Monday, January 7, 2013

A Thousand Words: Featuring Roger Feldhans

Central Iowa is rich with musical talent, but it is also home to some of the most unique and talented photographers anywhere. If you have ever had the joy of walking through the aisles of photographs at the Iowa State Fair's annual photography competition, you know exactly what I mean. It's as if Life Magazine settled in and took residence in Des Moines.

Roger Feldhans' self portrait in a shop window
Photo taken on a photowalk in Fort Dodge, Ia. 
One of these great photographers is Roger Feldhans of Pomeroy, Iowa. His photographs have been featured in the state fair competitions, but also in national contests. He shoots almost daily, and is one of the most "genuine" photographers I have ever known. By "genuine," I mean that he has an incredible perspective on the mundane, and the ability to turn a normal setting into something beautiful. He sees things in nature that most of us cannot, and then he turns it into a wonderful masterpiece.

I've wanted to feature Roger and his art for some time now, and last night I had an epiphany of sorts: What if I did a regular feature on this site where I ask a photographer to showcase some of his work, and then, in the photographer's own words, tell a story about the shots he/she has chosen to feature? They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes based off a picture alone, one can't get the entire story. The idea of this segment is to elaborate on that premise, and let the photographer showcase their artwork in their own words. I approached Roger with my idea last night around midnight, and by the time I woke up this morning, my inbox was full of photos and stories - exactly what I had in mind.

Please enjoy the photos Roger and I hand-picked for this article. At the bottom of the page is a link to his personal Facebook page, at which you can view hundreds more. Roger is an incredible talent, and it's an absolute honor to have him on board as the original artist in this new segment.

Without further ado, meet Roger Feldhans:

Roger Feldhans makes life more beautiful.
Photo courtesy of Hans Madsen/The Messenger

I have been photographing off and on since about 1976, started in film. My first photography show was called "Single Eye Visions". This was a play on the SLR (single lens reflex) style camera type. You see, I only have one "good eye", I am blind in my left eye after a hockey accident in Jr. high. I shot film quite a bit into the early 80's, won a few contests and had some work published.

I quit for a while and went off to do other art such as tie dye, sculpture, painting, basically anything I could get my hands on. Then digital cameras came around and I started looking at photography again. I must admit that I went into it "kicking and screaming", did not like it at first. Too pixelated with no creativity. But then everything changed.

Today, I shoot nearly every day. Just started doing a blipfoto 365 project in which I am going to shoot and post at least one photo a day this year. Most of my work is of musicians. I shoot almost all shows at Byron's. This has lead to some great gigs for me. I have done CD covers for Denny Simon, Thankful Dirt, HipKnosis and most recently High Crest. My music photos are used by the musicians for advertising and on their websites. Mark Gerking has used some of my photos in the creation of his music posters for "live" music.

I post photos on Facebook nearly every day, love the feedback I receive. Have met some amazing people as the result of it. Facebook has done wonders for my photography.

I am currently the president, or as we prefer "the supreme leader" of the Fort Dodge Area Camera Club. We have a ton of fun. We do photo safaris, workshops, have guest speakers and generally have a lot of fun at our meetings.

I work as a custodian at Iowa Central Community College. The art department has embraced me and my art. I get to talk to the art classes, and help students with projects. I go on field trips when I can. Love talking to the photography classes because that is my current passion. I am also given the opportunity to "jury" students work at the college art shows, love doing that, it is an amazing thing to talk to students about things they create.

I have done several photography shows and hope to do more in the future. The most popular one was the show at the Ritual Cafe in Des Moines. I got to combine my love of photography, food and music all in one place. It is a feeling  you cannot put into words when some of your favorite people get up on stage and perform and have your artwork as a backdrop. It is quite humbling to say the least. It was a month of many miles in the car but worth every moment, would do it again in a heartbeat.

I truly appreciate this, I am having more fun than a janitor has a right to.

"Fallen Leaves"
(Click to enlarge)

The photo is called "Fallen Leaves". It was taken while on a photo safari with a photography class from Iowa Central Community College. One of the benefits of working at the college, I am a custodian, is that from time to time I am invited to speak to art classes about my art. The bonus is that I get to join them on class trips.

We were at Snell Crawford Park in Fort Dodge doing a model shoot. It was quite chilly that day so the model shoot was not working quite as well as it does in nicer weather. It became more of a "photo safari". Thinking outside the box type shooting. I was showing some students how I "see" things when I go on a shoot. I saw a bunch of leaves that had fallen in the water. This added a bit of vibrancy to the color. Some of the leaves were under water and others floating on top giving it a bit of texture.

I really like the 3D feel of this photo, also it gives the sense of cold you get on a wet fall day. This is also a good example of being prepared when I go shooting that things may not go as planned, but if you remain flexible you will find some amazing things.

"Early Mansion"
(Click to enlarge)
"Early Mansion", this is a house located in Sac City, Iowa. This is easily one of my all time favorite subjects. I have been photographing this house for years. It was unoccupied for quite some time and in a state of disrepair. I took one of the photos to an art show at Finders Creepers in Des Moines. The owner knew the people who had recently purchase the house and put me in contact with them. At approximately the same time a friend of mine had started working for them on the restoration process and he talked with them about me also. When we met the owner knew a lot more about me then I did about him, that was very cool. He gave me a tour of the home and has allowed me to photograph the home anytime.

This photo is actually an infrared photograph that I then added a sepia tone. This is where it goes beyond photography. I then transfer the photo into a drawing program and draw over the top and blend the two together to get the almost drawing type effect. That is the simple explanation, it is much more complicated but very tough to explain. I have a lot of hours tie up in the "drawing" portion of this photo. Certain details became very important to me as the photo progressed. Things like the woodwork around the windows and porch. I became very attached to this photo.

This photo was also chosen to be displayed at the 2012 Iowa State Fair.

"The capitol"
(Click to enlarge)

"The Capitol" is a natural shot to follow "Early Mansion". This is a photo of the capitol building in Des Moines that was taken when Bob Wood, a fellow photographer and friend of mine, took our photos for submission to Photography Contest for the Iowa State Fair. Bob Wood and I "photo safari" from time to time. A "photo safari" is when we get in his van in search of things to photograph. We have a blast. We had just dropped off our photos and set out in Des Moines for things to shoot. We went to the Capitol building to do the required "reflection" photo of the capitol most photographers take at one time or another. I did mine in infrared just to be different. We made our way around to the south side of the Capitol to the Courthouse and were doing some shots from this vantage point.

The photo is done in infrared. This would be a standard 720nm infrared shot. That means that the sky is blue and leaves and grass become white. I love the "look" of this photo, makes it look like it could have been taken somewhere far away from Iowa. Makes it appear much older than it is, I smile when I see it because I remember how much fun that safari was.

"Faded Days"
(Click to enlarge)
Speaking of photo safaris, "Faded Days" is a shot from a photo safari. One day while out looking for subjects we found ourselves outside of Dayton, Iowa cruising down a gravel road. Most safaris take place on gravel roads. We, Bob Wood and I, came across some old tractors in a field. Weeds growing up around them. A photographers dream. One of the things we do not do is trespass to get the shot. All my shots are taken from the road.

This shot was also done in infrared, as are most my photos. This was actually shot with a 590nm filter and then processed in Photoshop to bring it closer to the look of a 720nm shot. I also wanted it to have a more faded or pastel look to it, I think it helps with the passing of time aspect I tried to achieve. I also think this is a great "Iowa" type photo, tractors and barns are a couple of my favorite subjects and I try to show them in a different light. We drive past them almost every day and never notice them. I want people to see them differently so the next time they drive by one they just might think "Hey, I wonder how Roger would see that"!

I guess I should note that my cameras are internally converted to infrared. What this means is, instead of a filter in front of the lens to photograph the infrared light, the filter in front of the sensor inside the camera is replaced with an infrared filter. This allows shots to be taken hand-held instead of on a tripod, as the use of a filter requires shutter speeds measured in seconds that cannot possibly be hand-held. 

"Flemings" Andy and BeJae Fleming
(Not related) Click to Enlarge

"Flemings", now this is what I probably do the most. I shoot music. This photo is of Andy Fleming (Brother Trucker) and BeJae Fleming while playing a Singer/Songwriter show at Byron's in Pomeroy, Iowa. Most my shots are taken at Byron's. The music is fantastic and the bands are very open to having me photograph them. I do not use a flash and try not to disrupt things while photographing the music.

I have a great time doing this. As (musician) Chad Elliot once told me, I don't photograph musicians, I photograph music. I like to think of it that way. I photograph all performers who come to Byron's simply because I love it. No one has ever asked me to, and no one has ever told me I could not. If someone asked me not to, I would not take their photo out of respect. Simple as that.

It would be tough to choose one photo to represent the music side of what I do. It is as varied as the artists who perform. I really like this shot because it shows two friends having fun, two artists playing together who are not in a band together and do not perform regularly with one another. It makes me smile, make me tap my toes and feel and hear the music all over again.

"Rural Beauty"  (Click to enlarge)
"Rural Beauty" is one of my favorite shots for several reasons. It is an infrared shot done with the first camera I converted to infrared. Not an easy task. It is a little point and shoot, but does some amazing things. I did a lot of "drawing" on this one also. Wanted to give it a true "Iowa" feel. I really like the composition of this photo. The barn separates a living and dead tree, with the horse on the living side of the barn. I also like the bin on the right hand side with the auction number still on it. I've had several people say I should Photoshop it out or crop it out, but I think it is an important part of the scene.

This photo was also a finalist in the Canon's "Long Live Imagination" contest, was not a winner, but I was very happy to have it be a finalist in the contest. Think about this: I used a camera someone was throwing away to take this photo. It was in the same contest with people using cameras that cost thousands of dollars, just goes to show...not the camera, it is in the eye. You can find more info about the contest here.  Basically it is a photo contest headed by Ron Howard in which films are made based upon the photos submitted. This year they are doing 10 films with each director using 10 photos from the contest. Very cool stuff.

"Dolliver in Fall"
(Click to enlarge)

"Dolliver in Fall" is a misleading title, since the photo was shot in the spring. This is an infrared shot done at 590nm, which gives leaves and grass a golden tone. This is often referred to as a "Goldie", I love the effect. This shot was taken in Dolliver State Park while waiting for the Fort Dodge Area Camera Club to show up for a meeting.

I am the current president of the Fort Dodge Area Camera Club, and we have a lot of fun. We meet the third Wednesday each month at Permanent Collections Gallery Art in Fort Dodge at 7pm. We go on photo safaris and teach people how to better use their camera and mostly we have fun.

This tree is one of my favorite trees to shoot. I used it, from the opposite angle, for the cover of the HipKnosis CD "Darkest Dreams" which was also shot in infrared. The park has a lot of great areas and this is also the park where I shot the cover photos for the High Crest's new CD.


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Anonymous said...

Troy, thank you for such an amazing article. What fun! I was "in" from word one when you told me your idea. I love it, hope other photographers take advantage of this opportunity. It is a pleasure to know you and an even bigger pleasure to call you friend, thanks again.

roger d feldhans

tamara morris said...

i am glad i saw troys post and i read this article its a pleasure to meet two great ppl

Matt said...

Great idea and great article. Just waiting for some big time publisher come and sweep you away. Thanks to both of you for sharing your talents. I look forward to checking out the facebook photos.

Sheree said...

Roger, Thank you for such a brilliant show of your photographs...I have always enjoyed your work, but having you put the story to them adds to their enjoyment. Troy, what a wonderful idea to feature talents such as Roger D. Feldhans' I truly ejoyed this issue of Blogger: The Bigfoot Diaries! It just keeps getting better and better! ~ Sheree