Michael Quinn – FocusOnNature Alumni

Mike Quinn

My photographic journey began in my early teens. My Mother recognized the creative side in me and she gave me my first SLR. It was such a surprise and such an enlightening experience. I rather enjoyed shooting nature scenes and I was always drawn to the local parks. I continued my journey during high school but set aside my desire till I moved to Colorado in 2000. Then with a renewed desire I jumped from film to digital with the purchase of a Nikon Coolpix. I shot my adventures around the state and my travels of the west.

After 10 years of shooting, I finally decided to see how far I could take my talents. I started to come to the conclusion that my images were not fully conveying the emotions that I felt during capture. They need something more, something to take them to the next level. I began by getting a DSLR and moving away from a JPEG shooter. I started to experiment with image processing in Lightroom and Photoshop and made gains but my images were still lacking that intense emotional feeling to them.

Then one evening during the winter of 2010 I stumbled across Einar Erlendsson and his “Focus On Nature” website, Photo Workshops in Iceland. I was just mesmerized by the images and the thought of a grand adventure in Iceland. I started to research the Instructors that were teaching that year. I was instantly drawn to John Paul Caponigro. Something about his style, his approach, his words and speech. I knew that I was meant to do this, so I took the leap and signed up. This was going to be my first International adventure, my first photo workshop – I was a total newbie and amateur. Einar and JP made it very easy to prepare for my trip and once in Iceland Einar made me feel like an old friend returning home from a long distant trip. I was fortunate enough to arrive in Iceland a few days early to take a Lightroom class from Julieanne Kost. She was very instrumental in forging a foundation for my Lightroom skills and igniting my creative vision. JP and Julieanne were running side by side workshops that year. We would leap frog each other’s groups during the day and spend our evenings and meals together. Einar’s staff photographers Ragnar Th Sigurdsson and Guðmundur Ingolfsson are two amazing people and photographers. Ragnar, well he is Ragnar – if he doesn’t bring out the inner child in you, nobody can.

I had no preconceived notion of what this was going to be like, but it was so much more than I could have imagined. JP was there to challenge my senses, my imagination, my creativity. This workshop was more than just the mechanics of photography. There were discussions about artists, philosophers, writers. There were discussions about nature and life’s journey. Einar and his wife Ásta were there to tempt our taste buds and to teach us the culture of Iceland. Ragnar was there to tell stories of adventures in the Arctic and to insure that we took time to have fun. Einar’s driver Sigurdur Einarsson, “Siggi” was there to take care of the transportation and portage of our luggage and camera gear. But he was also there to share stories of horseback riding in the Icelandic Highlands during the sheep roundup and to share menthol candies. The group was also something that I was not prepared for. This group dynamic lifted everyone’s skills and expectations. It was not really a competition to see whose image was the best, but something more nurturing and encouraging. Something personalized to each individuals needs and desires to do something really spectacular. I walked away from that trip with so much more than just images of Iceland.

My new journey really began after that trip. It stirred my deep rooted emotions to become the best that I can be, to put some significant effort into my art. If that adventure had not been the way it was, I don’t know if I would still be on this path. It really gave me a new pipe dream, something to chase after, something to aspire to.

The next spring I spent time with JP in Arches National Park at another workshop. I had been doing my homework since leaving Iceland. I sensed that something special was about to happen. I felt as if I was ready to take a dramatic step forward as I had been practicing and researching and just needed a challenge to pull it all together. John Paul threw down the challenged during that week and I embraced it with all my heart. I walked away at the end with something new, something different, something out of my comfort zone. JP taught me a very valuable lesson – don’t ask if you are allowed to do something, ask what happens when you do something. It completely changed the way that I look at nature scenes. He taught me that it was alright for me to go beyond the postcard shot, to truly capture the emotion of location, not just the documentation of the location. My art took a step forward that week.

That fall I returned to Iceland, how could I not. I had friends that I wanted to see and spend time with. Plus the scenery is just incredible, awe inspiring and so unique. Einar, Ragnar and his staff have this unmatched local knowledge that is so invaluable. They not only know where to go but also the best time of day to be there too. They take you to places that even most Icelander’s don’t even know about. This year I was more comfortable, more familiar with the routine and we were going to visit some of the same places. I was able to plan to get some of the shots that I had missed the first year. I was even more excited this year but at the same time more relaxed and pensive. I made a conscious effort to make sure to enjoy the experience, enjoy just being in the moment. I don’t think that my art took a leap forward this time around; I think that it was going through a refining phase. I was honing my vision and capturing more emotion in my images. I know that I was seeing in a different light than the first time. I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time on several occasions during that trip. I also was fortunate enough to have sufficient skills and vision to capture what I was feeling at the time.

“Golden Light” is a culmination of my journey to date.

– Michael Quinn 2012 –