Paul Contino | Photographs - Photoletter 32

Paul Contino | Photographs

Photoletter Issue No. 32

Here We Go in 2024

What resolutions or intentions have you made for this coming year? What’s on your life agenda for the next twelve months? What aspirations do you have? Feel free to drop me an email and share!


To be honest I am still refining mine … but I suppose I can begin by continuing sharing photographs from National Park visits last summer.

First up, snapshots of the majestic Teton mountains in Wyoming and a discussion of an iconic Ansel Adams photograph.

Afterwards we head across the state to Badlands National Park in South Dakota to admire remnants of a relatively recent erosion of 75 million years of rock formation.

Finally, an assortment of images as a follow-up to the previous photoletter and the discussion around whether color or black and white works better for your photographs.

Here’s to a productive 2024!


Capturing Nature in a Box

One of the iconic locations where Ansel Adams chose to pause, appreciate, and capture Nature “in a box” was across from the Teton mountain range in northwest Wyoming.

Shot by the master photographer in 1942, Tetons and the Snake River was part of a project commissioned by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Taking into account the difference in photographic technology - the equipment Adams used was relatively cumbersome and lacked any sort of “image preview” - it is an impressive and masterfully created image.

I use the word “created” because, as with all of Ansel Adams’s photography, he manipulated his film photographs in a dark room before presenting to an audience, in a similar manner modern photographers use software such as Photoshop.

It just took a bit (read: considerable) more skill and understanding to do so [if you’re interested you can find examples of his process through a series Adams published on film camera use, development, and printing, as well as insight into creating forty of his iconic images].

But let’s return to the Snake River photograph and review some aspects of what make it a “good” photograph:

If you have not already, I recommended taking a moment to observe Adams’s photograph before continuing on…

  • The framing of the image and the choice in keeping the subject(s) centered.

  • The juxtaposition of light and dark to both establish mood and to direct the attention of the viewer.

  • The creation of distance and depth by restricting the mountains range to the top third of the image; the emphasis on the importance and greatness of the “snake” of the Snake River, its winding path from the distant mountains to the vantage point of the viewer covering the lower two-thirds.

  • The menacing dark clouds in contention with the optimistic/hopeful light above the similarly contrasting snow-laden mountain peaks.

  • The choice to preserve a caliginous earth leading to a radiant heavens: a river from the depths of Hades to the light of Olympus.

It is a pleasing, threatening, awesome, and magnificent portrayal of nature.

It’s a good photograph.


Below I’ve shared three images of the Tetons from late in the summer of 2023 close to where Adams took his Tetons and the Snake River photograph

Postcards: South Dakota Badlands

After the Teton stop to admire Adams’s work and a hydrothermal walkthrough in Yellowstone, next up were the badlands of South Dakota.

If you didn’t know, I like postcards.

And though I don’t necessarily aspire to take photographs with postcard images in mind, I’ve recently considered how they may lend well to that format.

Additionally, I’ve also been working on better organizing and cataloguing work.

This includes the difficult task of selecting the most appropriate images to present for publication.

Some images work well alone, while others, which may not individually be strong, work better together to tell a story.

The “postcard” set below was chosen from, oh, fifty or so photographs taken while at Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

There were other quality individual images representative of the location, but didn’t fit well aesthetically with others (too busy, too different, wrong orientation), ultimately throwing off the flow of the set visually.

I still had a bit of trouble in choosing the most appropriate set presented below:

I would argue that the final image would work better in a set with more of a mix of subjects - the first five images concentrate on landscape alone (but I like it so I am including in this photoletter).

The fourth image could also be removed, as it is very similar to the preceding image, and which I believe is a stronger image overall.

What do you think?

Color v. BW Follow-up

Last photoletter I discussed a bit about whether best to capture and/or preserve a photograph in color or convert to black and white.

Below are a few examples to peruse and allow you to make a determination for yourself which version is more appealing.

Many times both the color images and the black and white versions are equally effective and portraying a moment or a story or just a visual snapshot.

Good again to think about what emotions you may want to evoke or to whom you will be showing your photos.

The wonderful thing about digital images is that you can take a color photograph, create a copy, convert to black and white, and voilà, you have two versions to choose from.


Enjoy the start to the new year!


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