© Cheryl Medow

Today we are pleased to share the work of photographer Cheryl Medow.

Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

I was raised in Southern California and now live in Santa Barbara, CA.   It seems odd to think of Los Angeles as a place to grow up loving nature and the outdoors, but it was possible then.  My favorite tree was a pussy willow.  The catkins were what drew me to the tree. My favorite insect was a caterpillar.  Watching it spin its chrysalis and then turn into a beautiful monarch butterfly was amazing.  I also loved visiting the ocean, going tide-pooling and picking up shells.  

My favorite classes were art and science.  My favorite school trips were going to see the dioramas at the Natural History Museum in downtown LA.  In grammar school, I was in charge of  designing the murals.  I studied at Chouinard Institute and graduated from UCLA in 1967 with a Bachelors Of Fine Arts degree, I taught 1st grade.  I loved teaching the kids how to “do” art.  Just let them be!  Their creations were so amazing.  

I’ve worked in ceramics, watercolor, mixed media, pastels and printmaking.  Now I primarily work with a digital camera and Photoshop.  I have incorporated my classical training in the arts with contemporary tools to transform the sublime beauty in nature with gesture, line, shape, balance and color.  I am in awe of the tools I have at my disposal.  

Where did you get your photographic training?  

I consider myself self-taught.  

My first camera was a Brownie.  I’ve done photo expedition/classes with Greg Downing and Suzi Eszterhas and have participated in classes with John Paul Caponigro and Mac Holbert to hone in on the art of digital printing.   Along the way, they helped increase my understanding of Photoshop which helps me create my composited images.  I still work with Mac Holbert,  Mac prints my large format images.  

Why do you create?

My response to my environment is to create.  I do not have a choice.

Who has had an influence on your creative process?

Early in my life, my aunt, who was an architect/designer (now 96), influenced me.  Her home was an art studio and art equaled play. 

The Hudson River Valley artists, who sketched in the field and went back to their studios to paint suggested a process I use as well by photographing birds and landscapes and returning to my studio to “paint and collage” my final images with Photoshop.  I believe I follow in the footsteps and tradition of Audubon.  We both seem to present our subjects as specimens against an environment that appears more like a backdrop or diorama.

The beauty in nature has influenced my creations.  I allow my imagination to take hold when I step into my studio, imagining new scenes.  I also have a desire to share the beauty I see with the hope that once the magnificence of this planet and its amazing creatures are seen, the desire to preserve and protect will find expression in the viewer.  We can all be stewards of a sublime environment in our everyday lives.

On a trip to the Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris, I had the opportunity to be alone in the oval gallery room with Monet’s Lilies.  It was an incredible experience and I felt like I was part of the scene, sitting at the water’s edge. 

Snowy Egret on the Wooden Fence © Cheryl Medow

What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson?

Birds fly AWAY!  I talk to them.  My favorite story is of a snowy egret landing on a wooden bridge at Malibu Lagoon.  I was busy taking a photograph of a great blue heron in the water when this snowy, making quite a commotion (bird talk), landed, saw me and kept on walking on the wooden fence.  I was using my 600mm on a tripod and of course he was too close.  My other camera was on my shoulder and I took, tried to adjust for the light and then finally starting taking photographs.  The snowy seemed to be asking me “are you done yet”?  I was.  He flew off.  Patience, spontaneity and a bit of luck is what I learn every time I go out birding. 

Two Snowys © Cheryl Medow

What makes a good day for you creatively speaking?

When I can stay out in the field early in the morning and go back in late afternoon, I’ve had a great day.  This only means that there was at least one bird to photograph and the light was good.  Early morning light is my favorite.  When in the field, my attitude goes from rushing to patience, stealth and peace of mind.  When I’m in my studio creating a new image from the many images I’ve taken in the field and I have an “AH HA” moment, I know I’m at the beginning of creating a image I will love.  In my studio I get to relive the moments in the field as I go through the many images I have photographed to find that unique one.

If you could spend a day with any other photographer or artist living or passed who would it be?

Ansel Adams.

How important is the photographic community to you?

Through events such as PhotoNola and Photolucida, I have the opportunity to meet and share my work with other photographers and to see the creativity in all of us.  I’m a member of NANPA and find I can use this community as a resource in learning more about everything photographic.

What equipment have you found essential in the making of your work?

In the field, my Nikon cameras with a heavy duty tripod, long 600mm lens and a wide angle 12-24mm lens ARE essential.  My MacTower and Photoshop are the essential tools in my studio.  My internal equipment is curiosity, patience, endurance, steadfastness, attention to detail, imagination and an eye for composition.

Is there something in photography thay you would like to try in the future?

While I love what I am doing right now, I may want to explore larger format cameras in the future so that I can produce larger high quality prints.

What is on the horizon?

On the horizon are further new adventures.  I’m traveling to Bali next week in search of different kinds of kingfishers. I continue the course, loving every new bird moment and creating new environments and moments for the birds to inhabit.

Thank you Cheryl. To learn more the work of Cheryl Medow, please visit her site by clicking on her name.

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