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BetterPhoto Photography Interview - Part I

Art Wolfe


Art Wolfe portrait
Portrait of Art Wolfe
© Kate Baldwin
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BP's Jim Miotke has a fascinating discussion with the world-renowned photographer and host of the TV series "Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe"

Art Wolfe is known for combining journalistic and artistic styles into an eye-catching style, and for his passionate wildlife advocacy. "His unique approach to nature photography," it's been said, "is based on his training in the arts and his love of the environment". He has published numerous books and has received many awards over a career spanning more than 25 years.

Art's latest project is Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe - airing throughout the U.S. on public television stations. During the a 13-episode series, Art offers insights on cultures, nature, environmental issues and digital photography.

In this interview covering an exciting range of topics, BetterPhoto Founder and President Jim Miotke visited Art in his beautiful home in Washington state.


Jim Miotke: How did you get started in photography?

Art Wolfe:

Itís very simple, I was an art major at the University of Washington in the mid '70s. During the week Iím at art school learning design elements, while on weekends, I began to hike more extensively, eventually climbing virtually every major mountain in Washington. Iíll never forget my first camera - a Konica. There were no instructions - it was used, as we didnít have much money back then. I put a roll of film into it.

Art Wolfe interview
© Art Wolfe
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I had no idea about shutter speed or f-stops, and the first box of slides I got back I opened it up and you could literally look through all the slides to the bottom of the box. They were so overexposedm there was nothing. So the next box I got back was the complete opposite - all black. Anyway, I eventually learned there was a correlation between f-stops and shutter speeds. I started taking pictures and documenting hikes and climbs and showing friends and family where I was going.

Inevitably, the allegiance from painting started shifting into photography - because, I donít want to say hyper, but I am active. ... I found that photography was far easier for me to create original compositions at a faster speed. It is a medium that was suited for my temperament. And I love it ... I mean, I absolutely took to it.


Jim Miotke: It's interesting because a lot of people get into photography because they can't draw. But you CAN really draw ... thus, it was a timing and speed issue?

Art Wolfe:

Absolutely on the money! I have always have said - and I absolutely believe it - that I will inevitably slow down my travel pace. I have not thrown any of my paintbrushes away or my paints - Iím a water-colorist. I will start painting again and I will be so much better than when I stopped painting. I don't have to be painting to get better. It's intellectual, it's all the eye and the mind that make you a better painter. It's not the skills in manipulating the brush, although thatís part of it, and I had that down and I know havenít lost it. So ... someday.

Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe
© Art Wolfe
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Jim Miotke: So it's a matter of having that mental game down?

Art Wolfe:

Yes, and some of that is true in photography. There's the rudimentary aspect of f-stops and shutter speeds, but itís the eye and the mind that make the big difference.


Jim Miotke: What is one of the big differences in how you shoot now - digitally, as compared to the many years you shot with film?

Art Wolfe:

It's really changed drastically. When I was taking slides, I'd shoot 10 shots because invariably they could get lost or damaged as they were being sent out to publishers and stock agencies. So it was always good insurance to have multiples of the same thing. That doesn't mean I shot like a drunken sailor, but if I choose to shoot a subject, then I would back it up. Today, with digital, you know you shoot that you verify you've got it and you know you can burn identical multiples. So the whole shooting situation has changed - for the better.



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