Ron Colbroth’s award-winning photograph of a sailboat crisply mirrored in the calm, blue waters of Southern Portugal is the very definition of “reflection.” June “Reflections” juror Carlton Fletcher said that the award-winning pieces needed to “read from across the room, and then reward you for coming in for a closer look. That is what I call graphic power.”
Colbroth’s Still Waters certainly fits the bill.
We asked Colbroth about his piece, his creative process, and what he’s working on next.
“I’ve learned over the years that if you sit and wait, you will be rewarded.”
How did Still Waters come together?
I was in Portugal and had been traveling to various locations to photograph the Algave for a Japanese magazine. One late afternoon, I decided to go to the coast near where we were staying in Faro as I was interested in photographing boats. I’ve learned over the years that if you sit and wait, you will be rewarded. This photograph is a matter of making my own luck. The light was right, the water was calm, and as far as the boat goes, I couldn’t have hoped for a better vessel.
What is your creative process like?
I shoot digitally now, but I still have the mentality of a film photographer. With film, I would always shoot images so everything was composed perfectly in the camera. I used mostly transparency (slide) film, so if I sent images to magazine editors or art directors, they needed to see exactly what I was trying to capture. I also always thought about what I wanted to shoot, because thinking about every image before you click the shutter makes you a better photographer rather than shooting randomly and hoping for the best. Now with digital photography, I still keep the same shooting methods.
Once I have downloaded or scanned a photograph, I will usually work on the brightness, contrast, and saturation a bit, if I need to do so. I usually use Nik Software, which I have used for years now, and it seems to work (for me) the best of all the various software programs available. I may make several versions of one photograph. Sometimes all the versions will be worthwhile, but most of the time, I find one version that I love the most and stick with it.
My main concern is trying to make my photographs as timeless as possible.
Do you go out with a plan of what you want to shoot?
The simple answer is: sometimes. My favorite way of shooting is to just wander, especially if I am in a city or town that is interesting. My photograph, Bordeaux Blue (below), which got an honorable mention at The Art League in 2016 is such an example. My wife, Alex Tolstoy and I were visiting a friend who was working in Bordeaux at the time, so I had the opportunity to go out every day and wander around. Of course, there are other times where I have seen some scene while driving or wandering around that looks interesting, and I return later to that spot, because I specifically want a certain photograph. My photograph, Honolulu Sunset (above), is a photograph that I wanted to create. Because of the way the sun sets off Oahu, this photograph can only be taken in January. I just happened to get a great evening with gorgeous clouds and the setting sun and sky lighting up the buildings.
Some of your pieces are in black and white while others are in color. What made you decide on color for this particular photograph?
There was no specific reason. I just like the photograph the way it is. I suppose I could have converted it to a straight black and white photograph, but I liked how everything worked, so I didn’t consider changing the image.
Is this photograph part of a series?
No, it isn’t part of a series. I don’t think specifically about a series of photographs, although I sometimes wonder why I don’t. Boats are one subject that I find myself attracted to as well as bicycles. If I go back over my photographs over the years, boats and bicycles play a big part in my collection.
What are you working on now?
I have found that I have been attracted to still lifes, especially fruits, vegetables, and flowers, so I am looking in that direction for my next photography project. It might give me a good reason for shooting a series.
See Colbroth’s Still Waters and the rest of the “Reflections” exhibit through July 1.