Sometimes you blunder into a good thing while you’re trying to do something else. That’s how Hugh first started noticing amazing landscapes. He’d be out scouting a location for a commercial photo shoot and would notice a potential landscape image. He would return at a later date and capture the photo.
Hugh loves to explore the great outdoors. So landscapes are a perfect fit. He spends hours on the road, hiking, kayaking, riding on packhorse trips in the mountains and dragging his family all over the Southwestern United States on “vacations”, all in search of the most interesting landscapes.
Over the years, Hugh drew ideas from the Vietnam Era photos that appeared in Life and Look magazines. He studied Ansel Adams and David Muench photos. He poured over vintage Marlboro ad photos and Frederic Remington paintings. And, as he did with the Western photos, Hugh sketched landscape ideas in his free time.
When his commercial photography business took off, Hugh had the money to travel and bring his landscape ideas to life. While many of his images are “as is”, Hugh views his scenes as more of a photo illustration, much like he views his Old West art. He hopes to tell a story with his landscape photos.
Light plays a huge part in Hugh’s photos. Light transforms an ordinary landscape into an extraordinary landscape. Being on site during those magic moments of light early in the morning and right before sunset ensure a stunning photo. Even the muted light during a storm can create a fascinating image.
Outdoor light and time are not something a photographer can control. Quite often Hugh’s time on location is limited by budgets constraints. If conditions aren’t just right, Hugh reaches into his ever-present bag of tricks he learned from movie special effects guys. He uses things like fog machines, Fuller’s Earth dust, and powerful wind machines to create a believable environment for his photo story.
In post-production, Hugh adds another item to his story-telling arsenal—Photoshop. Maybe the geographic feature of the photo is spot-on but the sky looks a bit boring. He completes the photos by adding elements like clouds, sunrises and storms from other photos he has taken, seamlessly blending the two images in Photoshop.
“It’s challenging,” Hugh said. “You do a lot of looking before you find ‘the’ place or parts or pieces to illustrate what you see. I love the challenge of creating an image that sticks in your mind.”