Dennis FratesNationality: United States
For me a fine art photograph should be visually stunning not only technically, but capable of calling up a deep emotional connection with the viewer. Recall that feeling you have when an inspiring piece of music is played, and you have a visceral reaction to it. Well, that is what I strive for in every fine art photograph I create. I want my images to sing to the viewer in the same way a beautiful musical composition does, calling up deep emotions. I want the geology, ecology and the beauty of nature to just smack my viewers in the face for an unforgettable visual experience. From my earliest days in viewing photography I was perhaps most influenced by images I saw in National Geographic publications. In particular, I was most impressed with image from David Muench. I especially was attracted to his images that included a distinct foreground, and was in focus from near to far. The images I viewed had razor sharp foreground detail such as flowers and other detail that drew me into the image and made me feel as though I were there. I want viewers of my art to place themselves within the scene I depict as if they were really there. Now, of course, I use a wide variety of techniques to accomplish this beyond the near to far technique found in many of Muench’s images, but I almost always look for that near to far look in many of my compositions.
Dennis Frates’ love of the outdoors began at a very early age, and led to a passion for photographing landscapes and nature, which he has done for over 30 years. In college he earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in physical geography and ecology, and had the opportunity to study the physical landscapes and flora he was photographing. He has photographed extensively in the western US and abroad, finding unique fine art compositions in some of the worlds most stunning locations.
Although he sells images to all sorts of markets, including National Geographic, Sierra Club, and National Audubon, the bulk of his enthusiasm is spent producing prints for the fine art market.
His prints have been shown and sold in many national galleries. They have been accepted for several national juried exhibitions and have won numerous awards, including the prestigious Westmorland Art Nationals “Photograph of the Year”, and the Keh International Garden Photographer of the Year for two consecutive years.
He sells hundreds of photographs/prints each year, for a large variety of products including posters, fine art prints, books, magazines, and has published seven books and 26 sole photographer landscape/nature calendars.
A fine art photograph should be visually stunning not only technically, but capable of calling up a deep emotional connection with the viewer. Recall that feeling you have when an inspiring piece of music is played, and you have a visceral reaction to it. Well, that is what I strive for in every fine art photograph I create. I want my images to sing to the viewer in the same way a beautiful musical composition does.
I believe my photography achieves this level of excellence because I have a great eye for composition and color, and I work extremely hard. I travel extensively each year to photograph and have done so for over 30 years. During these travels, I discipline myself to capture one of a kind, unique landscape images by photographing during the first and last light of the day, and during unusual weather events.
Also, I often visit the same location many times until I get the image I am after. I usually know when I come upon this kind of emotionally powerful scene because, while creating the image, I literally begin to shake. I am so absorbed in this process that I have on occasion accidently cut or bruised myself on a rock or a piece of equipment and not even been aware of it. I photograph the drama of nature, and my goal is for you to experience a little of this when viewing my photographs, minus the cuts and bruises of course.
1. WHO ARE THE PHOTOGRAPHERS / OR OTHER ARTISTS THAT INSPIRE YOU?
I have always followed David Muench, and think his work in the US was ground breaking.
2. WHAT MAKES AN EXCELLENT PHOTOGRAPHER?
There is not just one thing that makes an excellent photographer. Vision, of course is required. But beyond that an excellent photographer has to be a master at marketing, and has to have the discipline to be in the field looking for images even when it is sometimes hard to do so. I think the best photographers create images because of an all absorbing passion that continually drives them to be better at the art of photography.
3. WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT DECIDING TO BECOME A FULL-TIME PHOTOGRAPHER?
I think the hardest part for me was how to photograph with passion and raise a family at the same time. I have a very deep passion to photograph, but my family always comes first. Balancing the two is not always easy.
4. WHAT MOTIVATES YOU IN YOUR WORK AND WHAT IS DEMOTIVATING?
Every time I create a unique exciting image I get encouraged to do more. Being in the field capturing images is a great motivator for me to do more. When I sometimes spend days at a location, and because the weather is not the best, or I'm restricted in some way from photographing, that can be depressing.
5. WHAT ARE THE MOST PASSIONATE MOMENTS IN YOUR WORK?
It is absolutely when I capture a special moment in nature like the first snowfall of the season, or a stunning light display over a beautiful landscape. These rare fleeting situations are the types of photographic experiences I live for. If I'm lucky I will photograph in just a few places like this each year.
6. WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES IN YOUR WORK?
Most photographers I know do everything for their business - take th pictures, process the pictures, market them, keep up th bookkeeping, make calls,submit images,etc. It can be a real juggling act at times.
7. HOW DID YOU DEVELOP YOUR ARTISTRY?
By taking pictures, and then learning from my mistakes. I call it "failing your way to success". For me there has been no better teacher than learning by doing.
8. WHAT IS YOUR MAJOR PERSONAL LEARNING IN PHOTOGRAPHY THAT YOU WOULD CONVEY TO A "NOVICE"?
Do it for the right reasons. Being an artist is not about getting rich. Do it because it is your passion. If you do it from your passion the money will follow, but as they say "don't quit your day job". It took me many years of hard work before I started making a profit, and then many years beyond that to get finacially comfortable.
9. ON WHICH CRITERIA DO YOU JUDGE YOUR OWN WORK AS SUCCESSFUL?
I think most photographers are very hard on themselves when it comes to self evaluation. I know I am. My standards are very high. Unless the image is truly unique I usually discard it. A successful image to me is usually one that maybe I get in a thousand images. It must possess qualities that go way beyond the ordinary.
10. YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC WORK AND THE BEAUTY OF OUR PLANET, NATURE: WHAT CONNECTION DO YOU SEE?
My work is all about the beauty of nature. I get very emotionally involved when creating images, and if I don't feel this way, then maybe the picture isn't work taking.
11. ASSUMING YOU WOULD HAVE 15 MINUTES ON A TV BROADCAST AND PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD COULD LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU WERE SAYING, WHAT WOULD BE THE CORE OF YOUR MES-SAGE TO THE PEOPLE?
Expressing art is one of the most satisfying things I have ever done. In fact, satisfying is not a strong enough word. Producing art goes to the center of my being and I feel enriched by it in a spirtual way.
»Expressing art is one of the most satisfying things I have ever done. In fact, satisfying is not a strong enough word. Producing art goes to the center of my being and I feel enriched by it in a spirtual way.«
Awards:- 2016 | International Color Awards 3rd place Honor of Distinction - Nature
- 2014 | Black and White Spider Awards – Honorable mention
- 2013 | Keh International Photographer of the Year – Overall grand prize winner
- 2013 | Natures Best Photography Windland Smith Rice international - 1st place – Plants
- 2012 | National Wildlife Contest 1st place landscapes
- 2011 | National Geographic Traveler and PDN Great Outdoors 1st place – Trees
- 2010 | Keh International Photographer of the Year 1st place Garden view
- 2009 | Popular Photography Grand Prize – Annual Readers’ Photo Contest. (S00567DL)
- 2009 | Keh Photographer of the Year Special Award - Spirit of the Japanese
- 2009 | Natures Best - Nature's Best Photography Windland Smith Rice
International Awards for Mt. Baker snow on Hemlock (M01707Dig)
First place – Plants
- 2009 | Keh Photographer of the Year 1st place 2009 - Trees (V02829D)
- 2008 | First place National Wildlife contest – Landscapes (M01538Dig)
- 2008 | National Geographic Traveler and PDN Great Outdoors contest winner (V02829D)
- 2008 | Keh Photographer of the Year 1st place 2008 - Garden view (V02335Dig)
- 2007 | Photography Masters Cup Nominee Deer in Yellow Canola
- 2000 | Photographer’s Forum - 2nd place Yellow Canola
Project: Nature Formations
I have, since a child, been attracted to the geologic formations nature offers. My approach to photographing these formations is to present them in an artistic manner, possibly something the viewer has never seen before. Nature offers a wide variety of jaw dropping subjects, but my approach is to show them in a way that is less common. This sometimes means several trips to the same location. The images in this collection hopefully makes the viewer want to explore more beyond the gates shown here. There is an element of mystery in these images – what is on the other side or beyond what is shown?
Project: Natures Flow
Often the subject of many photo trips I make each year is water. Waterfalls, reflections, and streams all are sought after. I like to show the flow of water in my images, which usually means a long exposure on a tripod. I love the soft cottony feel of flowing water that this creates. I also try to show my water subjects surrounded by other natural elements like a forest or canyon. I especially like to put all this together in an autumn setting. I have always been attracted to the woods with its many streams and waterfalls. I grew up with a deep love of nature. As a child I spent many of my days hiking, fishing and just walking in the woods, usually by myself. I crave the solitude, serenity and beauty nature offers and choose to do most of my photography in remote places like the ones depicted here.
Project: Maximum Nature
Sometimes a nature scene offers a view of itself that is rare and fleeting. This is what motivates me to shoot fine art photographs. I’m lucky if I can create one or two photographs like this each year, and that is only after I have shot several thousand frames. The ephemeral nature of these images make them special, and is what I am always looking to photograph. Some of these scenes last only a few minutes, and when I capture them I am the most satisfied in my work. Landscape photography and painting has been around for many centuries, and I have been inspired by many of the great photographers/artists of the past. I create images that build on this tradition, but take it to another plateau of expression. I photograph the grand, classic scenics, but more often I pick a portion the scene to capture, and try to do it with unique lighting or during fleeting moments when nature is in full display.
Project: Floral Pause
In college I studied plant and flower identification and ecology and was forced to view growing plant parts in a very intimate close up manner. As a result I became aware of minute differences in plant parts that aided in their identification. This in turn increased my appreciation of what I was photographing. Often plants are viewed from a distance with very little attention to the detail. I am absolutely fascinated by the enormous variety of plants on this earth. I’m equally enthralled with the unique symmetry each species displays. Often I like to get up close to my floral subjects to show these qualities. There is an incredible number of unique compositions to be seen in floral close ups, and for that reason I will continue to explore floral compositions. I choose to photograph plants in nature rather than still life compositions, because I am most interested in showing what nature sets up for me. I rarely do a set up of flowers in my studio to photograph. I much prefer to show the viewer a unique composition of what they could actually see themselves.