Photography by Ira Gardner: Blog en-us (C) 2018 Gardner Media Group LLC (Photography by Ira Gardner) Wed, 27 Jun 2018 14:55:00 GMT Wed, 27 Jun 2018 14:55:00 GMT Photography by Ira Gardner: Blog 103 120 New Portfolio Arrives From Italy

Yesterday was an exciting day because my new portfolio of fine art images arrived from Italy.  I commissioned Graphistudio to custom build a leather album with a cut crystal cover and custom wood box to hold it!

This work represents my most important body of work of my career so far and I am pleased that the craftsmanship of the final portfolio matches the quality and effort I put into the images.

The Primordial images will be featured in upcoming gallery exhibits (stay tuned for details!)  and a limited edition of these books will be made available for purchase as a way to collect the entire collection in a beautiful art object.

I will share more about this project soon!


]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) Wed, 27 Jun 2018 14:54:37 GMT
Backyard Party

This past weekend I was hired to photograph a party at a private home. I find this sort of casual atmosphere a very challenging photo assignment because it is hard to elevate the work beyond a snapshot unless you really understand photojournalism and storytelling.  Even if you do understand those things it is still hard because it takes timing to get the magic in your photographs.  That last aspect is a lot like baseball where the batter has a simple tool (the bat) and has a simple task (hitting the ball) but needs lots and lots of practice to get the timing right and will still fail 3 out of 4 times.  That is what this assignment was like for me.

I was hired to be there for four hours. After the first hour of walking around and photographing all the guest you really have to get creative.  As I went through the images I realized that I absolutely loved doing this work because it required tremendous concentration and visual problem solving to make engaging photographs.  First of all I needed to be on full alert to pay attention to the gestures and expressions of the people I was photographing so I could capture the right moment.

This got me thinking about how important it is to come up with image rules before you start shooting.  The clients hired me to document their event and the goal was to not do posed photos but to tell an authentic story about the fun celebration that was happening at their house.  In order to accomplish this I knew I had to focus on gesture and expression and try not to be intrusive.

After photographing for an hour using my 50mm lens which is my favorite storytelling lens I had essentially photographed everybody at the event.  What was I going to to do for the next three hours?  I ended up photographing the party in three waves of image making.  The first wave was to photograph using the normal lens in a manner similar to Henri Cartier-Bresson.  The second wave of images involved photographing with a 24mm wide angle lens.  I got really excited about this because not only was I using a lens that belonged to my father from over 40 years ago on my new Nikon dSLR camera body but I was also able to set the lens for hyperfocal distance and know that I could get everything in focus from about 3 feet in front of me to infinity.  With that in mind I started playing with high vantage point images as well as getting pretty close to the people I was photographing.


The third wave of images involved grabbing my 75-200mm lens and taking telephoto shots without people being aware of me at all.  I was inspired by the great soviet era photojournalist Leonid Bergoltsev who believedf that for photojournalism to have any truth the subject could not be aware of the camera.  I set my lens to 200mm and grabbed tight shots of the faces as well.


Finally, the other aspect of all of this that I found profound was the fact that with digital photography I didn't feel limited in the number of shots.  In the early days of my career I would have limited myself to 200 frames of film because the client would never pay for more film processing and printing!  With digital photography I can shoot through the moment and capture a sequence of images that I then can select the peak moment to publish.  

For four hours on a saturday night a danced and weaved around the crowed house and back yard to make my photographs.  As I look at the combination of images from the night I am extremely happy with the results and with the ongoing learning that happens when I take on any new assignment.




]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) Photo Stories Mon, 25 Jun 2018 16:46:56 GMT
Tao inspired art 12"x20" black and white panel of a foggy landscape with a bronze bell hanging from a pagoda.Peace and FriendshipThe Korean friendship bell sits silently in an imagined landscape inspired by Taoism and the Manual of the Mustard Seed Garden. 12"x20" Giclee

Peace and Friendship
12"x20" Giclee Composite Photograph by Ira Gardner

I made this composite photograph yesterday after having spent the past few weeks revisiting the ideas of Taoism and Chinese painting.  Taoism has been an important part of my art practice for more than 10 years now.

 I was in Los Angeles last week for my parents 50th anniversary and I took them to the Korean Friendship Bell located in Angels Gate Park.  I was born in San Pedro and my parents were married there.  We moved away two months before my 9th birthday but it always feels like I am returning home when I visit and especially so for my mother who was raised there. 

I photographed the bell as well as the three pelicans as the three of us walked along the ocean.  I find it interesting how I managed to create an image that features two groups of three birds and how that reminds me of being there with my parents in our own group of three.  We went to a church service at the same place my parents were married and I wonder if the idea of the trinity subconsciously entered into this artwork as well. 

After returning from that trip I was inspired to build this composite image using images from my library.  The lower left reeds came from images I made with my wife while we were riding our bikes on the Trail of the Couer d' Alene's and the three ducks and the Cormerant on the pier were taken in Tacoma while visiting my friend Ed.  The water comes from an image made up at Priest Lake and the foggy background is from an image I made a few years ago at Liberty lake.  To finish the image off I added a texture layer from an image of a rough plaster wall.

I think what excites me the most about this kind of work is that I am constructing the final image like a painter.  The word photography means "writing with light" and in this way I feel as though I am making a photographic version of chinese brush paintings.  In compositing this image together  I am blending my life experiences into a harmonious expression of peace and gratitude for the memories of special moments where I felt connected to something to the Tao of life.

]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) digital composite Fri, 22 Jun 2018 14:40:10 GMT
New Logo New Logo I recently went through a new branding exercise to try to simplify and unify my photography logo.  After a year of experimentation with different logos I have decided to simplify and modernize the look.  The roundness of the G along with the simple black and white icon of a camera represents the themes of the sage/creator archetype that is at the heart of everything I do.  I hope you like it!

]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) and news updates Fri, 15 Jun 2018 16:21:07 GMT
Conservative America Collin Masteller I made this digital composite this morning from a photo shoot I did with Collin Mastheller who is a dear friend and colleague who works in video production.  Collin is a a hard worker who keeps his opinions to himself at work but dresses in a very provocative manner on an almost daily basis.  I actually don't know his political viewpoints because he doesn't participate in debate or argument about such things and yet he dresses on a daily basis in a manner that most would label as a "conservative red neck."  I know Collin to be a funny and loving family man and a calm person under pressure when working on a project with me.  Everyone loves Collin because of his extremely laid back mannerism.  It's just his clothing that is loud!

I asked him if I could make a photograph of him for an illustration about the stereotypes of conservative America and Trump supporters and he agreed.  On the afternoon of the photoshoot we had a good laugh over the fact that four people had asked him if he was wearing a costume or if this was his actual clothing.  It wasn't a costume.  I saw him wearing the same outfit at his work just yesterday!

For me this image is not only a reflection of our times in American Politics, but because I know this person, it is a reminder that these are our friends and neighbors as well.  Politics has become so polarized that it is easy to choose sides and stop speaking to one another.  I think my efforts to make this image is related to my efforts to explore ways in which we can start a conversation.


]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) digital composite Fri, 01 Jun 2018 12:48:00 GMT
Be Iconic Video Introduction

Here is a video that introduces my recently completed portfolio of editorial portraits that I am calling "Be Iconic".  Click here to see the entire portfolio!

]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) photo stories Thu, 31 May 2018 13:42:03 GMT
SoCal Lifestyle Portrait Lighting Demo

Commercial Photographer Cory Henderson brings the essence of southern California into his work.  He is a phenomenal talent with lighting and digital editing skills.  I had the opportunity to work with him recently to develop his branding and portfolio and it became obvious that he is a creative archetype who brings an element of fierce independence to everything he does.  His affinity for photographing graffiti led me to make this composite image of him recently.

]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) digital composite Thu, 24 May 2018 13:07:30 GMT
Hip Hop Photographer Portrait Lighting Demo

I've had the privilege of watching this young talented photographer become an outstanding hip hop concert and lifestyle photographer.  I made this image of Cristobal Arellano while teaching a portrait workshop a year ago.  I just came across the image yesterday and decided to add a graffiti background that captures the strength of his work.  He is quiet but speaks loudly with his camera. 


Check out his work at:


]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) digital composite Thu, 24 May 2018 13:04:05 GMT
Color Harmony

With digital editing I can build color harmony into any photograph.  Here is an image I made of a Abilesh who is a computer science student studying in America.  As you can see the room lights behind him didn't make for a good background.  I brought him out to a hallway that had a skylight and used the natural daylight to illuminate his face.  When I balanced the color for the daylight the background turned an unattractive yellow orange. I decided to build a stronger color harmony by replacing the background image in this editorial portrait that is designed to have a high facism ratio to emphasize the cerebral thinking that goes into being a comoputer scientist. Since he had yellow and blue in his clothing I decided to play off of those tones and add some canvas texture as well.  By combining multiple background layers I could create more depth to the final image.


Here is how I built this image.

]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) digital composite Wed, 23 May 2018 17:36:14 GMT
New York Mindset

I have been playing with the creative potential of overlaying textured images on to my portraits to add some editorial content to the images.  I photographed Sasha last year and although she was still in high school at the time, I could see big cities in her future as this was a young lady filled with strength and confidence!

I found a stock image of New York from Adobe Stock but it wasn't until I overlaid my own image of the empire state building that the whole thing seem to come together.    This kind of stylizing of images is causing me to look through my library of images with a new set of eyes for the creative potential that exists.

I think this is a logical progression for a portrait photographer who is trying to say something more within the confines of the studio.  I think Arnold Newman would have enjoyed the creative potential that exists with digital compositing.

]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) digital composite Wed, 23 May 2018 14:46:43 GMT
Yume "Dreams" "Yume" 2018, Composite Digital Photography

This weekend I have been experimenting with building digital composite images that have depth and texture.  This image combines a photo I made from a Japan week event at Spokane Falls Community College along with a bridge I photographed in Hilo Hawaii during March of 2018.


"Heiwa" 2018, Composite Digital PhotographPeace and Harmony This was another Bon Odori dancer who was standing quietly.  I added a background from a Japanese Garden I photographed in Hilo, Hawaii.


"Yūgana" 2018, Composite Digital PhotogaphSparrow fan dance that illustrates the concept of "graceful". This is the tree sparrow dance being performed.  It reminded me of an image I made of a blue heron taking off.  The bird was from the San Juan Islands and the lake and mountains were from Jasper National Park in Alberta Canada.


Image Titles:

Top: Yume (Dream), 2018 Composite Digital Photograph

Middle: Heiwa (Peace), 2018 Composite Digital Photograph

Bottom: Yūgana (Graceful), 2018 Composite Digital Photograph

]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) Sun, 20 May 2018 20:27:12 GMT
Classic Elegance

I made this quick portrait while giving a workshop on shooting portraits on gray backgrounds for composites and Anna happened by in a beautiful red dress.  She was kind enough to let me make some photographs of her as examples for the workshop.  I applied some beauty retouching and layered in some texture into the background.  It was so much fun to photograph Anna.  She is so intelligent and and talented.  I appreciated working with her.

]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) digital composite Fri, 18 May 2018 14:30:00 GMT
Meet Clara Mannino Lately I've been experimenting with reworking some of my portraits to build stronger color harmony in the work using digital composite editing techniques.  Here is a portrait I made of a wonderful musician and teacher named Clara Mannino.  I met her while working on a project for the Holy Names Music Academy which provides music lessons for our community from some of the most highly respected musicians in the northwest including numerous symphony members.


I enjoyed my photo session with Clara so much that I decided to record a short video of her playing and talking about her work as a teacher.

]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) artist info photo stories video production Wed, 16 May 2018 14:00:00 GMT
Words Matter: Power 2 The Poetry

The Richmond Art Collective was hosting an artist studio open house event on a cold winter night in Spokane.  This young woman and two of her friends walked into my studio and asked me if there was only visual artist allowed in our studios and I said "absolutely not! All art mediums are supported here.  We just don't happen to have any poets in residence right now."  She then asked if it would be all right for her to do a spoken poem performance in the hallway of our studios where people were gathered around a potluck table.  I said "sure... go for it!"  In an instant the building was electric with energy and passion as she recited a poem about Black Lives Matter.  The passion and energy of her words absolutely gripped me.  As soon as she was done, I immediately handed her my business card and asked her to come back next week with her friends for a photo shoot.  I assured her that my interest was purely to support her cause.  Bethany is only 22 and already has her MBA degree from Eastern Washington University.  AJ the Wordsmith has overcome so many barriers and has traveled the world writing and performing his own poetry. Marie is a college student from Detroit.  Power 2 The Poetry is a local arts group that is seeking to give voice and empowerment to marginalized people.  They are working on creating an incredible after school poetry program at three local high schools next year.

This photo shoot was intense and wonderful.  I had to earn their trust through collaboration.  I made this composite image and presented a poster size print at their open mic event in March.  The fire they lit in the room that night has continued to burn in me as well as I attempt to make work that celebrates the enduring human spirit.

]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) digital composite photo stories Mon, 30 Apr 2018 13:15:00 GMT
Making of a large production shoot I made this tableaux image with a great group of models and colleagues.  I wanted to portray stereotypical roles like the cowboy, biker, judge, and beautiful women.  However, in my twist I wanted to have the women be strong, bold, and disinterested in what any of the men in the room thought of them.  I like the idea of using stereotypes and then destroying them through the strong gaze of empowerment.

Here is a short movie that illustrates the use of stand in models while the hair, makeup, and wardrobe was being put together on the set.

]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) Fri, 13 Apr 2018 15:30:00 GMT
Solar Eclipse 2017

August 21st will be a day I will never forget.  I had the privilege of witnessing a total eclipse with two of my favorite photographer friends, R.L. Dietz and Craig Sweat.  R.L. is an astro photographer I have known since 1989 and he had spent the last 30 years waiting for this event and Craig is a commercial photographer whose kindness and intellect never cease to impress me.  

R.L.  convinced Craig and I to drive down to Oregon and join him in a campsite in a beautiful meadow in the Mahleur national forest the night before the eclipse.  It took 5 hours to get there and 12 to get back!  It was worth it.

R.L. set up a couple of telescopes with tracking motors and I got to attach my camera with one of them.  His knowledge and expertise of astronomy made this image possible.  

While I was waiting for the event to start I noticed mountain bluebirds flying around everywhere.  Bird photography and astro photography are two types of imagery I tend to avoid.  I don't bother photographing these subjects because I can't see where I can contribute anything new to the volumes of images that already exist.  However, since I was experimenting with a 500 mm lens and looking at the birds I went ahead and made a few shots.  Then R.L. helped me get my camera attached to his telescope to get ready for the big event.

For two hours I made intermittent photographs of the eclipse leading up to totality.  When the moon finally passed completely in front of the sun it was an awe inspiring moment.  I almost forgot to make any photographs! The experience left me disoriented and bewildered.  After more than 30 years of listening to R.L. stories about astro photography I finally understood what drove his passion.  

On the long drive home I thought about what I could do to make something that would express the magic that I felt at the moment the moon blocked out the sun and turned day into night.  I had never seen any other star but the sun during the daytime.  Since I teach photography I mentally went through the lessons I give about creativity and composition and how I always try to create a relationship between elements.  As I pondered the problem of composing an image of an eclipse that wouldn't look just like the other millions of photos taken in the zone of totality  I realized that I had all the elements I needed to personalize this event for me.  I imagined in my mind the possibility of combining the birds that were there in the meadow with the solar eclipse.  

This image represents my experiences on that miraculous moment and is my attempt at contributing something personal to library of images that documented this historic event.  


]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) Wed, 23 Aug 2017 16:04:22 GMT
Global Education Project

I did a quick video interview of an international student studying at Spokane Falls Community College.  These mini projects are so rewarding because of the wonderful people I get to meet.  

]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) Video Production Mon, 06 Mar 2017 00:32:02 GMT
Winter Day Dreams

I made this image last weekend after coming home from Priest Lake Idaho.  The lake was frozen out to the islands.  The background image is a panorama of four frames and the dog image was one I made on my cell phone.  As I was driving home I was thinking about the gift my brother had given me of a ship in a bottle and I hatched an idea to make this digital composite image.  I dusted off the bottle and headed out to my back yard in knee deep snow and photographed the bottle to give it some authentic light and texture.  I can't help but be reminded of the stories about Shackleton's expedition and the story of Argos the faithful dog in Homer's Odyssey.  This is part of my Whimsical Art series.

]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) Photo Stories Mon, 27 Feb 2017 15:42:58 GMT
Notan Studies    

I made these images just outside the photo building at the campus where I teach.  I was working one on one with a student.  It never fails that when you are in the right mood the images are all around you.  I was just looking for line and for the light and dark values that give life to an image.  

]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) Tue, 21 Feb 2017 03:48:25 GMT
Mother's Birthday Portrait

Today was my mother's birthday.  I picked her up and took her downtown to my new studio and made this portrait of her.  While she waited for me to set up she took a moment to close her eyes and relax.  It was a perfect moment so that is what I made a photograph of.


]]> (Photography by Ira Gardner) Sat, 18 Feb 2017 03:45:00 GMT