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Building a Cohesive Landscape Photography Portfolio – Part 2

Continued from Building a Cohesive Landscape Photography Portfolio – Part 1.

Find Your Focus

The portfolio quickly became about the desolation of the desert but the strength of the desert as well. I’ve always been attracted to the solitary tree or plant, and I swore I wasn’t going to go that direction again. But I’m just drawn to it. Probably eighty percent of my images are of those strong trees and cactuses that are preserving in this desolate landscape. I wanted to show that life continues on. So the movement of the clouds kind of gives the images more of a life – a sense that yes, life is carrying on in this very calm and quiet place that seems like nothing is living there. So that is what became my focus as I put together the portfolio.

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“Vastness.” Mojave National Preserve is a 1.6 million acre park that appears to be barren and nearly lifeless. The life that survives is quiet, and it takes pausing, feeling and seeing to really appreciate what surrounds you there.

Have a Common Style or Theme

The most important thing if you’re going to put together a show or portfolio with a certain number of images is that there’s a style that threads through your images. So if somebody were to look at one of your photos, they could tell that it’s your photography because it looks like your other work. If you have a black and white shot on one side of the show and a colorful sunrise on the other, it can work if you’re purposeful about how those images link together. But it seems that the most successful shows are those that have a common style or theme.

Process Your Images Consistently

I know a lot of photographers who have everything from landscapes to old cars to architecture in their portfolio. But because they’ve been processed in a similar way, you’ll see that they somehow all belong together when they are hanging on the wall. In my case with this show – and with a lot of my shows – I’ve stuck to the black and white or sepia look. For outdoor shows, I always feel uncomfortable when my booth is a mishmash of images that don’t really represent me as a certain photographer. I’m most comfortable when I feel like all my work gels together.

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“Reminder” Mojave National Preserve experienced a 70,000 acre wildfire in June 2005 that decimated the already desolate landscape. What remains of a historical Juniper and Pinon forest are burnt trees that remind us of the power of Mother Nature. By coupling the stillness of the desert with the movement of the clouds, I was able to create an emotional image.

Consider the Gallery Space

When I was processing my images, I was not only thinking about how the images flowed together but also about the walls of the gallery. I knew I could only fit three images on some walls and had to ask myself, “which three images will fit together?” That part was challenging – not just the shooting and processing of the images but visualizing the images together.

Only Include Images That Fit

While I was photographing, I kept in mind how all the images in the series would work together. I shot 500 or more images a day, many of which were long exposures, and ultimately narrowed it down to twenty images for the gallery walls (plus ten more for bin prints). The images I ultimately chose were those that felt like they created a cohesive body of work. There were some images that I thought I liked at the beginning, and as I continued working on the portfolio, those ended up being put on the back burner – like this shot of the Milky Way. I absolutely loved the shot, but it didn’t fit the rest of the wall art, which had a softer feel.

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“Infinite.” Although this image did not make the final cut for the gallery wall, it remains one of my favorites. The Mojave National Preserve is so dark, but with the right planning, a sliver of the moon is causing the back glow.

Print Size Matters

Usually when it comes to prints, bigger is better, right? When I do outdoor shows, sometimes it seems like three feet by four feet isn’t even big enough. So my original thought was to print seven huge panoramic pieces. But once I finished shooting, it felt as if the images themselves were telling me they needed to be small and intimate. I didn’t want them to be in-your-face images. I wanted them to go along with the idea of the “breathe, pause and feel” thought that I had when I was there. So the biggest pieces is only 12 by 24 inches. The brownish tone I use also lends itself to that. It’s soft, subtle and calm. It’s more of a “stop and look, and you’ll find the beauty” feeling instead of “bam, it’s in your face.”

Conclusion

Have you hoped to hang your work in a gallery or perhaps even do your own solo show someday? Challenge yourself to find the common thread in your work, and maybe even try limiting yourself to one location for a while. Don’t rush through your photography, even if you’re in a chaotic place. Sit down and breathe in and feel and look and see and become one with the environment. Don’t try to just rush to the next location. Photography should be about emotion. With so many people being photographers, it’s all about finding a way to separate yourself from the masses. And one of the best ways to do that is to have that quiet contemplation with your subject matter. When you really take your time, the emotion you feel in the field will translate to the gallery walls.

Christine’s solo gallery show, entitled “Pause. Breathe. Feel.” is on display from January 1 to February 28, 2017 at The Desert Light Gallery in Kelso, California. You can find more details about the show here and view more of her stunning desert imagery on her website. If you’re in the area (or are up for a great trip), be sure to check out Christine’s imagery, and experience the gorgeous, vast and enduring terrain for yourself.

About Author Christine Hauber

As a full-time professional photographer for over 25 years, my love of photography has pushed me forward through the tough times as well as the absolutely amazing times. I have captured the quietness Mother Nature gives us to the amazing faces of man and beast.

Without a creative outlet, I am not sure I could exist with such gratitude and grace. Being creative affords me hours of quiet contemplation, allows me to absorb the beauty around me even when there seems to be very little of it and feeds my soul. Sharing my resulting images and knowledge is my way of hoping to bring those same feelings to those who view them.

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