About Michael Roberts
My work is inspired by the grand scenic 19th century landscape paintings of the American West by Hudson River School artists Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran which can still be seen displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Smithsonian American Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and in the United States Capitol Building.
Over the past 20 years, I have produced a portfolio of over 3,000 large format and ultra-large format photographs of Colorado and the West. On my online Ultimate Quality Fine Art Gallery, I present the best of the best of my portfolio for your purchase consideration in limited editions of 100 prints in sizes from 16 x 40 inches up to 5x8 feet plus one Original Series, True Photographic Print in sizes up to 6 x 10 feet or larger.
Unlike most 21st Century landscape photographers who use digital cameras and rely heavily on digital tools like Photoshop, I restore and use vintage 19th century 11x14 and 8x10 film cameras in the field. After developing the film, I scan the film to make use of superior modern printers. This hybrid method allows me to print grand format murals up to six feet by ten feet in size with great detail that invoke the romanticism, majesty, and sublime beauty of the American West and Southwest.
I am self-taught in the art and science of photography. My earliest memories of using a camera go back to 1965 when my parents bought me a black and white Polaroid Swinger camera (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...). I progressed to using Canon 35mm equipment during my 20s and 30s, got away from personal photography for a few years to earn a living, then returned with the introduction of digital cameras in 2001 (the Fujifilm A series camera). After making a serious commitment to photography as an art form in 2005, I read all I could on the subject and immersed myself in the works of Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, and Brett Weston. The online forum for large and ultra-large format photography (www.largeformatphotography.info) was an invaluable resource for gaining knowledge about vintage large format camera equipment, tripods, lenses, and techniques.
There was a lengthy period of trial and error, traveling down the learning curve, and finding the right equipment and methods that worked for me given the goals I set for myself in terms of producing grand format landscape art in the tradition of the Hudson River School/Rocky Mountain Schools of Art. In addition to studying the works of the photographers mentioned above, I also made a concentrated study of the lives and works of Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, Thomas Hill, Thomas Cole, J.M.W. Turner, and other Hudson River School artists.
Digital cameras and smartphone cameras are wonderful inventions for making snapshots to share on social media and for making small sized prints. They are also great for instant feedback on the image you have just captured. I found the earliest models from Fujifilm inspirational in getting back into photography after a hiatus of a few years because of this instant feedback feature, like the Polaroid cameras from the 1960s. After moving from the Southeast to Colorado in 2004, however, I found I needed more resolution than digital cameras offered in order to make 6'x10' grand format fine art prints that matched the grand scale and scenic views of the American West and Southwest.
After researching all the alternatives, I settled on a hybrid approach—using large and ultra-large format sheet film cameras to make a photograph in the field, then developing and scanning the film in my studio. The advantage is that the film scanner can run for hours, digitizing the information contained in a single sheet of 8x10” or 11x14” film. Literally, hours. It takes 4 hours to scan a single sheet of film, producing a massive digital .tif file of nearly six gigabytes. This is the beginning of the digital darkroom process in which I dustbust the digital negative and do other traditional wet darkroom adjustments such as dodging and burning to achieve the final print that I pre-visualized in the field (for reference, see Ansel Adams’ The Negative and The Print.)
Having spent most of my life in the Southeast (born and raised in Atlanta), I knew about the allure of mountains (the Appalachians) and shores (Jekyll Island, Panama City, Dauphin Island), but the majesty of the snow-covered Rocky Mountains and the stark beauty of the desert and canyonlands of the American Southwest, were new to me, and I fell in love with the landscapes.
For five years, from 2008 to 2013, my father-in-law owned a vacation home in Moab, Utah, and my wife and I used his place as a base camp for explorations all over the Southwest. We made a goal to see all the National Parks, and we have been to almost all of the Parks in the West, plus most of the National Monuments, Navajo Nation Parks, and State Parks that have scenic value. For most, we have been many times, or I have visited on one or more of my “photo-marathons” as my wife calls them. Being naturally high energy and an early riser, it is not uncommon for me to set off solo on a trip for several days, car camping, and hitting multiple locations each day, burning the candle at both ends of the day to take advantage of golden hour light after sunrise and before sunset. I love the thrill of the hunt, love being outdoors, revel in the scenic beauty, and love being able to produce a result from my efforts in fine art print form. Plus, I most enjoy photographing in the West and Southwest during the winter and early morning hours when National Parks are less crowded. It is incredible to be in amazingly beautiful scenic wonders…alone. No automobile noise, no planes overhead, no one talking. You hear the wind and the sound of wind on ravens’ and hawks’ wings as they soar overhead. In our too-crowded, too-noisy, socially-stressed lives, silence and solitude can be strange and unsettling, but it can also be incredibly restorative.
When I was younger, I raced marathons, recording a personal best of 2 hours and 34 minutes, an average of about 5:50 minutes per mile, and finishing in the top 25 of the AAU National Marathon Championship in 1976. For the past 20 years, I have put that energy, drive, and dedication into my photography. I find the challenge of large format and ultra-large format fine art landscape photography even more fulfilling. There is a similar mental and physical challenge to large format landscape photography as compared to marathon training and racing—planning, decision-making, self-monitoring energy and fatigue, monitoring and adjusting to extremes of weather, and a direct cause-and-effect of effort-and-reward. Large and ultra-large format cameras, tripods, lenses, and film holders are heavy. My wife and I live at nearly 9,000 feet elevation in the Colorado Rockies and regularly hike or snowshoe to alpine lakes at 12,000 feet. Backpacking 40-50 pounds of gear at high elevations is physically challenging. Dealing with subfreezing temperatures in winter—numb feet and fingers that ache when forced to tighten down camera and tripod knobs. But, despite, or maybe because of the physical hardships —much more satisfying and rewarding than earning a trophy or running a PR—fine art ultra-large landscape photography also offers the payoff of achieving a tangible, physical work of art.
I offer my Ultimate Quality Fine Art prints in two series. The more affordable series is a limited edition of 100 pigment prints in Lumachrome TruLife Acrylic Face Mount or Satin Finish Canvas. Either print material can be purchased in ready-to-hang frameless style or with a traditional hand-crafted Roma Moulding frame in your choice of material.
I also offer an exclusive Original Series, which are one-of-a-kind, Grand Format, mural-sized True Photographic Prints, in the tradition of Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran and other Hudson River School Artists. These prints are made on photographic paper that has been coated with layers of red, green, and blue dyes (either Fujifilm Crystal Archive or Kodak Endura papers). These are traditional Chromagenic photographic prints (C-prints), processed in wet chemistry after the paper is exposed using traditional projection of the photographic image using advanced laser light technology in place of analog darkroom enlargement. Each print is mounted on a sheet of aluminum and face-mounted to a sheet of optically clear acrylic for UV protection and protection from exposure to environmental affects, preserving the artwork for well over 100 years. Each print is framed in a hand-crafted, ornate gold frame (or frame of your choice), crated, and shipped to your door.
Each of these three print options produce stunning works of art that I am proud to include in my Ultimate Quality Fine Art portfolio.
I hope you enjoy the work shown here and will consider supporting my work by purchasing one or more of my Ultimate Quality Fine Art Prints to add beauty to your home or office!
If you have comments or questions, I invite you to use the Contact page to reach me directly via email or simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. --mlr