For our very first Forest Friends feature, Cook Forest Online interviewed Kevin Kaltenbaugh of Kaltenbaugh Photography. Kevin’s excellent nature photography can be seen in-person at his Gallery in the Forest just a few miles from the Clarion River. We asked Kevin about his trade and found out what makes the Forest such a special place for shutterbugs of all varieties.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background as a photographer.
A: I’ve been a photographer for 30 years, but it’s only recently become my second career. I spent 25 years in the lumber business and felt it was time to follow my passion. I’ve been building an inventory of images, getting my business going. The gallery was the biggest part of the process. I also enjoy working on the presentation of the image – the framing and matting and other techniques that make images come to life.
There are many different kinds of photographic specialties besides nature photography – portrait or architectural, for example – so why nature photography for you? What appeals to you the most?
Nature photography has always been where my passion lies. I’ve always loved the outdoors, from family camping trips to trips out west with my grandparents when I was young. Photography was a way to share the experience. To me, nature is awe-inspiring and spiritual. It’s the opportunity to be in the beauty of nature and to attempt to capture the feeling on film. Nature has a sense of peace and quietness to me. There’s also a sense of adventure: you never know when that special moment will come along.
I do enjoy other types of photography. I think that no matter the photographic subjects you choose, it’s exciting to have one image say something about the area, person or event you are working with. Sometimes it’s quite a challenge.
Speaking of special moments that come along…Tell us about the greatest photo “that got away.”
The photo that got away. Well, I’ve let a lot get away and there’s not one in particular which comes to mind. Although on a recent trip to Wyoming I was treated to a spectacular sunset…but the problem was that I was in an unfamiliar area, and I couldn’t find a composition that didn’t have an element in it I didn’t like. The light changes so fast and I never got anything I was happy with. Did I miss an opportunity? I feel I did but you prepare for the next time.
Q: Have you ever been the one who had to get away – from wild animals, that is – while roaming around taking pictures?
A: Once on a backpacking trip I came around a bend in the trail, only to find myself about 50′ from a grizzly bear feeding on berries. After backing away and making noise the bear wondered off. No, I did not attempt to photograph; I felt I was too close already. That night’s campsite was not far from that spot – which made for a restless night.
Q: What’s different about Cook Forest as a subject? Are there unique aspects of forest photography – available light, for example, or the color space? Are there special considerations you must take to avoid “trampling” on nature?
A: Cook Forest is a great place to photograph. The old growth forest, the river, the changing of seasons…lots of subject matter for the nature photographer! There are so many different moods depending on the time of day and the time of year. This past fall was especially amazing. Of course, trees and old growth forest are very challenging subjects. It’s a vertical world when you’re standing on the forest floor, and we tend to view things horizontally. Also, the moods of the forest usually come out best in low light situations which I feel makes for some of the best imagery.
The photographic challenges of the Forest make me slow down to take in the world around me, which is probably the most significant thing photography does for me. And it’s why I always try to avoid any trampling of the environment I work in. I like to leave things as though nobody was ever there, to take away only the pictures. Then the next person who comes along can have the same experience.
Q: I’m sure at this point some of the amateur photographers in our audience are excited to get out in the Forest and start snapping. Any tips you can share with them?
A: Patience, patience and more patience. Many hours, even days are spent waiting for the right light. Also know your gear and practice with it. It doesn’t hurt to study the types of images you’re interested in that you might see in magazines or anywhere else. Have fun!
Q: What sort of gear do you use at the moment?
A: My camera bag includes a Nikon N80 35mm camera, Nikon N70 35mm camera, a Pentax 645 med. format camera, 28mm-85mm Nikon lens, Slik tripods, and Fuji Velvia film. That’s the basic gear lineup.
Q: No digital gear yet?
A: I have yet to get into the digital cameras but I’m sure that lies ahead. The computer has been a great marketing tool, from producing my website to creating brochures, flyers and other items. There’s no doubt computers are changing things rapidly. But digital photography hasn’t changed my approach to taking pictures.
46-year-old Kevin Kaltenbaugh lives near Cook Forest with wife Vicki and his stepdaughter Brooke. You can see his Cook Forest nature photography and other high-quality fine art photography at the Gallery in the Forest (2 miles south of the Clarion River Bridge on Rt. 36), or on Kevin’s Web site at www.kaltenbaughphoto.com.