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Pastel interpretation of Claude Monet's "Woman with a Parasol"
My pastel interpretation of Claude Monet's "Woman with a Parasol", circa 2001.

“Plein Air” is a French term that can be roughly translated to “open air” or “outdoors.” However, the historical context of the term “En plein air” is the primary reason why I chose to use this term to describe my work. It refers to art created outdoors as inspired in 19th century France by John Constable and the Barbizon School, and popularized by impressionists such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. This movement was a reaction against the artificially cultivated still-life and posed scenes of studio paintings common at that time. Artists of this movement abandoned their studios for the outdoors where they focused on capturing color and light over detail, and painting similar scenes under different conditions to see how it affected the mood of the painting. A color photograph uses essentially the same philosophy as it captures a single moment in time, as brief as 1/4000 of a second, and is fundamentally governed by the ephemeral lighting conditions that change the mood of any landscape and/or subject.


Moreover, with this historical precedence in mind, I find myself in a similar situation as the advocates of the Plein Air movement. I have been involved in a number of studio and event photography shoots where the moments are carefully orchestrated and the lighting is staged to fit a predetermined ideal. This style of photography has its own challenges and artistic value, but it is not the style that interests me the most. For me, the best pictures occur spontaneously, especially while exploring new and unfamiliar places. Light is the very essence of photography, and I spend a great deal of time anticipating the patterns of light throughout the day and night to capture what I consider to be the most captivating representation of a specific place and time. To the studio photographer, I am the Plein Air counterpoint.


Lastly, I chose the term “Lensman” because it’s a term still generally given to serious photographers, and it fits better with the rest of the name. The term “photographer” could have been used instead, but I find that title to be terribly overused in a world with millions of self-proclaimed cell phone “photographers” who don't give the art the same level of research, planning, and commitment to execution.


At first, these three words may seem trivial, but they very effectively represent my photographic philosophy. They harken back to the ideals of the impressionist movement and what it means in modern photography. To me, En Plein Air Photography requires you to immerse yourself in the environment in order to share in the unique and rare moments that are hidden in the most secluded locations, or even in locations often traveled, but rarely seen at their full potential.

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