cole thompson photography


Issue 106 - May 1, 2019


Ho'okipa Lookout No. 1

Hello Cole,


In this newsletter:


·         New Images from Maui

·         Simple

·         The Story Behind Old Car Interior

·         Where You Can See Me Next

·         Print Drawing


So often we think that the "experts" have the answers. And when it comes to plumbing and proctology, I do think we should listen to the experts! But when it comes to art, we must find and trust in our own voice.


Art is not about winning or earning a living, it's about expressing what's inside of you. And no one is more of an expert about you, than you.


Here are a few quotes that I love on on this subject:


·         "Sometimes you have to be able to listen to yourself and be okay with no one else understanding." Christopher Barzak


·         "What another would have done as well as you, do not do it. What another would have said, do not say it. What another would have written as well as you, do not write it. Be faithful to that which exists but in yourself - and thus make yourself indispensable." Andre Gide


·         "I decided to accept as true my own thinking. I have already settled it for myself, so flattery and criticism go down the same drain, and I am quite free." Georgia O’Keeffe


·         "Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy." Norman Vincente Peale


·         “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.“ Unknown


I hope that you are well!



New Images from Maui



Fluid Water No. 50


The Chant, Iao Valley


The Road to Nowhere, Maui


Huialoha Church Bay


Lone Man No. 68


Molokini Crater


Windmills on Maui No. 4


Windmills on Maui No. 5




Dark Sheep


Even though I’ve been photographing since 1968, I consider the years from 2004 to present to be my important ones. It was during these years that I found my Vision and pursued my Passion.


Poudre River Spillway


During the last 15 years my work has changed in many ways and I’d like to illustrate one of them: my work has become more simple.


Railroad Tracks


I've always loved simple images but it wasn't until the last few years that I consistently started to create them.


Swimming Towards the Light


It wasn’t really a conscious decision to simplify my images, it just "sorta" happened as a by-product of another decision.




Several years ago I decided to simplify my equipment and processes.


String of Pearls


I was spending too much time tinkering, adjusting and fixing things and I wanted to instead focus on what was important. I think that this philosophy of simplicity spilled over into my images.


Lone Man No. 35


So what do I mean by a simple image?


Gull and Moon


For me, it’s an image with fewer visual elements and less detail.


Lone Man No. 7


Like in the “Lone Man” image above, there are only three elements and very little detail.


Four Silos


The fewer the elements and the less detail, the simpler the image is.


Dew on Feather


Even though this image has a lot of detail, I have darkened the sand so that it doesn't compete with the feather, but rather makes it stand out.


Beneath the Clouds


Simple images are, well, simple.


Monolith No. 27


And I generally don’t find them this way, I create them this way.


Minneapolis Power Lines


Sometimes “simple” comes from the composition: what you include in the frame, but more often what you don’t include.


Five Sticks


Sometimes what you don't include is just as important as what you do include.


Iceland No. 12


I always ask myself two questions: what do I want the eye to focus on?


Fluid Water No. 45


And: what’s not needed?


Deep Snow


Another element of “simple” is to eliminate detail.


Separation No. 2


Yesterday I was looking at an HDR image and it suddenly occurred to me why I don’t care for them. The wide dynamic range includes too much detail, I find it too busy and distracting.




That certainly would have been the case with this image if I would have preserved all the shadow detail in the rock, it would have overwhelmed the image.


Melting Giants No. 22


One of my oft used tools to remove detail is the long exposure. I use it to smooth out detail in water and sky.


Isolated No. 15


This image, without the long exposure would not be nearly as clean or effective.


Faroe Islands No. 6


Another technique I love to use is burning down detail. While many photographers work to preserve shadow detail, I purposely eliminate most or all of it. When I do leave some shadow detail, it’s very subdued.


Monolith No. 62


Many of my images are very dark because I burn out all of the detail.


They Walk Among Us


And sometimes I’ll do the opposite and dodge up the image to eliminate or reduce detail except where I’d like your attention to go.


Lone Man, Zabriskie Point


This image has a lot of detail, but it's been pulled way back into the background by lightening it, leaving the lone man as the focus.


Dunes of Nude No. 73


And sometimes I both dodge and burn, bringing up the subject and burning down the surrounding area.


Isolated No. 20


That's what I did with this image, I darkened much of it to reduce the amount of detail and brightened the areas I wanted to focus the eye on.


Run Aground


However I do it, simplifying the image always seems to make it better.


Dunes of Nude No. 86


It is true that sometimes, less can be more.


St Louis Arch


I like it simple.


The Story Behind the Image: Old Car Interior


Old Car Interior


It’s ironic that I should tell the story of Old Car Interior in this issue of my newsletter




Because it follows my article on creating simple images by reducing the amount of detail in the image. And of all of my images, this one probably has the most detail.


Right after I returned to photography in 2004, armed with a new 8 mp digital camera, I had "new eyes" and I was photographing everything. Everything was seen anew and was exciting!


My neighbor down the road had several acres of old cars and trucks in various stages of disrepair, and it seemed a gold mine to these new eyes. I introduced myself to Frank and asked permission to photograph in his yard.


The image above is from a 34 Chrysler, shot through the back window (sans glass) with a very wide angle lens. The inside was dark and the outside was very bright. so much so that I could not properly expose for both.


Not knowing how I "should" solve this problem, I did what made sense to me: I took two shots, one for the outside and one for the inside. Then in Photoshop I cut out the window from the one image and pasted it into the other image.


Even if I had been aware of HDR back then, I would not have used it. My approach gave the natural look I was after.


For the inside of the car, I spent over 50 hours over many days working all of the detail with a dodging and burning brush. Those many hours were not indicative of how hard the task was, but rather how inexperienced I was with Photoshop and dodging and burning. Today I'm certain I could do the same job in just a few hours.


It is interesting that in today's world 8 mp's would be considered woefully inadequate and the equivalent of a child's point-and-shoot camera. And yet I have printed this image as large as 40" X 60" and it is looks magnificent. That's just another reminder that better equipment is not always the answer to a better image.


This same day I also created these two images:




Frank's Stove


Something else I came away with this day; a friendship with Frank and his Donkey Alvin, who now lives with me (Alvin, not Frank!)



Alvin, a great joy in my life!

Where You Can See Me Next


Moai at Rano Raraku No 4



Here's where I'll be speaking (and holding workshops at some locations) this upcoming year:


·         7/2/2019 at the Boise Photo Club


·         9/9/2019 at the West Shore Photography Club in Mechanicsburg, PA


·         9/10/2019 at the Livingston Camera Club in Livingston, NJ


·         9/24/2019 at the PSA Annual Conference in Spokane


·         9/27, 28 and 29 at my home for the Fort Collins Studio Tour


·         11/1/2019 at Nature Visions in Manassas, VA


·         4/4/2020 at the Light and Creativity Workshop in Harrisburg, PA


·         4/23/2020 at the Photographic Society of New Zealand in Christchurch



It's always nice to have friends at these events and so I hope to see you at one of these.


Print Drawing


Isolated No. 6



The winner of my last drawing is Albert Bronson who will be taking home a print of "Harbinger No. 22" from Easter Island and who amazingly, just recently visited Easter Island.


Congratulations Albert! Please contact me and arrange for your print to be delivered.




To enter the newsletter drawing for Isolated No. 6 (above), send an email to and put "Isolated No. 6" in the subject line.


Email Cole and Enter the Drawing!


About Me

Contact Me

Newsletter Signup


Facebook ‌ Twitter ‌ Instagram ‌

Cole Thompson Photography | 4780 Totonka Trail, Laporte, CO 80535