Monday, June 11, 2012

My Trips to the US: Palouse and Vincent Versace

The Palouse, WA - (C) 2012 Francois Cleroux

Its amazing the amount of incredible places and things we have to photograph here in Canada, or specifically here in Vancouver. Yet, despite this abundance of photo worthy scenes, I find myself heading over the line often.

In February I was in Florida. Last week I was with the Delta Photo Club (DPC), or at least 20 of its members, in The Palouse in Washington (not to be confused with the town called Palouse). Most of you may never have heard of the Palouse, or, perhaps because most of you reading this blog are photographers you may know about the Palouse. But, for those of you who do not, it is a region in eastern Washington south of Spokane encompassing parts of southeastern Washington, north central Idaho, and technically into northeast Oregon. For photographers, the region however is the smaller region of rolling fertile hills where wheat, canola and legumes are grown. This marvelouse region surrounding the towns of Palouse, Pullman, Endicott, St. John and Rosalia centered by the town of Colfax, where most photographers base themselves, is a marvel.

White Fluffy Clouds, Palouse, WA - (C) 2012 Francois Cleroux

This region is agricultural reserve land that is some of the most fertile land around anywhere. The long rolling hills, the cut-in patchwork crops and the usually dry weather featuring white fluffy clouds along with some great old barns and rusty old cars makes this a magnificent picturesque region and a photographers dream. So much so that photographers come to this region from all over the world.

I was also there with the DPC two years ago and I plan on going there again and I encourage all of you to fit the Palouse into you travel plans in the near future. In the next few months I will be blogging about this region a little more and showing some more images from there. I'll also have a neat announcement about it also.

Crop Dusting in Palouse, WA - (C) 2012 Francois Cleroux

So after a few days back to Canada, off I was again to Seattle this time. Turns out that Seattle's largest (and best) camera store, Glazers, was having a two day photo festival on Friday and Saturday. Their three stores (main store, rentals, studio and lighting) are all on one block and the road was shut down for the festival. They had great pricing and specials on many items.

Like most festivals they had a vendors area with Canon, Nikon, Hasselblad, Zeiss and all the usual suspects. A great chance to check out some new items and ask questions. They also had some workshops and lectures throughout both days the reason I was particularly interested in going was because the event kicked off on Thursday evening with a lecture from a photographic idol of mine, Vincent Versace. Vincent is famous for his years of being portrait photographer to the stars. His career has seen him travel the world for different magazines, companies and organizations which included a job in Burma (Myanmar) to photograph Aung San Suu Kyi. His photographs are mostly all about light, of which he is a master. His portraits, travel photography, landscapes, cityscapes and flowers and other works all reflect his deep appreciation and love of light.

Poppie - (C) Vincent Versace (Inserted with Permission)

He is a trained stage actor and a writer. He has written a great book on digitaly editing portraits with an emphasis on light. The book, 'Welcome to Oz' now in its second edition is a detailed marvel that steps you through the entire process for creating beautiful yet subtle changes to your images to enhance not only the subject but more specifically the light and mood of the image. He also places an emphasis on mapping and planning your images, paying attention to detail and using a tablet (which he recommends). He has a brand new book being released very shortly called 'From Oz to Kansas: Almost Every Black and White Technique Know to Man' which is available for pre-order on I have already pre-ordered this book and will review it when I get it.

A month ago or so I hosted an evening with our local Wacom rep Bonnie Avery. She showed all those who attended how to setup their tablets, how to use them and why and got into the details of the Intuos 4 and the new Intuos 5 tablets. It was a great evening. At the end of that class I showed everyone and recommended the Welcome to Oz book and suggested if you want to learn to use a tablet, work your way through this great book and in the process you'll learn a whole lot more.

Of course I brought my book along and had the opportunity to have it signed. More importantly I met Vincent and had a chance to speak with him on a few subjects and ask several questions.

Untitled - (C) Vincent Versace (Inserted with Permission)

Although I knew of and about Vincent Versace I had never had the pleasure of seeing him interviewed, on tv or live before. Now, I must say that I go to these types of events all the time and hit up any and all lectures I can attend as they are usually very insightful and most often a great learning experience. After spending over two hours of non stop listening to Vincent, the gentleman that came with me and I decided it was the most spectacular, awe inspiring, thoughtful, and humanized photography lecture we have ever attended.

Mr. Versace is probably one of the most technically proficient photographers around, both for in-camera and post editing and is a master printer. Although he did not go into any technical details at all, he did speak to, and in the process re-affirmed what I have been teaching for some time - the emphasis on taking your time, using a tripod, using great glass like a prime lens, making sure your exposure is perfect and spending all the time required to make your print perfect.

Artistically he spoke about focus. Actually he suggested photographers spend more time looking at what should be out of focus. So, don't think 'in focus' think 'out of focus' when composing. I think the better photographers instinctively do this. As beginners however most photographers always want to make sure that their images are sharp where they need to be sharp and so they usually use smaller apertures to ensure greater DOF and thus sharpness. With experience comes the comfort of confidence knowing that your image will be sharp if properly focused and camera held steady even when shooting at f/2.8.

As an added bonus, the first 50 people that showed up at the hall received a free autographed 8x10 image. I was very lucky to get one and will have it framed and will post it on my Wall of Honor. I did miss out on the hands-on workshop with him on the Friday morning as it was sold out. But, at only $50.00 for the morning it would have been an excellent deal and a great experience. Perhaps next year. For more information on Vincent Versace check out his site at and his blog at

Overall, my past few American weeks have been excellent and oh so very inspiring and after my trip to Bistou Lake Alberta for Fishing and Photography, i'll be heading back to the U.S. for a few days in Canon Beach, Oregon.

© 2012 Jean-François Cléroux

(Version 1.01 - June 2012)

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- Francois Cleroux