Tag Archives: Fine art photography

Getting here from there. Capture to finished image. Sorta.

Part of my photographic expression over the last several years has been the black and white landscape.  I hate to label a body of work in such a limiting fashion, but in this instance the description is accurate.  I have been shooting with intent for more than 25 years and of course I have been making landscapes all along, with a vast number of other sorts of images, people mostly, but as of late I have been obsessed more than ever with the earth around me.

I made images with film for years, color and black and white. I have spent time in the darkroom printing color and black and white, and I am well-versed with respect to the characteristics required for a good photograph. I began using digital capture roughly 10 years ago.  For a long time I rarely converted my work to black and white.  My thinking was that the data (light) landed on the sensor, passed through the array and was saved as a color file, so who was I to alter it.  The difference of course, when shooting film I was making a “choice” by loading black and white film.  Plus, early digital conversions to black and white were pretty terrible.  Then, one fine day, I read about Jon Cone and his ink.  I ordered a set for my Epson printer.  The set of fancy custom ink arrived and I set it aside, ignoring it for a year or so.  Every now and then I’d look at the box of ink in my office, and wonder what a print made from that ink would look like.  Finally, my curiosity got the best of me. I opened the box, loaded the ink into the printer, converted some files to black and white, and made some prints.  It was when I viewed those prints that I became hooked.  I loved them.  The process took some getting used to, and just like the dark room there is a bit of trial and error involved, but I was at last able to make extraordinarily high quality black and white photographs. I was using Epson’s least expensive 6 cart printer (I don’t remember the model number) and the prints were really very good.  it was at that moment that I became a dedicated landscape photographer.  Simply:  I needed material to make the photographs.

I now use an Epson SureCol0r P600 and Epson’s excellent ink for printing.

Anyway, how to get from capture to final image:

I was out yesterday afternoon.  My go to location for a short photo fix is Southern New Jersey.  The sky looked interesting and I had the urge to shoot so off I went.  I came back with 3 potential prints.  This is the first:


What we have here is the Nikon Electronic File, straight off the sensor, converted to jpg in Lightroom and resized in Photoshop.  The untouched file.  My concern with the exposure was the sky.  I wanted to maintain detail in the clouds, so the foreground is underexposed while the sky is exposed more or less normally.   I knew that the information in the foreground would easily render when I processed the file in Lightroom.

Here is the first swing at a black and white conversion:


This is close, sort of, but there is still work to be done.  Halo is visible where the edge of the barn roof meets the sky, and there is some foreground that need to be revealed.



And here is what I can refer to as the first final version.  I made several prints of this file at various stages of finishing, and this one holds up pretty well.  I use Lightroom, and the Photoshop plug in Nik Silver Pro2.  I have now, a mere 24 hours after capture, a pretty nice photograph made on 19×13 Epson Legacy Platine Paper (the image size is 18 long).  I do love the finished print.  It matches the photograph I had envisioned as I stood out on the highway making the exposure.

And one more.  The initial capture, untouched:


And a final version.  This conversion took some time, as the grain bins required some very detailed work to remove halo.


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The freight yard, Lansdale Pennsylvania. June 6, 2015.


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Truck stops as big as cities.

We live in a big damn country.  We can lose sight of this basic and obvious fact because generally the world we move around in is pretty small.  The house we live in, the yard around the house, the neighborhood and then the wider, yet still easily managed world we see everyday.  I like to think that driving long miles, and occasionally stopping, gives me insight into the people and the country, but that can’t be true.  How much can you learn when you are just passing through?  I am a tourist. If I could I would stop at every house and store and speak to everyone at least for a minute.  As it is, I did manage to connect, albeit briefly, with a number of citizens from here to Mississippi and back. And as always I am reminded of the sheer stupendous size of America.


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Johnny’s. Tuscaloosa, Alabama.


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I am proud to announce…

…that my photograph The El Cortez will be offered to clients by Ellis and Samuels at Sunset Interiors, Tucson.  The photograph of this exposure is a 23 x 13 inch custom print made by Dalmatian Black and White of North Carolina, certainly one of the premier photography labs in the country.  The experts at Dalmatian use the finest printers loaded with Cone Edition Piezography K7 inks. The subsequent photographs are made using seven shades of black pigmented inks, printed on the finest acid-free papers and are rated archival with  a longevity of 200 years or more. The quality and deeply rich continuous tonal range can exceed the best traditional custom optical fiber prints and have to be viewed to be believed.  These are truly exceptional photographs.

Not only that but 4 other color prints of mine will hang with the El Cortez and I am simply busting with pride.  The selected work represents literally thousands of miles of effort.  Thanks to my friends in Tucson for this opportunity.



Las Vegas as we all need it to be.  A wind swept rain, the police in action across the street and the gamblers warm inside keeping their demons at bay.  It’s always just after midnight in Vegas.

Chris Hensel

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Things Gone.


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The Process and Exhilaration.

I usually go out to shoot in the mornings but I had a very long (and excellent)  working Saturday so I planned to stay in today.  Of course  the sky began to get interesting as afternoon came on.  I decided, perhaps a little late, to get out and have at it.  Inspiration as motivation to do something is nonsense.  Ask any writer how much work they’d get done if they only wrote when inspired.  Photography, or any other artistic discipline, is exactly like that.  If you want the work you have to  do it, period.  A photographer makes photographs and to wait for inspiration is to do nothing.  So out I went.

Besides, I had rediscovered an area a short time ago and wanted to get back there.  A bit far for a late afternoon drive but why not? So I’m off on a blustery March Sunday having a fine time, making some exposures.  The sky was ideal, the  trees were still bare, traffic was light and suddenly I was very happy with my decision to do some work.  See how that happens?

I took New Jersey 49 back towards  home.   Up off to my right I saw the looming Salem water tower and began to look for someway to incorporate it into a photo.  I turned a corner looked to my right and there it was, laid out perfectly.  These moments happen to every photographer sooner or later.  A scene presents itself to you.  A scene so perfect you can scarcely believe it.  Of course, sometimes we are presented with a perfect scene and the resulting photographs don’t measure up.  Somehow we missed whatever it was that made us stop in the first place.  I was determined not to let that happen.  I parked and began to work the scene.

 There are very rare times when I am filled with exhilaration when I am shooting.  When  every element has been placed just for me, and if I act quickly and smartly I can have what I want.   I used every lens, walked every possible path, shot from every possible vantage point made use of every angle using every sensible exposure combination and after 30 minutes or so came to the conclusion that I had what I needed.  I made a few more stops on the way home finally parking in the driveway after dark, much later than I had intended.  All in all a perfectly worthwhile shoot. I made the time to practice my craft, and brought home some exposures that I think really hit the note.




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Zelda, Jay Gatsby and driving fast through The Promised Land.

Busy night here at ABW as we run through the files searching for the answer.  We are reminiscing about beautiful Zelda and that rascal Gatsby and driving fast through the midnight woods around Princeton.  Don’t tell Gatsby but we didn’t all go to Princeton.  He likes to think he is surrounded by Ivy League stock but it just isn’t true.  My family wintered in the hinterlands of Southeastern Pennsylvania, not Palm Springs, and we vacated in Atlantic City.



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Long gone.

The congregation has disappeared, scattered to the four winds; the preacher left town, on to different pastures. The walls of the church stand.

America is covered in churches.  Colossal cathedrals and simple wooden structures,  they are everywhere; every denomination, every sort of building style, all up and down every road and country lane.  I am moved to photograph the handmade churches.  These buildings are folk art, built to hold the Mighty Power Of God in a modest and fragile package.  Once, I am certain, the builders of these churches kneeled and prayed and knew that salvation would be theirs.  If you listen carefully, on the right kind of day, you can hear the choir singing and the preacher preaching, hands clapping in unison bringing it all back home, another church on another American highway.








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In the front seat on a summer night with bare feet on the dash.

Big cars, fast cars, cars with fins, cars with stripes, cars with music, muscle cars, cars with girls in the front seat on a summer night with  bare feet on the dash. Cars that take you away even if only for a little while

A car in the night gives us something.  A way out, if need be. A break from the madness.  The mystery of the night can engulf us, sweeping away the dull of the day. Time stops when the moon is full and the highway is clear.  We are free, if only for a little while.

 I made this image on a summer night not long ago, standing in the road, camera mounted on a tripod, making exposure after exposure.  I thought I had what I wanted, but I tend to over shoot to make sure.  It was after midnight, nobody around.  I had passed the Sunoco station and thought that the tower would fit and the image would speak. Brought the car around, parked and 20 minutes later drove away.

Some things we see everyday all the time.  We use them and never see them.  And then one day years later we see a photograph and gaze in awe at what had been there all along.


“See the present as past”

-Walker Evans.



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