If you’re not an NPN member yet, you can join our free tier to ask questions in the AMA or to get the full benefits of what we offer; you can join here.
Hi, I’m Stan Rose, a nature and landscape photographer currently based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and I’m excited to be here for AMA (Ask me anything)!
My journey as an artist started when I was growing up on Long Island, New York. I was an avid painter back then, mainly abstracts and surreal subjects with acrylic and mixed media. Despite my discomfort with the NY art scene, I thought about pursuing a career in fine art, but anxiety and self doubt led me to abandon my early dreams and I went on to pursue two other careers. First was a public defender/criminal defense attorney in NY in the 90s. Then after going back to school in 1999 and getting an MS in Atmospheric Science, I found work as a meteorologist/forecaster for NOAA in California and Colorado. It was while attending grad school in Seattle WA that I picked up a camera to document my many hikes in the Pacific Northwest, and my interest in art was reignited by my photography.
When I moved to Colorado in 2005, I found naturephotographers.net and when you have folks like Guy Tal and Marc Adamus freely giving you advice and suggestions, it’s hard not to improve! After critiquing several thousand photos, I became a moderator for the old site and was either loved or hated for my reputation as an honest but harsh critic. I’ve since mellowed in my approach to critique thanks to a decade of social media, but I credit those early days on NPN for honing my skills as an artist and photographer.
In 2016 I decided to quit my comfortable federal job and pursue a full time job as a nature photographer. After moving to Arizona in 2018 with my wife, I opened my first gallery in Sedona. Despite selling nearly a million dollars in prints to people all over the U.S. and abroad, I’m still eating ramen noodles and trail mix and driving a hail-dented Subaru. Fine art photography is definitely a tougher job than defending criminals or saving people from blizzards and tornadoes— But very rewarding! So I’m glad to answer any questions you have for me about my profession, philosophy, art, or even favorite guitarist!
- Please only ask one question by replying to this topic a single time, using the “Ask a question” button at the bottom. It’s also helpful to scroll to the bottom while reading the topic to make sure nobody else has asked the same question first before you ask.
- Please don’t ask more than one question so everyone gets a chance.
- Please do not reply to anyone else’s post. The only purpose of replies on this topic is to ask the author one question. Please create a new topic if you’d like to discuss a related topic in more detail.
Posts not following these rules may be removed by moderators to keep the Q&A flowing smoothly. Thank you!
thank you so much for doing this and taking the time! My question: I am an amateur landscape photographer looking to work more seriously in the future and maybe get into teaching other people, doing workshops etc. (not not necessarily full-time, but maybe half-time).
From your point of view: What is the most helpful activity in order to get more visibility and reach out to people. Winning Photo Awards? Networking?
Thank you so much!
Hi Markus–thanks, that’s an excellent question, and basically the ‘million dollar’ question when one is doing this to put food on your table. I think there is no single ‘correct’ answer, but I can answer from my perspective–which is to develop a consistent recognizable style. I think in this online age, posting consistently in social media and on your own space is most essential to build an audience, but ultimately it is the time you put into developing your own vision that will get recognized. The other activities like networking and presenting to people follow from that. So think about what your place in the field is, and then be very consistent in showing your work. I’ve dragged behind in the social media world, so that’s a reminder I have to keep giving myself–put your stuff out there! Cheers-Stan
Hey Stan – I’m a photo hobbyist who has been shooting a long time. Love landscapes, birds, but can be tempted easily by urban abstracts. So much to enjoy visually in this world. If you would be willing to share your approach to printing images for display and sale, I’d be grateful. For example, I heard a speaker once say he always sharpens his images in processing before printing, even if they are already very sharp. Saturation also a big question these days – do colors really have to pop to attract today’s buyer? Also, some shooters interact with their printing companies – they have a relationship. How important is this? Many thanks for this opportunity and for your inspiring images.
I’m surprised that you are selling a million dollars a year of prints when I was told prints don’t sell anymore, and how is it that you are still on Ramen noodles if you are moving that many prints? Does your family think it is time to return to defending criminals and forecasting weather? That reminds me, I need to buy your book. Going to your site after this.
Hi James–excellent question! For my gallery displays I show pieces printed on metal (Chromaluxe) which are my best sellers, and then a higher end option printed on archival paper and then mounted on Trulife acrylic, which is your top-of-the-line display. I also print on canvas but I prefer the sharper look of metal because it suits my style. Both the metal prints and Fujiflex (now its Canon paper, but same idea) are known for colors that pop, and since I personally like colors that pop, they are my favorite methods. From a sellers perspective, most people like vibrant pieces but personally I don’t care for super-saturated so it is a bit of a balance. I love color, but I prefer to get it by seeking out the most colorful subjects and framing them for the most color, rather than post-processing. I don’t do a lot of sharpening beyond my default LR settings, to me it is far more important to get the shot sharp with correct focus and then I’ve never had a need to sharpen much beyond that. As for developing a relationship with my printers–yes, I think it is very important! Since I am selling a fair amount of prints to customers all over, I need to know that if there are any problems with the prints or shipping that I can resolve them quickly! That makes the customers happy and saves me a ton of stress. So I sought out the companies that gave me the best quality and the best personal service. Cheers-Stan
I am planning to buy a new carbon fiber tripod with adequate weight capacity, excellent leg stiffness, either 3 or 4 leg segments ( I know 3 is more stable than 4) and have a question about central column: some newer design tripods (Leofoto, Artcise, Gitzo, etc.) have the option to have the usual straight central column, OR have a central column that can adjust angle slightly to compensate for uneven ground, rather than raise/lower tripod legs to get it level. If central column is not elevated m uch 4-6" imum, and is tightly locked, is the column with angle adjustment less rigid ( for long exposure time) than the straight column. I have asked Gitzo/Leofoto distributor technical people who say they don,'t know since tripods are made and tested elsewhere. Having angle easily adjustable will save much time, but not worth doing it stability is sacrificed. Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks.
Alton, good to hear from you! Haha–I should have been more clear–that’s a million dollars over 4+ years! And unfortunately, it is true that the past year or so has been brutal, hence the noodles I learned quickly as a business owner that there are always more expenses than you anticipate, the list is endless from credit card fees to gas to insurance… and unless you want to work 60+ hours a week sitting in a chair (which I did for most of the last 5 years) it is tough getting good help. I tell people who ask advice about the business–you do it cause you have to, not cause you want to. LOL
Hi Stanley, welcome to the site, and thanks for your question! I am not the best person to ask about gear, I am a bit of a minimalist when it comes to gear; I own two tripods and that’s enough for me, one CF and one heavier 3 segment. These days, I only use the CF for backpacking or long hikes cause I’ve always found them less stable, and I’ve owned a number of CF tripods over the years. So for me, stability is the primary concern, and while I’ve never used a tripod with an adjustable central column, it sure seems to me that the more adjusting there is, the less stability there is. I would check the reviews and see what people are saying. Cheers-Stan
Hi Stan, great photos. Do you have an image that is most meaningful to you? A shot that represents a significant change or moment in your career or life?
Hi Joshua, Great to hear from you–great question! I have a lot of ‘favorite photos’ but I like how you phrased your question, cause it was very specific and makes it easier to answer So I have to say it was my photo of a tree emerging from the fog at South Fork Mountain, that was in 2005 and before that photo won an honorable mention in the Banff competition I had imposter syndrome; that photo gave me the confidence to know that I could reach a wider audience, I shot it with a 6mp Rebel and when they asked me to give them a file to print 20x30 for their worldwide tour I almost panicked LOL but it was super sharp. I had to drive up a forest road in my Jeep after a snowstorm dropped a couple feet of snow, and then ski a couple miles more from the point I could drive no further. I definitely had to work for that shot! So yeah, that was a turning point for me cause that’s when I knew I had something to offer. SouthForkMtn
Stan, with your 15 years of experience working as a weather forecaster for the National Weather Service, I’m curious to know how that extensive background has influenced or improved your photography. Has your understanding of weather patterns and atmospheric conditions had a significant impact on the way you approach and capture your photographic subjects?
With your meteorology background, what sort of tips could you share with us in terms predicting or analyzing weather data for landscape photos? I mostly care about colorful sunsets and low fog for example. I can never predict the fog levels here in the Bay Area so it’s mostly just look and go for me.
In looking at your website, I see you do some Milky Way photography. This is something I have become passionate about. My personal ethos on this is not to use composites or blends, except for what Starry Landscape Stacker does in its processes. This obviously creates some issues with noise. Do you use anything beyond Lightroom to reduce noise in your nightscapes? Also, anyone that knows what anti-crepuscular ray are when they see them is A-Ok in my book!
Hi Trevor, thanks for joining in! Absolutely, my experience has helped! That’s why I wrote a whole ebook on the subject (weather forecasting for photographers) cause it is one thing I am qualified to talk about LOL. It gives me an edge to make smart choices about when and where to plan a shoot. I may not always be right but at least I get to rely on my own decisions rather than counting on public forecast resources, I always check forecast model output which is available in a few places on the web. I’ll say more in my response to Richard…
Hi Richard–great to hear from you! I could say so much about that subject, I could almost write a whole book on it–oh wait, I already did! (shameless plug for my ebook) I don’t believe there are shortcuts to the answer. There are apps out there for sunsets etc but honestly I would never rely on them, at most I would use them as an additional tool for more info. Fog levels can be tricky, I spent 3 years in Eureka forecasting them but that was 20 years ago and tools have improved somewhat. It helps to have access to model soundings that give a vertical profile of the lower atmosphere, that will tell you at least what the model believes will happen to the fog. And just knowing what the winds will be doing–onshore vs offshore, will give you a huge amount of info. So it is a combination of knowing how to read the model data, and then experience over time in seeing how the model data matches up with reality so you get feel for model biases. That is the heart of forecasting–science and art. Sunset/rises are the same principle but even more complex because clouds are inherently tricky to forecast and there are so many other variables, like terrain. I hope to be coming out with a newer version of my ebook in the near future! Cheers-Stan
Hi Paul, thanks for joining in! Yep, especially living for 5 years in Flagstaff and Sedona (both dark sky communities) I really got into night sky photography. I am probably more of a ‘purist’ than most with regards to my philosophy on blends, but my goal is always to make people relate to the photo, so if it takes a composite, so be it. In my gallery for example, I had a whole dark sky wall with shots from Sedona, and of the 10+ prints only two were composites–if I can achieve what I want without a composite, then I will do extra work to achieve it. But I will also do whatever it takes to overcome the technical limitations of gear, so some of my shots are stacked, 10-40 exposures usually. And lately I’ve gravitated a bit more towards the ‘artsy’ side so I recently did a two shot blend, one 2 minute tracked (using Star Adventurer Pro) exposure of the sky and a second single exposure of the landscape that was taken 45 minutes earlier in moonlight. The result isn’t what my naked eye saw, but it’s a better representation of my personal experience being there, looking through the viewfinder, just without the noise. So long as people are transparent about how they achieve a result, I personally don’t care what methods they use. But if I went too crazy with composites/blends and replacements etc, I would lose the personal joy of recreating the experience and it wouldn’t feel the same sharing it with others, that’s just how I feel about it. The bottom line is I’ll do whatever it takes to fulfill my goal, which is generally to share a ‘real’ experience with others. Noise is getting easier to overcome as sensor technology improves and noise reduction tools (like AI) improve. Cheers-Stan
Many thanks for sharing your advice Stan. I like metal a lot too – framed prints now look almost out of style to me. I think you have to select images that specifically work in frames to get the right effect.
Agree on shooting colorful subjects. We are blessed with so many. Here is one of my favorites – a huge Chicken of the Woods fungus on a trail above Lake Tahoe – that didn’t need any more pop !
Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us, Stan. Do you have any suggestions or pointers for visiting and shooting the Great Sand Dunes in winter and early spring? Last time I was there(Eegads, 25 yrs ago!) I recall climbing to the top of that first large dune then being unsure which way to go. Is it just luck or are there certain directions that are more “photogenic”? I know that sounds absurd but maybe you get my drift.
Hi Rebecca, thanks for joining in! You really can’t go wrong in the Dunes, that’s why I love that place so much! One of my favorite times to shoot was winter, cause when it gets to 30 below zero it pretty much guarantees you get the place to yourself And yeah, you basically pick a good direction and go, that’s the beauty of it. It really depends on your specific goals, but in general if you are looking for ‘photogenic’ the best time is about 1-2 hours before sunset through sunset, and stick to the south side of the dune mass. So instead of climbing straight out to High Dune (the first large dune you mention) instead walk a mile or so southward along Medano Creek, then make a beeline towards Star Dune, which is about 2 miles to the west. You will know you are getting close when you get your first good views of the Crestone group of Peaks in the Sangres, the real jagged ones. In Winter and Spring it will be snow covered and that’s what makes the view so photogenic, the contrast of the snow covered peaks and sand in the foreground. So, that’s the sure way to get photogenic, but every corner of the dunes has it’s own charm and scenes Cheers-Stan