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

 

 

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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…

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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.

 

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Practicing; #The100dayProject

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Last year I spent almost a month in Buenos Aires.

Half of that time was vacation, during which we took 2 hours of tango lessons every day. It left me with some amazing experiences, some basic Tango skills too embarrassing to ever use in public, and a very obvious reminder.

During these 2 weeks we got to know our tango instructors quite well. They were master dancers at the very top of their game, but they would still, every week, take lessons from other dancers. I was curious about this and in conversation asking why, the answer was the quite obvious; One can always get better and always learn a different way of moving.

 

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I often feel that as a photographer I am in a bit of a learning vacuum. It is learning by doing and exploring, but not with the constant input of a mentor’s direction. I constantly think about the tango dancers in Buenos Aires and them learning from others every single week, and I recognize I crave this.
The best athletes all have coaches. They push forward on their own but always with guidance. Why would us photographers work different?

The environment for a location photographer like myself, putting in 250 days a year of travel, is not very conducive to a classic mentoring environment, so I’m not quite sure what this will look like for me. I have done a few workshops with other photographers, and go to lectures given by all kinds of inspiring people as often as I can.  This helps, but it is not a classic “master”…

A few weeks back I was having dinner with my great friend and photographer Thayer Allison Gowdy and the discussion came upon this subject of constant practice and learning. Friends of Thayer’s had initiated the “100 Day Challenge” online, and we decided to tag along.

Our challenge: To create one portrait a day for the next 100 days.

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In this there will be learning by doing, but by doing it together there is accountability. Accountability to get things done and to explore and compare the daily portrait.

It’s intimidating to share work that is a part of practicing, but it is also liberating to put images out there with no other purpose but to keep myself to the daily effort of photographing someone.

Self-help gurus say the way to instill new habits are to consistently do something over 100 days. It will then become habit…

So on I go to create a habit of making a portrait every day. Through this hope to learn something new; a daily way of deepening my understanding of the elusive quality which makes a great picture, and my ability to connect with the people I photograph.

 

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The pictures in this series are inconsistent in their quality, but I’m still utterly excited about the work. The series is not about the singular image but about me becoming better at my craft.

I’m excited about learning and excited to be doing something new. To create a new habit of constantly carrying a camera and constantly observing.

Here is an outtake of some of the 43 images so far…

 

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All of them are posted live on the below tumbler blog if you would want to follow.

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/erikalmasphotography

 

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