An Interview with Ursula I Abresch

an autumn song

This month, we sit down for an interview with Ursula I Abresch, from British Columbia, Canada.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Ursula.

I was born in the north-eastern part of Argentina, not too far from Iguazu Falls. I grew up in both Argentina and Chile. I moved to the USA to attend university, and eventually moved permanently to Canada. I now am Canadian, living in the interior of beautiful British Columbia. British Columbia is a beautiful province. It’s a mountainous area, with lots of trees, lakes and rivers, waterfalls, rocks, and wildlife. For me, it’s a great place to live.

I am married. My husband and I have five children. I have a degree in Education with a concentration in Art and History. I now dedicate most of my time to photography.

What is your occupation?

I worked for quite a few years in the field of Adult Education. I retired from this in 2007. Since then, I worked at Yellowstone National Park during the Summer season of 2009. Currently I’m employed part-time at a local pharmacy. But as mentioned in the answer to the first question, I dedicate most of my time to photography.

When and how did you get into photography?

As a little girl in Valparaiso, Chile, I would walk around with my father’s brownie camera “pretending” I was making pictures. I was fascinated with that little machine. But I never got to take any pictures.

Later on, when I was 17, I found a camera in a box of discarded items that someone had given my mother. I added babysitting money, and traded this camera for my first SLR, a Russian made camera with one 50mm lens that I used for quite a number of years, mainly to make pictures of places I visited, or things my friends and I did together. Eventually I got access to a small lab where I could make my own prints in B&W. That was fun!

After I married, I got a Pentax K1000 which I still own today, 3 lenses and a good camera bag. While our family was young, I recorded family events and the children growing up. With the advent of digital I was able to experiment at length. Now I shoot digital.

Though I was always passionate about photography, I remember in particular the Winter of 2003. I lived in Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) at that time. I had a small Fuji digital P&S. That Winter was, as usual, cold and dark, and I was rather sad. One day, walking around, I thought … all this, the snow, the murky dark, the stark blue-gray everywhere, it is beautiful. I want to make pictures that show how beautiful this is, how beautiful Winter is.

waterdance

Made November 26, 2006
– Nikon D200, Sigma 105mm macro (157mm focal length on DX)
– f/2.8, 1/400 sec., ISO 100, WB set to cloudy
– Aperture priority, natural light/no flash, no filters. In-camera double exposure.

This is “waterdance”. I made the photo a few years ago. It is a partial seed pod from the Western salsify flower. The photo is made indoors, the seedling sprayed with water and placed on a blue lamp. It is an in-camera double exposure. I really didn’t have a concept when I made it, but it was right after I got the Nikon D200, and I was trying out its features, multi-exposure in particular. When I downloaded the pictures to my computer, this particular picture reminded me of a scene in a movie, a black and white from 1955 called “Night of the Hunter”. In the scene, the mother, killed by the evil character, is in a car at the bottom of a river, totally submerged in water, with her hair and all these grasses floating all around her. It’s a beautiful scene in spite of it depicting a horrible murder. A water-dance. But, I couldn’t get my picture to be right. The light was good, but blotchy in places. The shapes were good, but not quite fluid enough. I tried post-processing quite a number of times. I would put the picture aside and then try again later. Finally, last year I got a version that I liked. That’s the version that you see, I think it is a successful picture in the end, even though it took a long time to get where it is and a lot of trying different things to get it just right.

On which websites can our readers find your photographs? Do you have a personal website?

My personal website is www.ursulasphotos.com.

I have a portfolio at 1X , and another at DPChallenge.

What type of camera equipment do you own?

Camera bodies:
Nikon D200 and Nikon D7000

Lenses:
Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8
Nikon MF Nikkor 200mm f/4 AIS
Nikon MF Zoom-Nikkor 75-150mm f/3.5 E
Lensbaby 2.0
Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX APO Macro EX DG HSM
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO DG Macro
Tokina AF 12-24mm f/4.0 AT-X Pro DX

Other:
Manfrotto 055PROB tripod with Manfrotto 486RC2 ball head

Processing:
PSCS4 and Photomatix on a MacBook Pro connected to a Cinema Screen
HP B9180 Photosmart Pro printer

Do you have a favourite lens?

The Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro. It is my favourite lens. Before getting the Sigma 150, I used the Sigma 105 macro almost exclusively for a number of years.

My second favourite lens is the Nikon 75-150mm f/3.5 E. It’s an interesting lens as it has only one very wide ring for both focusing and zoom. It makes for a very agile lens. I love that agility!

My third favourite lens is the LensBaby. I have the old LensBaby II, but I plan to upgrade to the Composer/macro kit in the near future.

so gentle, so furious

What camera mode do you usually shoot in? (Av. Tv, Manual, Auto…)?

Usually Manual, sometimes Aperture Priority. Usually either Auto White Balance, sometimes Custom WB, occasionally WB set to cloudy. I usually shoot RAW, especially for any photos where I intend to make prints.

What type of photographs do you most enjoy taking?

Anything close up, both in nature and in studio. I enjoy getting to know my subjects close up. Some of my favourite subjets are water, trees, seedlings, wildflowers, and glass vases.

How would you describe your style?

My style can loosely be classified as photo-impressionism.

Photo-impressionism is a tool that allows me to get to the essence of what makes a subject what it is. For example, a tree, let’s say a ponderosa pine: what is it that makes a ponderosa a ponderosa, what makes it “speak” so to say, what is the spirit of that tree so that you could show as little as possible of it and yet know, with certainty, that it is a ponderosa?

That is an aspect of photo-impressionism that I like. You can abstract subjects and provide much more character than with a representational photo. Photo-impressionism allows me to express feelings without having to say a word. It allows me to put down thoughts, dreams, and fleeting moments in time, when a small change in light can make the difference between utterly glorius and plain drab.

Perhaps more than anything though, the concepts of photo-impressionism make me pay attention to colour. I love colour! I play with colour and use it almost as if it were the subject itself, which, I guess, in a way, it is, at least in photography. Light is colour.

bittersweet

– made September 21, 2010
– Nikon D200, Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro (225mm focal lenght on the D200)
– 5 bracketed exposures: 1/15 f/2.8, 1/20 f/2.8, 1/25 f/2.8, 1/30 f/3.2, and 1/40 f/3.5
– Tripod, natural evening light, no flash, WB set to manual, polarizer filter. The HDR blending/tonemapping was done in Photomatix. Final editing in PSCS4.

HDR image made from 5 bracketed exposures, camera on tripod, warming polarizer on fully open 150mm F2.8 Sigma macro lens. I like to use the macro lens for further away subjects almost more so than for closeups. Shot in the late afternoon, sun behind hill already but still brightening the air all around, in early Fall (mid September), when the leaves were already turning to yellow and orange, but the grasses were still green.

This photo is made at a place where I go back every Fall, because I love how the grasses, bushes, and trees there look at that time of the year. “Bittersweet” refers to the coming of Fall, Autumn, every year, it feels both sad and happy — bittersweet.

What aspect of photography do you find the most difficult?

There can be a lot of challenges the way I do things. Not catching pneumonia while often getting wet and cold, not falling off rocks or smashing my camera, staying bear-aware while focusing on a small flower, finding the time, because I like to work in long stretches. I would like to get up early in the morning and go out to make pictures when the light is clean and beautiful, but I find it difficult to get up.

Another challenge is the connection between what you see on a computer screen and what you see printed on paper. Computer screens are backlit, colours are glowing and transparent, full of light. On paper, it is more difficult to retain the same qualities. Prints often look darker than what you see on screen. Finding the best way to accomodate these differences is a real challenge. I’m working hard to become a very good digital-printmaker.

If you could meet one artist, past or present, who would it be and why?

That’s hard. I’m a loner, and usually I don’t like meeting people.

But, I would like to meet Ludwig van Beethoven. Yes, Beethoven is a composer, not a photographer, but he painted with music the same way I try to paint with my camera. I enjoy and admire Beethoven’s music very much. I once read that he would eat his salami sandwiches dipped in red wine, so I tried that – it’s tasty!

Do you have any tips for aspiring photographers?

  • Get to know your equipment inside out. Get to know your camera so well that you can operate it in the dark, without thinking.
  • Get to know the full potential of what your camera, lenses, software and printer can do.
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Experiment, experiment, experiment.
  • Always remember that the technicals are essential, but it is artistic perception that finally makes the photo.

How much influence does a person’s local environment have on their photography?

Quite a bit in my case.

I live in British Columbia, in the Pacific Northwest. British Columbia has becomes an important subject matter in my photography. It is a subject for some of the more representational images, and also for many of my more abstract images, where I try to reflect the essense of a subject, or where I use a subject to express emotion. For example, many of my closeup images of the Columbia river are an attempt to reflect my own throughts and feelings in pictures.

Painters from Canada, in particular Western Canada, influence my work. We live in the same world, so I like to see if I can see what they saw the way they saw it. The works of Emily Carr, especially her fantastic studies and paintings of trees, are a constant source of inspiration for my photos. For a while, and even now, I was quite inspired by the works of Takao Tanabe, a more recent painter than Emily Carr, especially his waterscapes. Lately I’ve been looking at works by the Group of Seven, in particular Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson – I find their works very inspiring! Last, I’ve been trying to familiarize myself with at least some of the printmaking by First Nations people in British Columbia, trying to find ways to apply some of their concepts to my photography.

looking out the window ...

You have done very well on 1x.com in terms of the number of photographs you have had accepted. Do you have any tips for anyone wanting to submit?

1X is a beautiful website, with excellent images. What is unique about 1X is that pretty much all the published images, even when they aren’t in “my taste”, are good images. Pictures, to be published, go through a screening process, where (1) crew picks what they see as the best images and send them to member vote, (2) members vote and hopefully comment on the images, and (3) crew makes a final decision on whether the images are published or not. The published images are, in a way, a reflection of the good taste of crew and the members. What you don’t have to do at 1X is sort your way through piles of stuff to get one or two gems. Looking at the images at 1X is like looking at the pictures in a good magazine, or in an art gallery.

Anyone thinking about posting images for possible publication at 1X should very carefully look at their own portfolio, and consider whether or not their image stands up to the standards and tastes of the published work at 1X. This is not easy. It is simply too convenient to accept all the praise that comes at you from all sorts of places on the net, maybe even in real life, and forget to be cruelly realistic with yourself and your work to get to the point where you know that what you’re doing is worth being published. Even then there is no assurance of publication. 1X is a limited gallery, a beautiful magazine, but they can’t and don’t cover all styles and all good photography.

How much effort do you put on selling prints of your work? Is this an important aspect of photography to you?

I think of selling my work as the completion of the circle of what I do in photography.

On the net, I sell images through my website (www.ursulasphotos.com). I also will be selling prints through the upcoming 1X print store, scheduled to be opened in March of this year.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Still living in British Columbia, still making photos and prints of this beautiful place and all the things around me.

What do you love most about photography?

Photography is a very interesting combination of technical skills and artistic perception. While I enjoy mastering the technical aspects of photography, I try to keep uppermost in mind the artistic matters. My goal is to make absolutely beautiful pictures, that’s what I really want to do. That’s what I love about photography.

needles

– made September 16, 2009
– Nikon D200, Lensbaby II
– 1/800 sec exposure, Lensbaby without any of the aperture rings (max aperture)
– No other data recorded

Sometimes post-processing is delightfully quick. For example, “needles” was like that. I went out looking for fall colours, trees and leaves. I was working with the Lensbaby. I was walking on a trail next to a train track, with a bit of a hill to one side. On this hill, pines and other vegetation grow. The light was just perfect to work on a closeup of the pine needles, because it was slanted and bright, and the needles stood out against the out of focus light distortions created by the sunshine reflecting of the needles not in focus. I was looking up, not directly at the sun, but slanted at the sun, through the needles, into the sky. The image came out just right, and there isn’t much post-processing work at all on it, I like it just the way it is.

Thank you very much for taking the time to participate in this interview Ursula. Best of luck in your future endeavours. – PhotoWeeklyOnline

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7 Responses to “An Interview with Ursula I Abresch”

  1. Yo_Spiff says:

    Great interview, enjoyed it!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by pokykim, PhotoWeekly. PhotoWeekly said: An Interview with Ursula Abresch – #photographer – http://bit.ly/dN9v1G […]

  3. ANita (NEAT) says:

    Interesting Ursula, your work inspires me greatly.

  4. roz batten says:

    re: waterdance
    you said .. “That’s the version that you see, I think it is a successful picture in the end, even though it took a long time to get where it is and a lot of trying different things to get it just right.”

    ursula .. its the most amazing photograph/image .. i have come back to it a number of times to admire it, not only for myself but showing other people ..
    awesome is an understatment .!!. :)

  5. Alpha 2500 says:

    Alpha 2500…

    […]An Interview with Ursula I Abresch | PhotoWeeklyOnline INC.[…]…

  6. Maxine Werksman says:

    Timely advise I keep spreading myself to thin with too many sites on the go at once.