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March 31, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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March 31, 2010
 

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f Wednesday, March 31, 2010 1B Bulletin, Progressive, Record, Reporter RE GI O NAL Photographer prepares his mind to seize opportunity Titled "The Place I'd Rather Be," the above photo was taken in Olympic National Park, northern Washington. The photo is an example of time exposure photography allowing for the saturated color, ethereal light and movement of water. It also illustrates one of Gunter's primary composi- tional concerns: a pathway leading the viewer into the picture. 'q'he Path," left, illustrates one of photographer Gunter's compositionalinterests, A winding path leads the viewer into the photo- graph.Ger i0es cpuringa moment in 'place tit would otherwise be overlooked. The sunlight streaming through the trees gives ita magical effect. Photos by Michael Gunter Linda Satchwell Staff Writer Isatchwell@plumasnews'cm Photography has been in Michael Gunter's blood since he was a boy. His father was an amateur photographer and, at age 11, Gunter began taking pictures with a medi- um format camera. His father had a darkroom, and Gunter began processing his own work when he was 12 or 13. "Everything was done by scratch," he recalls. "Mixing chemicals, (doing) computations by hand; it was like learning magic." Gunter has followed that magical path for a lifetime. "My obsession is with the subtle beauty of smaller land- scapes. I've never been inter- ested in Niagara Falls or Mount Everest ... I'm interest- ed in the small, subtle places that most of us would miss." Gunter cites Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams as his early influences. Until 1985, he shot only black and white. After that, he began working in color, Most of the photographs Gunter has on display are shot with his medium format camera. The clock on the rock was a photo Michael Gunter saw in his mind long before he found just the right place along Hat Creek to photograph it. Gunter said he is concerned about "the time we have left with the environment." The visualization that spawned this photo was a response to that concern. Gunter suffered a broken arm trying to get this photo, but he came back a week later to capture the image. Years ago, he took a photo in 35mm of an "autumn pic- nic." He liked the idea that you don't get to have a picnic in winter. The photo has a picnic bench in the distance, with the leaves of autumn covering everything. Gunter said he wasn't happy with the photo. He often returns to earlier themes, and in this case he returned to the same spot to try and capture the image of the autumn picnic he had in his mind. There is a sense Gunter's work isn't episodic in nature, but rather one ongoing project. "I went back and finished it," he said, this time in medium format. In fact, in the later photo, he shows how the viewer's eye follows a leaf-strewn path, then crosses the water, takes another path, finally arriving at the picnic bench. He was very aware of this journey in setting up the picture. With the medium format camera, he concentrates on time exposures. "I face into the light," he explained, "the light hits the water and comes up in the camera. We don't see it with the eye because the water's moving. We see it kind of sparkly." Exposure gathers the light over time, resulting in deep, saturated colors -- leaves have a richness that escapes the naked eye -- as well as a great variety of color and a sense of depth in the water. Those are essential features in much of Gunter's work. To get this effect, he closes the camera down all the way, as far as it will go. He even puts filters on to cut out the light even more. Then, he allows for a really long expo- sure: from approximately 20 seconds to as long as three minutes. Because colors don't all saturate at the same rate (water and shadows turn blue, for instance), he uses correction filters to maintain the color balance. Another place he returned to after many years is in Yellowstone National Park. Gunter showed me a photo of himself at 12, holding a medium format camera on a wooden walkway. When he returned to the spot in his beautiful "Return to Yellow- stone," he captured it in ele- gant black and White. The wooden pathway leads the viewer into the picture. Gunter admits another of his obsessions is pathways, whether they're made of earth, wood or water. "Path- ways and waterways allow for some lead in with the curved lines," a composi- tional element Gunter said he enjoys very much. Acutely mindful of compositional rules, Gunter seems to delight in breaking them with care. In a photo- graph taken near the Oregon Caves, he points out the strong, central rock coming out of the riverbank. In front of this "big center- piece," the river provides "this funneling movement through the picture," so the composition is "solid in the center, and (there is) this movement right in front of it." In another, the water appears to go uphill, drawing the viewer's eye up and out of the frame. Again, the photo is a time exposure, allowing for all the deep colors in the landscape and reflection colors in the water to come through. The long depth of field that occurs in a time exposure means that "things close and far away are still in focus ... depth of field, high resolution and sharpness: those things are really important to me," Gunter said. His technical understand- ing of photography is all in aid of a central idea. Gunter maintains he's engaged in "chasing (not taking) pic- tures in the landscape. I say this because often times the images are constantly ahead of me, and I find myself frus- tratingly trying to catch up to the moment in space and time when I find the camera at the center. "When the shutter is set, I stop and watch and listen. It is as if the landscape is aware of the camera and gives the image -- on a good day. See Gunter, page 9B A photograph of the river and the woods illustrates the beauty captured with a medium format camera using time exposure. The lengthy exposure allows for saturated colors in the woods and a sense of depth and movement in the water. Gunter said he gets this effect by dosing down the camera as far as it will go and adding filters to cut out the light even more, which allows him a really long exposure.