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Portfolio Review – Color, Form, Shape and Texture in Nature

by Bob Jump Bob Jump

I have participated in the last three portfolios and have found them to be an excellent learning experience. I received detailed critiques of 8-10 images by 4-5 reviewers each year. That’s from 32 to 50 critiques in one evening.

Compared to the maximum of 22 image critiques during the regular competition meetings, that makes the portfolio review one of the best learning experiences the club offers it’s members, especially since it is included in the $35 annual dues.

If your goal is to improve your photographic skills, you should make the effort to assemble a portfolio and participate as often as possible in this program.

My first portfolio was titled “Fall Color in the Lost Maples Natural Area.” These images were my attempt to capture the brilliant color of fall foliage. The beauty found in nature has always moved me, and it is the motivating force for most of my photographic efforts.

The subject to my second portfolio was “The Geysers of Yellowstone.” The images in this portfolio portray the power, beauty and dynamic nature of the various geysers I encountered during two trips to Yellowstone National Park.

For last year’s portfolio I returned to the theme in my first one, namely color in nature. This time I captured the color to be found in several of the mushrooms that grow during the fall in nearby nature areas.

Portfolio Pieces Click on Thumbnail to view full-size

Artist Statement:

Color, Form, Shape and Texture in Nature

My favorite photographic subjects are found in nature. Indeed, the beauty and diversity of nature is a motivating force for most of my work. I am especially fascinated by the colors, forms, shapes and textures found in nature.

In the past I have concentrated mostly on capturing these features with landscape images. The images presented here take a different approach by moving in close in order to isolate the features of a single plant. For this portfolio, I have chosen to concentrate on mushrooms, which I find to be one of nature’s more interesting plants.

Mushrooms come in a wide variety of colors from bright reds and yellows to more subdued browns and oranges. Many have interesting textures and shapes. Most mushrooms grow very close to the ground and are surrounded by a chaotic and dull background. In order to emphasize the various features of mushrooms and to show the bright colors more effectively, I have isolated them from their distracting backgrounds by replacing their natural background with solid black.

My primary goal in taking these images was to illustrate the beauty of a variety of mushrooms. To this end, I have chosen to concentrate on their color, shape and texture, treating them more as abstract objects rather than showing them in their environment.

Artist Bio:

I have been interested in photography since I was quite young. During those early years and up through high school, I shot only black and white and enjoyed processing the images in a darkroom. During college and while pursuing a career in computer engineering education, I never seemed to have much time for this hobby.

Just as I retired, several things happened that restored my interest in photography. I now had the time and resources to pursue this hobby aggressively. Digital cameras and image processing programs such as Adobe Photoshop allowed me to recapture much of the fun I used to have in the darkroom, but now with both color and black and white images. For these reasons, photography has once again become an important part of my life.

I am a member of four photographic organizations in Houston: the Houston Photographic Society, Houston Camera Club, Houston Photographic Study Group, and the Houston Center for Photography. I have taken several continuing education courses, both at the Houston Center for Photography and Rice University. I attend club meetings regularly and participate in their various competitions whenever possible.

Portfolio Review – “Water Dance”

by Laszlo Perlaky

Laszlo Perlaky

One of the reasons I joined the Houston Photographic Society was for the Annual Portfolio Review, where members can show a body of work and can solicit critiques from fellow members as well as a panel of reviewers.

I remember when I showed my best images from my first portfolio, "Nature is My Friend." One of the respected HPS Fellows came to me and politely remarked that the photos were nice, but that it was not a portfolio. I had to think about this a lot, and I finally understood, accepted the teaching behind the opinion, and then re-evaluated my definition about what constitutes a portfolio.

This really challenged me to push myself and I started to work hard for my next year portfolio, "Legs to Wings." This was more of a body of work. However, one of the reviewers picked four images out of my twelve and said to me, "these are the images which I wish to see as a portfolio."

Once again, I received another strong critique which helped me to better review my own works, deepen my connection with nature, create previsualized images containing a story board, and I then presented my revised portfolio, "On Wings," the following year.

"On Wings" was a great success and generated many other new successful portfolios such as: "Nature Softies," "Hide and Seek," "Ripple Dance," "Invisible Angels," "Wichita Scapes," "Wabi-Sabi," and "Fragmented."

In 2010, on our summer photography trip, I tried something different. That is, I previsualized a series of images when I heard the music stemming from the water and rocks and I recorded this dance in an imaginative series of photographs. Nobody believed at that time that I photographed my "Water Dance" portfolio.

Portfolio Pieces
Click on Thumbnail to view full-size

Artist Statement:

"Water Dance" is part of my visual experiment to translate the sights and sounds of the dancing ripples of mountain springs, exploring the softness and beauty of our intimate natural world.

This series of images was taken on a recent photography trip to the Rocky Mountains at Snowy Range, Wyoming. The orchestra of the splashing, gurgling, running water over the colorful rocks lit by afternoon rays turned the scene into a ballroom where I heard a gentle voice ask me to dance. I was under this magical spell as I waded into the ice-cold, crystal-clear alpine creek. I heard the music of the water and rocks and started to move slowly, recording my feelings with each step – unique forms, colors and shapes documenting our dance in an imaginative series of photographs.

In all aspects of our natural environments, I seek and attempt to observe and feel the invisible. Each image captures fleeting moments and preserves them in a dream blur of color and shapes. The work represents a new direction in perceiving nature and challenges the viewer to enter into their own dance with our fascinating and always changing natural world.

My Mission is to observe, understand, accept, and create art which communicates between humans and nature.

Artist Bio:

Laszlo Perlaky is a Baylor College of Medicine faculty member at Texas Children’s Cancer Center during the week and an avid nature photographer on the weekends. He born and raised in Hungary, traveled throughout Europe, Japan, and the USA, finally settling with his wife, Alexandra Nemeth, and two children in Houston in 1990.

His high affinity towards both the natural environment and the camera helped him pursue photography and gradually perfect his craft. After 20 years of black and white photography, he has transitioned to and mastered the chrome medium, working with it exclusively for the past 15 years. At the present time, he uses a Nikon D-SLR system and for his landscapes, 4×5 and 8×10 large format field cameras, scans his color films or processes his high-resolution digital captures, and produces archival, pigment ink digital prints.

He is a member of several national and international photographic organizations and loves to teach photography. He leads monthly Photo-walks at Brazos Bend State Park, conducts his Naturalperl workshops, and teaches regularly at the Houston Center for Photography. He is the past editor and publisher of the Silver Image (2001, 2003) and Field Contributor to Nature Photographer magazine. He has successfully participated and awarded in international photography contests, published his images in magazines, books, calendars, and exhibited his work at major art festivals and print sales.

Portfolio Review: “Infra Vision”

by Lexi Nemeth

Lexi Nemeth

One of the greatest opportunities at the Houston Photographic Society and a measure of our own assignments is the yearly Portfolio Review.

I try to complete my portfolio every year. However, when I start to work on something challenging and new for myself, I just need more time so that my in-progress portfolio will shift to the following year.

As a long-time HPS member, I received many useful suggestions from my fellow HPS members, respected peers and our Portfolio Review critique/discussion judges. They all helped me fine tune my vision, think more about my images, and have inspired me to improve my photography and interpret my images better. This resulted in my successful participation on group and solo exhibitions, art shows and print sales.

My best images are part of my “Drops”, “Reflections” and “Doors and Windows” portfolios.

I tried to do something different in 2010, and presented my “Infra Vision” in-progress portfolio.

Portfolio Pieces
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Artist Statement:

The “Infra Vision” series represents parts of my dreams and childhood remembrance of fairy tails and ghost stories, revealing messages from the unknown as well as the future.

The photographs were taken during this summer’s trip (2010) to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. I have been there several times. But this time, I visited the Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces and the Lower Geyser Basin to record the unpredictable geothermal activity with my infrared camera.

It was amazing to see all that the infrared camera could detect in the surrounding landscape that is normally invisible to the human eye and how it translated that vision to unusual black and white images. Slowly, the mysteries and secrets of the geysers were revealed to me and I was happy to have discovered this new infrared “Infra Vision.

I always seek to explore the situations in our natural environment in which the light causes some unique effects. This portfolio of work shows a magical and secret world revealed through the infrared spectrum and challenges the viewer with a different perspective on our fragile natural surroundings.

Artist Bio:

Alexandra Nemeth is a Mohs histology technician at the Dermatology Surgery Associates during the week, and a nature photographer on the weekends. She was born and raised in Hungary, traveled throughout Europe, and the USA, finally settling with her family in Houston, Texas in 1990.

She always loved nature and she was happy when she was able to visit her Grandma in a small village near the Danube River. She met her husband, Dr. Laszlo Perlaky in a research lab. Fortunately both of them were interested in nature and liked to participate in nature protection projects. They worked in nature conservancy camps where their mission was to plant conservation ideals of our natural world into the kids.

She started to take nature and travel photographs seriously in the past ten years. She became a member of the Houston Photographic Society, where she enjoys the challenging print competitions and critiques.

She does not like to carry a big lens, especially not with a heavy tripod, so she started to photograph close-ups, landscapes, and not-too-difficult wildlife. She loves to find, observe and photograph bugs, patterns, and small things.

At the present time, she uses her Nikon DSLR system, including her infra-red DSLR camera. She has successfully participated in international photography contests, and exhibited her work at major art festivals.

My portfolio review experience

by Nathalie Brouard

Nathalie Brouard

I participated to the past two portfolio reviews (2009, 2010) and it has been a fantastic experience. But, more importantly it helped me to improve my photography.

During the monthly print critique, we receive advice and opinions on our individual images. The portfolio review brings you to a whole new level — thinking about a whole body of work.

It started for me with reflection — why do I take pictures?

Therefore, my first portfolio (2009) was a travel through time and the traces it leaves behind (Suntales of the passing time). From this first experience I learned how to focus my message and create a coherent body of work.

My second portfolio (2010) was more of a self-portrait relating my discovery of my new home (Texas Impressions). They were printed using the cyanotype process. The critiques and comments were very encouraging and I am now working on so many other projects that I’m not sure which one will make the next review.

In summary, participating to the portfolio review is wonderful way to bring your photography from individual nice pictures to the next level and develop your artistic message.

Portfolio Pieces
Click on Thumbnail to view full-size

Artist Statement

Texas Impressions (from 2010)

I was born in a country town in the heart of Normandy, France.

My studies and career took me around the world from Paris, France to Melbourne, Australia, and for the last four years, Houston, Texas.

The photographs presented here are some of my first impressions of my new home.

First came the fascination for the local fauna, and the unique landscapes. Then came the cowboys.

Moving beyond the clichés of Cowboys and Indians from movies in my childhood memories, I increasingly became aware of the hard work behind the Western wear.

Portfolio Review: online series

Artist Statement

Made with Love and Yummy for the Tummy

Taking pictures of foods I have eaten helps memories return again and again. These images are of foods my aunt prepared for Passovers over the years. She is a great cook and family is always the main course. This portfolio honors Aunt Lil.

About the Photographer

Leslie Stessel

My interest in photography began at the age of 13 years old when I received my first camera, a Brownie Hawkeye, which I still own. About 10 years ago, I decided to attend Houston Community College and finesse my photography skills. Today, I am a semi-professional part-time photographer for weddings, events, etc.

~Leslie Stessel

One of the more valuable features that membership with the Houston Photographic Society provides is what’s known as the annual Portfolio Review that takes place every second Tuesday and Thursday in October.

It is similar to what FotoFest offers. However, HPS features it yearly and it is inclusive of the yearly membership dues.

Every year, members are encouraged to put forth a portfolio of photos comprised of a cohesive body of work and exhibit them as if they would be shown at a gallery or museum.

It is wise to think in advance about such a portfolio prior to starting it instead of simply collecting bodies of work that are lying around. It can take several months to photograph and prepare for proper presentation.

The porfolio must have a common theme with a continuity of printing and presentation including an artist statement.

If you would like to know how to better prepare your own portfolio, please refer to our Portfolio Review section of the website or speak with HPS Portfolio Review Chairman Jim Fife, as he is always happy to share his wisdom in this area.

We will be featuring previous year portfolios online now from our membership who wish to share. The goal is to feature one or two per month to give members and prospective members a taste of what to expect and possibly how to prepare.

This first one in this new series features Leslie Stessel.