Kerry Drager, Photographer & Author, Cambria, CA USA


DRAGER_Portrait_of_Kerry_DragerEWW: If someone were to make a comment(s) about your work and workshops, what do you think they would say?

Kerry: I like to think that my photography, although quite varied, has some common qualities related to the effective use of light, color and composition. Viewers of my Facebook postings, for instance, often comment about my use of strong graphics and colors. My twilight seascape images regularly elicit comments such as this: “painterly quality,” the “magical look” and “ethereal-looking waves.” For my close-ups, I’ve received comments like this: “I love the way you look at everyday scenes and objects, and then turn them into photographic art pieces!”

In a review of my website, Shutterbug magazine’s “Web Profiles” columnist, Joe Farace, once described my photographs as having “elegant simplicity and exhibiting a flawless control of color.”


EWW: Kerry, if you were asked to make a comment(s) about your work as a whole, what would you say?

Kerry: Although I appreciate digital art, for my own photography, I avoid the use of creative Photoshop filters or plug-ins. Instead, I prefer in-camera techniques for capturing my vision.

I really embrace color as a graphic-design element. This can mean bold color as a photo’s main focal point, or a pattern of complementary tones. Also, I like contrasting colors – such as warm, sunset-toned seaside rocks mixed with the cool blues of the surf. At the same time, I also look for other graphic-design elements to incorporate into my compositions – such as line, pattern, shape, repetition, etc.

I work almost exclusively with natural light. Whenever possible, in fact, I let the light dictate what I shoot. For example, this can mean dawn or dusk for moody scenics, sunrise or sunset for sweeping landscapes or seascapes, and soft overcast or foggy conditions for small scenes and people portraits.


EWW: What is unique about your photography?

Kerry: I shoot a very broad range of natural-light subjects – from landscapes and travel, to people and fine art. I particularly like to photograph small subjects that are often overlooked by other photographers. Although my portfolios include sweeping seascapes and cityscapes, there are many close-up images, too – of everyday objects, colorful rust, weathered wood and peeling paint, as well as nature subjects. For these images, I often zero in on the graphics of line, pattern and texture.

What’s nice is that you don’t have to travel far to find satisfying close-up opportunities. But this concept is not always easy to grasp. I am surprised how often students say they live in places where there’s little to shoot. Of course, if photographers were always grateful for where they were, there would be no reason for the phrase,

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”


EWW: There are many categories in your portfolio on your website. Is there one type of subject matter or category that you enjoy working on more than others?

Kerry: I always love it when I’m “in the moment” – that is, my creativity is peaking and the light is working. As a result, anything I happen to be shooting at the time is my favorite place to be and my favorite subject to shoot.

However, there is definitely one type of photography that is my frequent go-to solution for busting out of the inspiration doldrums. It’s macro photography. I use a 105mm macro lens with my full-frame DSLR camera, but there are various macro accessories and options that work great, too. With extreme close-ups, or macro, I find it easy to get lost in a world of intriguing designs and intimate details.



EWW: Besides subject matter or category, are there any other consistent themes in you work such as lighting, technique, type of shot, etc.?

Kerry: I love the dramatic light at the ends of the day. But there’s one other type of lighting that really attracts my attention, and that’s soft natural light. It’s the perfect lighting for working on a small photographic canvas, such as non-sky landscapes, people portraits, gardens, fountains, waterfalls, forest scenes, colorful architectural details … and the list goes on.

Soft light can be found on a white- or gray-sky day, in fog, in the shade, and before sunup and after sundown. It’s also found indoors, next to a window (assuming that the sun is not shining directly through the window). Soft diffused lighting often makes colors more vivid than direct sunlight and is more likely to reveal delicate details as well. Muted light offers minimal contrast, so scenes aren’t marred by deep shadows and glaring highlights.

Studio owners, by the way, spend lots of money duplicating the low-contrast light that outdoor photographers get for free from a cloud-filled sky. The soft, even illumination cast by a white sky is especially flattering for photographing people. A thick cloud cover mimics the studio light produced with soft boxes and white umbrellas.


EWW: In addition to being a photographer, you also conduct workshops. What are the three most important concepts that you want your workshop participants to take with them, as they leave your workshop?

KERRY: First, I hope students acquire a good understanding (and appreciation!) of natural light in all its forms, from dawn to dusk and everything in between, as well as the various directions of the sun. My goal is for students to fully comprehend this wonderful quote from legendary photographer Galen Rowell: “When the light is right, my camera is out long before I know what I want to photograph.”

Another key concept involves experimentation in order to compose eye-grabbing compositions. This involves trying out different shooting positions, such as moving in closer or to the side, and shooting from a low perspective or a high one. It means considering a “vertical” subject will look as a horizontals, and vice versa. In other words, for stationary subjects in particular, I like to really nail down the idea of spending time with a scene in order to come up with a variety of compositions.

The third key is flexibility. While a good photographic plan of attack is always advisable, it’s really important to be willing to switch gears. You may find that the monument you were looking forward to shooting is covered by scaffolding. The beautiful low-angled sunlight never – ever! – hits the front of the cathedral or mountain. The historic site doesn’t open until mid-morning, long after the good light has come and gone. The distant landscape looks downright dull under a gray sky. The rain gates have opened.

In short, those who expect the unexpected seem to be the recipients of happy photographic surprises more often than those locked in rigid agendas.


EWW: Marketing these days seems to be quite a challenge for many fine art photographers. What do you see as the biggest challenge(s) for a fine art photographer or digital artist in either their work or business?

Kerry: With technology, things today are much more complicated than in the film days. Now, a number of marketing techniques of the past are still important – such as maintaining a good portfolio (although perhaps with a website, instead of a physical book). But nowadays, there are many more options for promotion – such as social media, blogging, online fine-art marketplaces, e-newsletters, and online arts profiles. Many photographers may benefit from learning to shoot video – not just in terms of providing another product for clients, but for promotion purposes too. All of this can be time-consuming, and for many longtime photographers, it can be downright overwhelming as well.


EWW: How are you dealing with these challenge(s)?

Kerry: As with other parts of life, knowledge can bring success as a way to keep up with the ever-changing photographic world and, as a result, maintain suitable, yet fluid, marketing game plan. So, the point is to learn as much as you can, since knowledge is your best ally for making informed decisions on what’s the best course for you to pursue.

That doesn’t mean constantly changing or updating things. But it does mean getting a good handle on what’s going on in general and, more specifically, what your fellow pros are doing. That’s what I try to do. This can be via professional photography groups, seminars, and conferences. In addition, magazines, industry news, blogs, and social networking are other good resources of information. And, of course, Exhibitions Without Walls is a great forum for growing and developing as a professional.



EWW: Which social media platform seems to work the best for you in terms of exposure and promotion?

Kerry: For the past few years, Facebook has been my main social-media platform. I use it regularly, but I see it primarily as a way to keep up with other pro photographers, as well as keeping in touch with past, present and potentially future students, as well as editors, art buyers, gallery owners, and others. For me, Facebook works nicely for both exposure and promotion.

Each week on FB, I post at least two new images, and include not only the EXIF details, but also a few shooting thoughts and strategies. Each posting is brief, yet to the point. With my teaching background, sharing the “how I did it” details seems very natural – and, of course, there’s good promotional value, too.

I am also adding Google+ to my social-media mix. I’ve had an account for several years, but rarely tapped into it. That’s now changed, as I am getting started with The Arcanum – a very unique and exciting online photography mentoring program. The Arcanum is centered in and around Google+ (communities, hangouts, etc.).


EWW: Kerry, just to wrap up the interview, do you have any final thoughts about you and your work, that you think would be important for others to know about?

Kerry: Interestingly, in these days of ever-advancing technology, an age-old skill – writing! – is increasingly important. In the past, photographers could focus more on images than on words, and get by with only short letters to editors, art buyers, or clients.

Nowadays, for many photographers, writing is an essential tool. This comes in the form of blogging for marketing, online photo courses that are text-based, e-books that opens up the publishing field to everyone, and how-to articles and equipment reviews for online (and print) publications. Many photographers also publish monthly e-newsletters, which includes news on their workshops, new photography, photo tips, and any promotional items.

Blogging is a way to market and promote you, as well as for sharing ideas and techniques. Also, some online photography courses are text-based. E-books make the publishing field wide-open to photographers, as are articles for print or online publications (say, equipment reviews, how-to’s on photography or Photoshop, and so forth). Many photographers publish monthly e-newsletters, which includes news on their workshops, new photography, photo tips, and any promotional items

Looking back over my professional career, writing has been the one thing – besides photography, of course – that has been a common denominator. Writing links all of my seemingly varied projects: coffee-table books, photo how-to books, magazine articles, online teaching, and so much more.

That’s it from here. Thank you, Ed, for the honor of sharing my thoughts and my photography with Exhibitions Without Walls!




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