Ronald J Pickering

Photography is my way for conveying what I am observing and feeling about a subject. I am very interested in a variety of landscape types (city, suburban, parks) and the changes taking place along with the human impact on these environments. There are many approaches I utilized which include seeing the “big picture”, coming in close details (micro landscapes) and even abstraction. My influences are Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, Annie Leibovitz, Edward Weston, Wolfgang Sievers, Edward Burtynsky, David Maisel, Francesco Tonelli and Nathan Myhrvold. 

I was taught that whether in life or art, you should always pass on the knowledge you obtain and try to help others. As photographers, I think we get a bit to guarded and competitive at times so I would like to share some tips I received from my training at College for Creative Studies, National Geographic and Ansel Adams workshops. I find that most of my “brilliant ideas” someone has already thought of or has documented so no original thoughts here, just passing it on.

The first piece of advice I was given by a professional photographer was to know your gear and master the technical details before going into the field. I missed many images because I was fumbling with my camera or light meter. This part is for the people newer to photography as I know a lot of us have this understanding. I would suggest anyone doing landscapes really understand your camera, lens and exposure (especially the histogram). For instance, my Canon 5D Mark iii can shoot stills almost all day on a battery and ½ but video and live view cut the battery life in half. My 2.8L Canon 28-75mm is best at f11 for all around sharpness and at f22 even though the depth of field is greater, the image is softer. Lastly, I like to use a pocket gray card and color passport in the field to check exposure and document the lighting for white balance. It only takes a few seconds but saves you so much time in post. I got a chance at PhotoLA to see an Ansel Adams original print up close. I was surprised how much detail was held in the blacks and whites which is why I check the histogram so I am preserving what is important to me in the image.

Next is the acronym CLAMS which stands for Composition, Lighting, Aperture, Message and Shapes. This was shared with me by a photographer at an Ansel Adams workshop. He stress this over and over while we were in the field and the results were immediate.  I try to always keep this in mind when I am shooting. I don’t necessarily do this in the exact order but I try to think it through. It is even on the back of my camera with a silver sharpie. 

First, I need to think of what I am trying to say about the scene, the Message. Am I highlighting the beauty of nature scape to support environmental efforts, documenting a renaissance in a city or just daily life in suburbia? What is it about the place in front of me that I want to share with the world? If I can verbalize the message, I probably am going to be able to create an image that connects with the viewer.

Next the Composition and Shapes. Is the composition clean and free of distractions? Are the shapes supporting the composition in an interesting way? Can I move around the subject to use the shapes to better focus the viewers’ attention to the subject? Do I see multiple triangles that draw the eye to a majestic peak or building?  Do have a bunch of box shapes building some visually compelling? Am I using or breaking the rules of thirds to best serve the message? 

Next is the big one, Lighting. Where is the light coming from? How is the morning light verses midday verses evening? Do I need side lighting for details, a harder light for drama or should it be flat and subdue for a serene feel? Whether working in the city or nature, I like to walk the area at different times of day and in different seasons to see how the light affects the composition, changes shapes and supports the message I am trying to convey. 

Lastly, the aperture to focus attention to detail. The other steps usually dictate where I am going to set the lens but all of this is up to the individual photographer to use or not use to support their style and art. The trick for me is to know the rule and when to break them (again no original thoughts here!)

What I wish of my imagery is to move the viewer to think about how our actions as a society impact our personal and natural environments. I have a lot of projects ideas but I am trying to focus on three, 1) local parks, 2) contrasts between urban and suburban landscapes and 3) the “everydayness” of LGBTQ lifestyles such as shopping, cooking, cleaning, and arguing to name a few. The last will be my senior thesis starting this year. 

Ron Pickering (b. 1963) resides in Douglas, Michigan, and is pursuing his BFA from the College for Creative Studies (2021). He previously served in the United States Navy and earned a BS from Baker College. He has 30 years of experience in the software industry, giving him exceptional experience with project management and digital technologies. Pickering specializes in food photography and is drawn is to sourced locally, particularly chefs and bakers creating products which moves away from processed foods. 

His work has been exhibited in Chicago at Beverly Art Center Chicago, Michigan shows including Art Prize, Festival of the Arts, Collins Art Gallery and Gremlin Art Studio, and published in Seen magazine.  He has been commissioned to create work for Michigan organizations to include Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford Hospital, and the Rochester Fire Department. Pickering is an active member of The American Society of Media Photographers and is represented by Armstrong Degraaf Gallery in Saugatuck, Michigan.

More of Ronald’s work can be found on his website

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May 16, 2020

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