“As with all art, the photographers objective is not the duplication of visual reality.”
Roch Hart born and raised in Santa Fe moved to Albuquerque in 1983 to become a police officer. Twenty years later, retired and an avid outdoorsmen Hart decided to share his love for New Mexico’s unique scenery with visitors to our state. He started New Mexico Jeep Tours, which has become a very successful second career for him. To his surprise this new career also brought him a new creative obsession-- photography.
Hart started taking photographs to help market his new business. At first, he used a simple point and shoot camera. Then one day he took a picture of lightning and he was hooked. Hart started putting his photographs on Flickr—an online album. Observing other people’s pictures on Flickr he studied elements that caught his eye. He noticed how a photograph’s composition, shadows and light could create a mood that has an emotional impact.
Hart now understood what he wanted to capture in his own photographs. Using a Pentax K5, a camera he chose for its HDR (High Dynamic Range) capability and sturdiness he set out to photograph some of his favorite subjects. Sunsets, cloudy days, and lightning, became just three of many scenes he photographed. Hart found that he didn't always need to use a tripod. He instead uses a skill set he learned as a police officer---how to point and shoot a gun. This dexterity comes in handy for his photographs are rarely out of focus.
Hart wanting his pictures to express the mood, the emotions he felt and the rich colors that he saw in nature researched more flickr albums. He was attracted to photographs that were enhanced with computer software. He learned that this technique is not new, for example Ansel Adams often while developing his photographs in a darkroom would darker the sky in his pictures to give them a more dramatic mood. Hart then began to use a technique where he places his camera on a tripod in order to photograph the same scene several times using a different exposure for each picture. He then uses a software program where he layers or places these photographs one on top of the other.
This software allows Hart to bring out the richness of the colors and provide deeper contrasts in his pictures. It allows him to convey the quietness, loneliness and spiritual feeling of New Mexico’s natural beauty. Hart also uses a process called the Orton Effect. This method was first used in the darkroom as well. It involves taking one blurred photograph and one clear photograph of the same scene with both overexposed. These two photographs are then merged together using software. The result is what Hart calls an “otherworldly” effect. When he uses these enhancements he does not put in elements that were not captured in the original photograph.
A night photograph of lightning Hart took on the roof of his home caught the attention of HuffPost. He used the layer technique described above with several different exposures to create this picture. HuffPost at first thought he had added lightning bolts to his picture until they did further research and realized that New Mexico has some of the most spectacular lightning storms in the country. They then published his photograph both in America and the United Kingdom. To photograph an image like this at night, Hart explains is a frantic race to capture images, using a tripod and a remote—each exposure timed meticulously. Hart enhanced this picture by highlighting the home across the street thereby changing the perspective, which draws the eye to the immense size of the bolts.
When purists in the field of photography challenge Hart’s use of computer software he points out that “todays software is the darkroom”. He states, "You create art for yourself, you hope others appreciate it, but like with any artistic endeavor you have to be true to yourself—then your art becomes distinctive and reflects you.”