books explore the iconic landscapes of the American Southwest. My new book project will be a photographer’s road trip through Iceland. But for me, this show is personal. This area is my home. And these places we drive through all the time, Cabrillo Beach, LA Harbor, Palos Verdes, the South Bay, these places have the same magic as a Yosemite or Zion.
The LA coast is regarded more for kitschy beach culture than landscape art. That’s too bad. The Pacific Ocean has a majesty and depth that stretches perception. The cliffs and tidal pools of Palos Verdes and San Pedro shape that raw ocean into an endless dance. Even the landscapes of LA Harbor have an archetypal beauty, when viewed in the right light. The forces of nature are here, working, all around us… if we stop, and see. So, for this show at DeKor, my focus is the mythic ocean landscapes in our backyard.
J. Marie Huston combines her former career in public service with a life-long love of the outdoors to create portraits of nature that help viewers think about her subjects in new and unexpected ways. Her years of working in politics taught her the power of a compelling phrase to inspire change and encourage action. Now, she uses her photographs to tell the compelling story, to garner a deeper appreciation and care for the natural world and to speak for those without a voice.
Her formal education, a BA in psychology from the University of California and a Master’s from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard trained her to see to the heart of a problem and marshal resources and influence to address it.
With rare exceptions for very large sizes, the artist is her own printer. She considers printing an extension of the photographic process and is as meticulous about her final prints as she is every other step in the making of an image.
Eternal, Ephemeral Mojave represents one artist’s experience of being transformed by her ephemerally human experience in an eternal landscape. The Mojave National Preserve is a landscape of extremes, land forms that have been evolving for billions of years, wildflowers that wait100 years to bloom and live mere days.
The Mojave rewards the patient and the reverent, drawing you into natural rhythms that have remained unchanged for tens of thousands of years.