Committing to my craft like a Trappist Monk

I took my first Photoshop class in the fall of 95.


I did it then because my dad was an engineer and I thought it cool to mix some computer classes into the ethereal quest of attending art school.
It was probably the best decision I made, part form studying photography in the first place…

As I learned the craft of image making, putting in most of my school hours in the traditional darkroom, I also learned Photoshop from the bottom up.

As my work matured so did the software and by the time I graduated Photoshop had it’s layers we today take for granted. With the adding of layers in Photoshop a completely new world opened up and I was truly happy to trade my chemical induced rashes caused by my time in the darkroom with time in front of the computer.


Erik Almas_Photoshop_Selfportrait

(selfportrait, 1997)


In the years following school I would assist during the days and spend my evenings and nights, only interrupted by the intermittent bout with some gin tonics, exploring how my pictures could come together in this new digital world.


With this exploration I became a part of the first generation of photographers who seamlessly used Photoshop as a true extension of the images captured, shooting for the idea and then allowing the captures to unfold within the software to a final image.



Natalia in Water.Final







Fast forward 15 some years I started to truly resist the retouching process. I felt chained to it.

I have always been drawn to the big landscape, wanting fresh air and open vistas and I no longer wanted to sit in front of the computer.


It became tougher and tougher to honker down, to absorb day after day and night after night for the fulfillment of a singular photograph. I wanted to be outside. I wanted to capture moments and emotions and deepen my visual rather than technical esthetic.


What had helped establish me as a photographer and made my career one extraordinary ride of amazing locations and beautiful encounters all over the world had become a battle ground. A barrier I had to push through to achieve the fulfillment of these moments I was hired to experience and photograph.

The battle has been ongoing. I would start avoiding the office and seeking distractions. What once put me in the zone, in complete flow, was now only happening right up against client and self-imposed deadlines.


Then there was a shift…


Instigated by a break up there was a search in me, or maybe a longing, to get back to where I started. To both reignite the old and to redefine and push forward creating new, meaningful work.


Maybe the biggest step in this quest to create anew was moving to the country side, finding a place of less distractions. Way smaller but more impactful was the suggestion to read the book Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks, by August Turak.

Reading Turak’s book completely changed my view of spending post production time with my images.
In short the premise is the human archetypal longing of a transformational experience. We all seek it…
Therefore the fascination of films, books, concerts, theatre, travel and adventure, who all gives us a brief glimpse of a what this human transformational experience can feel like.


Turak argues that there’s a void in us after these short experiences, leaving us feeling incomplete or unfulfilled. (As I write this Burning Man is just over and all I keep hearing from the ones participating is “decompression”…)


Turak then goes on to describe the traditions of the Trappist monks and their commitment to effort in all things and how labor is for them almost as important as prayer in their own seeking of a transformation.

Their experience however, spanning years of dedication to craft and prayer, is lasting…
It’s a fascinating read and I walked away with a completely renewed commitment to my time spent at the computer. Commitment to doing the work, joyful or not…


I learned, it is in this resistance one find oneself. It’s in the commitment to the process, working through this opposition, one learns, renews and see things from a slightly different perspective.


It’s in this resistance greatness and transformation lies and I’m again committed.

Committed to do my best work ever, letting all my adventures and captures on location manifest itself during evening and nights in solitary time spent with my images, my ideas and myself.


Sharing what I know

For a long time I have been sharing what I know about the process of photography and Photoshop.


I graduated from the Academy of Art University December 1998. Not long after James Wood, the director of the photography department, asked me to come and speak to his class about life after school. 16 years later I still do.

Almost every semester I pop by James’ class and share what I have learned about photography and becoming and succeeding as a photographer.


It was flattering to be asked to speak for a class I had taken myself and in the beginning probably the main reason for me doing these lectures. As I kept coming back for this twice yearly visit to my old class room I found this semi annual telling of what I had accomplished since school to be truly powerful in my own development. It became a way of taking inventory and reassessing my work and where it was going…

At times when I did not feel my career was going anywhere and I was doubting myself, my photography and career-choice these visits allowed me to see my efforts at becoming a photographer as a timeline. From this perspective I would always see that I was in fact taking better and better images and maturing at my craft. In this I always found renewed inspiration to keep at photography and elusive pursuit of better pictures.


What was me sharing and giving advice became at the same time the reassessment and evaluation of my own work that in many ways kept me going. What was me giving gave me the tool I needed to succeed…
And so my path to share my craft and process started.


Erik Almas Advertising Editorial Photographer Conversation



Erik Almas Advertising Editorial Photographer Crash


16 years into it, having held lectures all across the US and creating online tutorials, I have to say I love the process of sharing what I know. It not only feels great to see how my story can inspire others, but it truly sharpens me and my craft as well.

It forces me to continually ask “why” I do what I do and brings great awareness to my own process and how to improve upon it.


I never set out to teach but it has been an interwoven parallel through out my photographic career, giving me just as much or more than I have shared.


Erik Almas Advertising Editorial Photographer Cowboy

My latest body of work follows the different stages of the breakup of my last relationship and the resetting my life.


The complete process of creating this series was documented by the guys at RGGEDU.

It’s me taking pictures and sharing my process put together into one.

A combination of me as photographer and teacher and I’m excited to announce the release of this tutorial in the next few weeks…

Erik Almas Advertising Editorial Photographer OldMan

Erik Almas Advertising Editorial Photographer Train

Below is a great behind the scenes look at the making of the tutorial and all that went into the project.


The challenge of finding the right location

I get to see a lot of amazing places in my work as a photographer, and at times the effort that goes into putting the camera in the right place is nothing short of mesmerizing.


I have dived, rappelled and jumped out of planes to get the right perspectives. We have paid orange farmers to not harvest their orange trees so that we can take a picture a few weeks later and travelled all the way to Argentina to photograph potato fields. We have chased the seasons travelling southward through the US as leaves turned into autumn colors to capture the last bit of summer foliage and we have crossed oceans to create one image of a lush underground cave, photographing caves in Alabama and waterfalls in Hawaii.


Erik Almas Advertising Editorial Photographer Location Blog


I believe few people outside the world of advertising understand the effort we put into the photographs we take for our clients…

In this pursuit of creating pictures at a specific time, of a specific thing in a specific place I have great help, and in describing these efforts I do say WE as this is truly an effort of many.

A photographer’s right hand, and conductor of this effort, is a great producer who will research, source, plan, arrange and seek permission.


For this assignment, done for GSW, we ended up in the small town of Culpepper, Virginia.  Seems simple enough to find a lake, but what if you tie it to a barn which style you only find in certain areas of the country and that again to a vintage tractor?

Then the simple search for a suitable location is not so simple, and I lean on my producer to make it all happen.

It starts with finding the states where this certain style of barn exists, then looking at places likely to have old restored tractors close by with a beautiful lake in the vicinity.

When the general region is decided upon we send scouts out to take images of the barns and lakes in the area. They will knock on doors and ask if the landowners would be ok for us to come by and take a photograph…

The agency creatives, clients and myself will then pick a place, show up, wait for the right light and hope all those efforts and the travel of many will result in the image we all hope to capture….


Erik Almas Advertising Editorial Photographer Lake



Erik Almas Advertising Editorial Photographer Barn


Crafting visual stories set to my own Journey

Moving from a small town in Norway to San Francisco to attend art school was a massive cultural change. And that’s an understatement…


I soaked it all up searching for my identity and spirituality but found true resonance in the “Symbolism and Mythology” class. Joseph Campbell quickly became a favorite as he made initial sense of the stories told through religion and mythology.

That he had advised George Lucas in shaping the journey of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars sure helped and “The Hero with a thousand faces” became THE book…


Today, as I continue my effort in crafting images that reflect my own story, I always refer to the Hero’s Journey. I find it to be the most powerful tool there is in shaping stories around my own life events that I want to describe and share through my photography.

Mythology tells the human story in such an engaging manner, and Joseph Campbell has offered a key to help understand their metaphors. His writings are my continuous support as I try to become a better photographer, depicting my own story…


Erik Almas Advertising and editorial Photographer Crash

This image of the car crashing into the river is from 1 of 4 shoots I just did based on recent life events of mine.

I could depict these in a literal manner, or look to the journey of all transformation and their cycles to help translate emotion into visual stories;  Stories truly connected to me but photographed with models and in some metaphorical way describing the emotional context…




To make it all happen the image was photographed in 2 locations and then blended together in post.



Erik Almas Advertising and Editorial Photographer IMG_2366