Peter Scheirer is a Bay Area based photographer. While mostly a hobby, Peter is uniquely passionate about photography for both its artistic and technical aspects. He is mainly self-taught but possesses the skill and know-how of a long-time professional photographer who has a keen eye for composition and light. We previously featured an array of Peter’s street photography from his Taiwan adventure. This week Peter speaks to atlas about his creative approach to capturing nature, what he loves the most about photography, and his post-processing work on one of his proudest images. (Editor’s Note: We hope you will enjoy one of our favorite features on Peter Scheirer from the past year!)
Can you broadly describe this group of images to us?
Peter Scheirer: The overall theme for these images is natural life and death. Plants look menacing to keep predators away. Seeds from some other plants exist to further its species. Trees stand tall while in their prime, annually shedding leaves and slowly working their way through human-made walls until they are cut down to be used as material for other purposes.
What was your creative approach to making these images?
These images of the leaves, cut trees, fruit, and standing trees follow the idea that anything, no matter how mundane, can be made interesting by looking at it differently than normally viewed. However some views are impressive by themselves, the trick is to find them. The cut trees in Northern California are one example, being a rather large pile of trees perhaps 30 m high and 400 m long. Also impressive by itself is the banyan tree in Tainan, slowly snaking past a wall, suggesting something mystical akin to Angkor Wat but without the religious aspect of it.
What do you like the most about these making these nature images versus the city images you recently captured in Taiwan featured in our previous post about your work?
Nature offers these infinite levels of complexity — from the very small to the very big — and at each level there is a myriad number of angles to explore. Even an ordinary flower can show its stigma and filament in such a way to resemble a miniature Kraken. What surprises me is that although I already know this feature about nature, I still get surprised when I see something deeper. I should not be surprised anymore, but I still am.
Which image do you like the best and why?
Images are like children so I like all of them equally. Like children, they have different strengths and weaknesses that become pertinent in different situations. For example, people who hike would enjoy the leaves and the standing trees the most while people who garden may lean towards the fruit and the agave. For me, I have the banyan tree on my phone to show to interested people.
How much post-processing, if any, did you do on these images?
Since I prefer to spend my time carefully and thoughtfully capturing images with a camera rather than editing them on a computer at home, I usually leave images unadulterated. Five images here are shown unaltered, but the magic and impact of the scene with the banyan tree got muted too much. To restore that magic I ended up using Google Nik Software to pull out some details from the stems and across the entire image increased the contrast, reduced noise, sharpened the edges, and converted to a sepia tone. That last step was to lay emphasis on the lines in the image of which there are many: the linear ones from the window casing and the two sets of bricks (one set in the wall and the other inside the window) and the nonlinear ones from the banyan tree itself. The fact that all the linear ones come from humans and all the others from nature makes this image more captivating.
What do you love about photography?
There are many benefits to being a photographer even an amateur. There are the physics, electrical engineering and the computer science aspects of the experience as well as the artistic aspects such as being able to give shape to a person’s face by letting light exist on some parts and darkness on other parts. Of course, there are also the social aspects. Photography offers the opportunity to freeze a moment in time giving our brains ample time to fully take in everything in view.
If you had one piece of advice for a novice nature photographer, what would it be?
Be patient. Look at the small stuff. Have a good macro lens. Tripods are nice, but also have some skateboarding elbow and knee pads handy as you may find yourself holding your camera mere centimeters from the dirt. Flashes may help at times but it is nice to rely on the sun for illumination which can make an ordinary scene extra special if the light angles just right.
Thanks for being our featured photographer of the week, Peter!
All images © Peter Scheirer.