CS13 Nature Photography

As the semester drew to a close, students of the CS13 Nature Photography class set up their final exhibit in the Gathering Space of our school, picking their best 3 photographs of the semester, matting them, and including an "Artist Statement" that speaks of their photographic goals and what they have learned. An exhibit is more than just a display of photographs: it is a connection. First, it is a connection between the student photographer and the world around them as they explore the natural world of the Conserve School campus. Next, it is proof of the mastery of the photographic techniques we discussed in class allowing them to transform that view of nature into a well-exposed and artfully-composed photograph. Soon, as their friends and parents step up the exhibit panels, it becomes a connection between the viewer, nature, and the photographer as they share their artistic vision in words and photographs. Finally, an exhibit like this connects these young photographers with all of the artists throughout history who have had the courage to put their work out there for others, to say "this is what I find beautiful" and "this is my vision of the world." It can be a frightening but enlightened experience.

Below you will find the artist statements and photographs from the CS13 exhibit. I am proud of the progress made by all of these young artists.

(Text adapted from Jeff Rennicke's teacher page about this exhibit. Click here for a link to Jeff Rennicke's teacher page.)

Auguste Voss - All Tangled Up

Four months ago I drove north, watching the scenery change from the southern Wisconsin backdrop that I have grown up with into the beautiful landscapes of the north woods as I leapt into a brand new adventure. With no camera and no idea what I was doing, I walked into Jeff’s photography class with the hope of gaining some fundamental knowledge and having some fun outdoors – but I have learned so much more. After quickly establishing a basic understanding of the camera’s functions, we quickly changed our focus not to what objects could be photographed, but what ideas and emotions and connections could be represented through the camera lens.

It has since been my goal to illustrate through my photography the connection that we can build – and have built here at Conserve – with one another and with the land around us. For this exhibit, I chose photographs that showed those connections directly. When taking photographs, I try to portray not just a figure or a landscape but rather a glimpse of the way that our very existence is inexorably tangled up and interwoven in every possible way with this planet on which we rely for escape, relaxation, adventure and our very sustenance - both mentally and physically. This class has been just as much an exploration into the art of seeing as it has a study of photography, and in many ways, I think that those ideas have become synonymous.

The past four months have been a jump-start into a pastime and an art form that I have become incredibly passionate about, and just as it is a goal of mine to improve my camera and photography skills, I hope to incorporate photography in my life as a way to continuously change my perspective and viewpoints on the world around me. We’re all here, together on this earth, all tangled up, and photography has become my way of looking a little closer.

Brock Lederman - Experiences of Nature Photography

I have always been interested in nature photography. In the past, I would always take pictures of nature with my phone. But once I came to Conserve School, I was lifted to another level of photography. Learning how to operate a camera at first was a struggle. But my teacher Jeff Rennicke taught me everything I needed to know. Now I feel confident while out taking pictures, and I cannot wait to travel around using the skills that he taught me.

This class has gave me a new perspective on nature. It has really made me slow down and observe the little things that makes the wilderness so beautiful. It has also made me capture images that show other beauties that nature provides other than sight, such as capturing the natural silence or the warmth of the sun. I am always ready for a challenge while photographing. Trying new styles of photographing has been a challenge, but it also shows me new perspectives. I am excited to try underwater photography in the future. I will go on using nature photography in my future. I will use both skills that I learned in class and new skills that I will learn in the future. I will never forget the photos that I took at Conserve School, and the stories behind all of them.

Cadie Lourigan - Venturing with a New Perspective

Going into the woods and finding the simple beauties around me gives me this feeling of wonder and fascination. I find that the tiny details and the rays of the sun are inspirational. I find that in spending time outdoors I have discovered new things about myself such as what I think of as beauty. Things such raindrops can bring upon feeling of astonishment to me.

I always like to push myself to look at something at a different angle and show how that can make the biggest difference. My work has changed over time when I realized that planning a shot might turn out different than I had originally thought. When I go out I let nature find me and be inspiration enough. There is something I find unique about the way color can bring feeling to a photograph.

I seek to show that something seen everyday can be seen through a different light. Through photography I wish inspire others to go in search of the feeling of amazement. I hope my work encourages others to look at things from new angles. I believe that a new perspective can be what’s needed to find beauty.

Caitlin Tillman - Serene Scenes

I have been on this Earth for 17 years, and I am still amazed by the smallest things, such as the way fresh snow sparkles at night, or the flash of rainbow colors that appear on a tiny raindrop the morning after a storm. I haven’t been many places, but you do not need to go far to see the exquisiteness of the earth. In your own backyard, you can see something new every day.

My inspiration comes from peaceful feelings, freezing a moment, or seeing a still object. I love the feeling of being a part of nature, when you are there, but nature does not notice. There is inspiration all around, especially early in the morning or in the evening. That is when I find the most peace in the outdoors. Through learning the art of photography, I have grown as a person. I see the smaller things now that I would not have noticed before. I use all of my senses more, in fact. Hearing where the wind is coming from inspires the angle of a photo. Smelling the morning dew sends me close to the ground to find drops on the grass. Through all of this, I feel more connected to all of the world around me.

Thank you for viewing my images!

Caroline Green

Over the past four months, I have taken thousands of pictures of the landscapes and wildlife of Lowenwood. Every aspect of the Northwoods is beautiful, from the smallest flake of snow to the towering white pines. Through the knowledge I have gained here, my appreciation for the area has increased. These photographs represent to me the three most important aspects: the land, the water, and the sky.

Photography is unique in the sense that you capture a moment of time, you preserve it forever. It is important to me because our time at Conserve passed so quickly, but these photographs were able to capture a few of the fleeting moments. Every day we are surrounded by the beauty of the Northwoods, but I will never be able to capture it all. These three photographs represent some of my most important experiences here and go deeper than their simple beauty.

Emma Thiel - A New Door Opens

When I began here at Conserve I had never picked up a camera. Of course I had taken pictures with my phone, or played the classic tourist, “That’s cool! Picture time!” But I never really understood how a camera worked, what light to use, or even that it was that difficult. In my time here I have opened up a new door to the art of seeing. I have learned how to use my camera, play with light, and see with a new perspective- and it’s really hard. Being a photographer is challenging, personal, and unique. It’s something to work on that’s engaging and rewarding.

Photography has changed the way I see things. I look around outside and notice details I hadn’t before, I ask myself what light would work here, what ISO I should use, even if I don’t have a camera along. It has transformed the way I look at everything, constantly challenging me to find something beautiful in something mundane. When I am able to make it beautiful, it is so rewarding. I absolutely love when I’m able to give a minuscule detail or a plain scene a new light and show a different side of it. Photography makes me happy. It feels good to use a talent to show other people what you see or to just look at it yourself and revel in the fact that you created this work of art. To me photography represents observation, love of details, and looking at things in a new way. Looking at things in a new way -not the tourist way or the view through a phone screen, but real, raw, and stunning.

Erin Rieckmann - The Beauty in Everything

I use photography as a means to document the world around me. I am inspired by the way the world flows without the interruption of humans; the buzz of bees pollinating, the movement of water flowing, and the graceful dance of a spider to make a web are all beautiful to me. When I look at these things I want to stare at them forever. Photography allows me to trap these moments in time and document them for eternity. I make art as an aid for my forgetful mind, a library with colors rather than words.

My goal with these photos was to challenge myself to see beauty in all aspects of nature, especially the detail that it holds. I wanted to capture the small aspects of the bigger picture - an individual tree rather than a whole landscape- to grasp a better understanding of what nature is. Nature has inspired whole civilizations and I set out to find why that is. And I found the answer in things such the brilliant colors of changing leaves and the intricate grooves that water carves into stone.

These photos capture a period of time that was very meaningful to me. In the process of taking photographs I learned more about nature and my environment more than any other period in my life. I walked around for sometimes hours at a time looking for sights and then came back with my camera to capture the object.

I hope you will enjoy viewing my images. Thank you!

Jacob Eicher - A New Point of View

I have traveled to five continents in my lifetime and have seen some truly incredible things. This travel has allowed me to see things from a different perspective and a new angle. I have always looked at beauty as having two types, classic and unique. Classic beauty is something everyone can see such as, the Pyramids of Egypt, Niagara Falls, a musical symphony, or a painting. Unique beauty is individual and situational not everyone will see it and no one can see all of it, a software developer would see excellent computer code as beautiful, a child sees a frog or ant hill as beautiful. A man lost in the desert would see a muddy puddle as beautiful, but if he were to come across that puddle under different circumstances he might not.

I try to show others the unique beauty that I can see. I try to take this unique beauty and open it to more eyes than my own. My photos strive to show ordinary things in a new way to unlock that unique beauty. I feel inspired by things other people over look. I think I can draw attention to the factors that make them so different and create their wonderful patterns, soft colors, and graceful curves. Some of my favorite techniques are to shoot with a very high ISO it gives the picture a different texture, another is to lower my depth of field, this gives everything behind the subject a soft focus this helps to really bring out the subject without losing the feel of its environment. I try to explore a different kind of beauty; shooting from a new point of view.

Jules Eicher - Remembering the Northern Forest

I have lived in the Northwoods of Wisconsin for the last four months looking for beauty in everything that I see. From the lone tamarack that stands on watch protecting the fragile bog, to the small thistle that bends as a playful breeze slides up from the lake. This a place of pure beauty. Unique for its ancient splendor and silent authority. It is here that I have had the chance to live for the last four months.

These memories will follow me when I am gone and will forever be a part of me. Rising with the sun as the snow geese glide swiftly through the spinning fog, or lying late at night on the starlit beach of the Great Lake Superior while the lights of the far North dance lazily ahead. Beauty, a true mystery. Something that is so unique to the beholder yet can touch millions. This is what I wish to capture. The true beauty that can be found in everything if you open your eyes to it.

Keegan McCafferty - CS13 Commencement Exhibit

I make photos to share and remember my habitat and experiences. I recognize that most people don’t live in a place like Northern Wisconsin and the Lake Superior basin, and if I can enable them to view what I see on a daily basis and take for granted, I’ll be happy. When people--even other Wisconsinites--think of Wisconsin, they don’t typically think of old growth hemlocks and crystal-clear lakes. They think of dairies, beer, plains, and bad governors. I’d like to broaden their perspectives and have them recognize Wisconsin as a state of beauty.

To me, my art represents the feelings I have that I can’t make words for. I prefer it to words for conveying ideas. It’s a daily challenge, because scenes that signify emotions aren’t discovered very frequently. Photography is a new hobby for me. I’ve learned a lot here, and hope to continue growing.

Margo Craven - Simple Beauty

During my time here at Conserve School, I’ve been lucky enough to walk the tails and garden, swim and kayak in the lakes, and climb the winding trees. The colorful flowers and the falling leaves have given me a chance to capture their beauty. With my camera in hand, I am able to do that.

The day I got my camera I cried. I had taken a film-based photography class at my sending school and loved it. I was so excited to go out and take amazing photos. However, I soon became aware that digital photography is a lot different than film photography. Before Conserve, I didn’t have much digital experience. After these four months I have come to love the art of photography. The second I pick up my camera I’m transformed into someone who not just looks, l but someone who observes. I am constantly looking for the perfect the moment a butterfly lands on a flower, the way the sun gleams through the leaves, or the second dew drips from a petal. The beauty in those moments are often overlooked, but when observing, a person may find themselves admiring the beauty of these simple things.

The photos I take remind me of the beauty the world has to offer. Photography has taught me to recognize beauty in things in their simplest form.

Martin Tomlinson

Tristan Tzara, author of the dadaist manifestos once said “The summit sings of what is being spoken in the depths.” What I aim to capture is not the summit but the depths, the pure raw essence of what things are. When I take a photo I’m trying to find the simplest nature of things. Water is one of these things. It’s raw and powerful. Water is ever shifting, terrifying yet essential for life. Water represents simplicity and simplicity was what I was trying to capture in these photos.

When I came to the Northwoods I was trying to find a more simplistic version of myself. In these photos I try to demonstrate that evolution. Both my personal evolution as well as the evolution of my photography. My photos are intensely personal I see myself and my frame of mind reflected in each photo. I am putting myself on display along side these photos. You are glimpsing into my psyche. The same as I try to capture the raw essence of the world around in my photographs, you are seeing my own raw essence.

Niko Brahmer - Three New Perspectives

One cannot truly understand and see a place’s true beauty until they have lived in that area. I have had an experience that many are not lucky enough to experience. I have had the chance to live in the North Woods of Wisconsin for four months. During this time almost every day we take pictures. The peaceful sound of the wind and the wildlife that live in the woods always give me encouragement to continue taking these pictures. The constant surprise of how the sun reflects off the water or a new way to see a tree. I am always intrigued by these new perspectives. I see these perspectives and want to share them with everyone. I feel that everyone even people who do not get to experience this should get to see these different views. I rarely use people in my pictures however, in one of mine as you can see has a person in it. This person is my mom and yet, the picture does not focus on her. Since it does not it is not a portrait picture, but instead an environmental portrait.

All of the pictures posted are taken within the inner loop of campus. You can see how there is different views of life even within the same small area. In the three pictures I aimed for different styles of photography. I aimed for the environmental portrait with the one that had my mom. I wanted to show a person looking out and taking in the landscape of Little Donahue. My second image shows the close up of a pine tree. This shows dew staying on the needles with the last bits of spider web. The third and last image shows a tree branch from the view of the tree’s trunk. It also shows the branch after it has lost all of its leaves. Through these images you can see different perspective throughout the North Woods.

Sonja Stairs - A New Approach

I used to think that photography was simple. Push a button, and receive a magnificent outcome without much effort. Being in Nature Photography gave me an entirely new approach to what I put into my photography. I started to understand what makes a good photograph, and also what I can do myself to make a photograph that represents who I am.

My prior photography experience was mostly going out with friends and doing silly photoshoots to maybe get one or two cool pictures to post to social media. It was fun, but there was little meaning to why we were doing this. I had very little technical skill with my camera, and a little bit of an artistic vision, but it was just mostly recreating things I had seen on Pinterest or what not. After a week in Nature Photography, I found out what I am capable of, and that I should be representing myself in the pictures I take.

It was almost like a lightbulb went off in my head, an inspiration came to mind. Light. The diverse and wondrous uses of light had always fascinated me, but I was never sure how to incorporate it into my photography. For this exhibit, light became my focus and inspiration. My goals for these pictures weren’t necessarily to capture the most amazing picture, but to find a way to make someone experience a sense of wonder, or curiosity. My goals developed into expressing myself in my photography and inspiring others to do something they thought wasn’t possible before. All in all, I believe that these photographs are a representation of my growth as a photographer, as well as a human being.

Sophie Butkiewicz

Every day we are surrounded by incredible beauty. It can most clearly be seen through the complex connections that intertwine us with nature. My biggest goal for my photography is to display these relationships and to highlight the elegance and grace that is often overlooked. People often dream of traveling and of seeing new things, I am just as guilty of doing this too. Much like John Burroughs, however, I think that is extremely important to recognize and appreciate the things that surround us within our homes. After essentially being trapped within the same 1200 acres for the last four months, I practiced this mindset and was forced to constantly search for things of beauty and interest.

Through my photography, I hope to inspire my viewers to think. Depicting a pretty sunset with no emotional depth, is in my opinion a useless photograph. As Jeff, my photography mentor has often said, “There are thousands of photographers out in the world, and there is very little left that hasn’t been discovered or photographed. Your mission is to depict these things in a way that no one has ever seen before and with different meanings.”, and I could not agree more. I hope to display my pictures from different angles, scales, and with distinct interpretations that are unique to all photography. These pictures are meant to not only be of significance to me, but to my viewers as well.

Stella Young - A Different Perspective

Before I came to the Conserve School I didn’t have much experience with photography. At home my inspiration came from the first snowfall of the year, or the new growth and flowers in the spring. I was only using was automatic, and I thought that would be enough for me. But, that was not the case. I learned to manually set my camera to get a better quality photo in the first week of Nature Photography class. I then found out that automatic was no longer enough for me.

Here I am inspired by the bogs and lakes that I see every day, or the changing leaves in the fall. Each day my inspiration is something new. In these photographs I not only try to portray the up close beauty of the land around me, but also the landscapes and beauty from afar. To me that is what these pictures signify. That there is beauty in the small details of flowers and plants, but also in the sweeping landscapes of hills and bogs.

Now, four months later, my photography has improved a lot. I hope you enjoy my take on the natural world around us.