Jan 22 2016

February 2016 Presentations in Loveland and Denver

2007-7-24 Swimming Towards the Light - Final 6-30-2009 1000


I’ll be making two Colorado presentations in February 2016. If you are in the area I’d be honored to meet you and share some of my images and philosophies with you.

Date:          Monday 2/8/2016

Time:         6:30 pm

Host:          Loveland Photographic Society

Location:   Vineyard Church of the Rockies, 900 Josephine Court, Loveland, Colorado


Date:         Thursday 2/11/2016

Time:        6:30 pm

Host:         Southwest Photo Club

Location:  Abiding Hope Lutheran Church, 6337 South Robb Way, Littleton, Colorado 80127

My presentation is 75 minutes long and I’ll showing lots of images, telling lots of stories and talking about a lot of things including:

  • Vision
  • Passion
  • Why B&W Appeals to Me
  • What I Look for in a B&W Image
  • My Conversion from Photographer to Artist
  • Copying Ansel Adams
  • My Vision Epiphany
  • What is Fine Art?
  • The Role of Equipment and Processes
  • Listening to Other’s Advice
  • Asking Others for Advice
  • Simplify
  • Photographic Rules
  • Cole’s Rule of Thirds
  • Photographic Celibacy
  • How Long do Projects Take?
  • Some Before and After Images
  • My Six Photoshop Tools
  • Always Stop!
  • Comparing and Competing
  • How I Choose a Project
  • Be Open to New Possibilities
  • How I Found My Vision
  • Why do I create?
  • How to Make Money From Your Photography
  • And Many Stories From My Portfolios.

Whew…all this in 75 minutes!

And as is my tradition, I’ll be giving away three prints at the end of the presentation.

I do hope that I’ll get a chance to meet you.


2009-6-25 Lone Man No 20 - Final 4-21-2014 1000

Jan 6 2016

Death Valley Workshop February 2017

2014-2-1 Dunes of Nude 107 - Final 2-26-2014 1000

I’m announcing a new Death Valley workshop to take place on February 20-25 of 2017. This is only my second workshop and I’m again teaming up with my friend and fellow photographer John Barclay who has a lot of experience doing this.

Why Death Valley? I guess because I love it so much and find it very stimulating. Going in the winter is such a perfect time because the weather is mild (usually mid-60’s) and there are so very few people around.

Ironically, I’m writing this post from Death Valley on Day 1 of my current annual getaway. And double ironically, I’ve left snowy Colorado to get warm and it’s supposed to snow here today and tomorrow.

What a rare treat!

Because I do not often do workshops, I want to give my readers a chance to join us. If you would like to express an interest (not a commitment) please send John an email at: johnbarclayphoto@me.com

2014-2-1 Dunes of Nude 97 - Final 2-26-2014 1000

One of my favorite subjects in Death Valley are the wonderful dunes. Standing still on a dune with dusk approaching reveals a magical dance of light. Oddly, it reminds me of the Northern Lights.

2014-2-1 Dunes of Nude 88 - Final 2-26-2014 1000

For me, this is a perfect black and white location! 

2014-2-1 Dunes of Nude 100 - Final 2-26-2014 1000

And if we get  lucky and there are clouds, it’s also a wonderful long exposure location.

2008-12-10 Death Valley Dune - Final 4-25-2012 1000

And there are of course, plenty of opportunities for “traditional” landscape images.

2008-12-10 Time No 2 - Final 12-22-2008 1000

What I will be emphasizing during this workshop is the development of personal Vision and the role of Passion when creating images: shoot what you love and love what you create.

2014-2-1 Self Shadow, Death Valley Dunes - Final 2-26-2014 1000

I’d love to fill this workshop with friends, so please do let John know early of your interest. This workshop will fill up quickly.

Thanks, and hope to see you there!


Nov 25 2015

A Silly Mistake

2006-5-20 The Angel Gabriel - Final 12-4-2011 1000


This is the Angel Gabriel.  

I met him on the Newport Beach pier as he was eating French Fries out of a trash can. 

He was homeless and hungry. I asked him if he would help me with a photograph and in return, I would buy him lunch.

The pier was very crowded and I wanted to take a 30 second exposure so that everyone would disappear except Gabriel. 

We tried a few shots and then Gabriel wanted to hold his bible. The image worked and the only people you can see besides Gabriel are those “ghosts” who lingered long enough for the camera to record. 

Gabriel and I then went into a restaurant to share a meal; he ordered steak with mushrooms and onions.  

When it came, he ate it with his hands.  

I discovered he was Romanian and so am I, so we talked about Romania. He was simple, kind and a pleasure to talk with.  

I asked Gabriel how I might contact him, in case I sold some of the photographs and wanted to share the money with him.  

He said I should give the money to someone who could really use it; that he had everything that he needed. 

Then the Angel Gabriel walked away, content and carrying his only two possessions: a Bible and a bed roll.



My Dear Friends,

The Center for Fine Art Photography asked if I would help them raise money by offering (50) prints of Harbinger No. 1 (below) and of course I said “Yes!”

2008-7-26 Harbinger No 1 - Final 1-17-2009 1000

Well my printer died just as I was going to prepare them and so I fell behind schedule. And as soon as the printer was fixed, I rushed to print them.

But after I had printed 32 of the prints, it suddenly occurred to me that I was printing the wrong image! I was printing The Angel Gabriel and not Harbinger No. 1. 

How did I make such a silly mistake? Well, I had just printed an order for The Angel Gabriel and then just kept going, not stopping to think about what I was doing.

Now I have a stack of prints of the Angel Gabriel and will offer those at the same price that The Center for Fine Art Photography is selling Harbinger No. 1:

$100 which includes shipping. The print is 8 X 12 on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308.

Now if you don’t know me, and I realize that many of you do not, you might think this is a staged event, a sales tactic to sell prints. Heck, I’d be suspicious of that also!

But it’s not a gimmick. It really happened exactly as I have said.

If you’d like to purchase a print of The Angel Gabriel, please send me an email at Cole@ColeThompsonPhotography.com and be sure to include your address.

Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving! 


P.S. If you prefer Harbinger No. 1, please check out the “Double Double” promotion over at The Center for Fine Art Photography. Click here to see the promotion.


Nov 12 2015

Newsletter No. 70 Now Available with 11 New Images

2015-10-7 Beauty in Death No. 3 - Final 11-8-2015 1000Beauty in Death No. 3


I’ve just published my latest newsletter with 11 new images from my recent trip to New England and Nova Scotia.

Are you signed up to receive it?

Newsletter Signup




Nov 6 2015

The Intersection of Vision and Passion

2015-10-7 Peggys Point Lighthouse - Final 11-5-2015 1000Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

I’ve just driven 7000 miles in 22 days and during that time traveled through 22 states and 2 Canadian Provinces. That’s a lot of time in the car and it afforded a lot of thinking. 

And what I’ve been thinking about is Passion and how it relates to Vision.

I noticed that as I drove through the incredibly beautiful autumn scenery of New England, I was not inspired to create. But when I came across water of any kind, and particularly along the coast, I found myself excited and creating.

Now one might initially attribute this to me being a black and white photographer in the middle of a color wonderland. But I don’t think that’s what it was. Fall colors can make for some amazing black and white images and I know that there are great images in those hills. 

And yet here were thousands of photographers flocking to the area to shoot the beauty of the mountains and trees…and I’m only taking the occasional iPhone snapshot to send back to my family! Why?

My conclusion is that I just don’t feel a Passion for mountains and trees, but I do for water. 

But “why” do certain environs inspire me while others do not? I don’t know and the “why” is not very important to me: what’s important is that I recognize the source of my Passion and then do something about it.

In the past I’ve tried to force projects that I didn’t have a Passion for: the projects languished, I had to force myself to work on them and I was not happy with the results. Not one of those projects were ever successful. 

Never. Not one. Ever.

And so I’ve decided that with my limited time I will only focus on the places and things that excite me most, and for now that’s water and the coast.

I’ve long understood the role of Vision in creating work that I love, but now I’m beginning to appreciate the role of Passion as being nearly as important.

With Vision I can create unique images. With Passion comes an excitement that drives me.

And while I might use each one individually to some success, I now realize that my best work is created at the intersection of Vision and Passion.



Oct 30 2015

What Does Bill Murray Have in Common with a Graphics Tablet?

Nothing, other than they are both featured in this blog post.



He’s Not That Interested in Awards


I was reading a short blurb about Bill Murray and how he’s a possible Oscar candidate for his role in St Vincent, here it is:

He’s not that interested in awards 

While he won a Golden Globe for 2003’s “Lost in Translation” and got caught up in the excitement of his Oscar nomination for the same film, he’s come to realize awards are not the end-all, be-all of acting.

He told Variety in the fall of 2014 he wouldn’t campaign for an Oscar nomination for his well-received performance in “St. Vincent,” saying,

“I’m not that way. If you want an award so much, it’s like a virus. It’s an illness.”

(I like how Bill thinks!)


A Cheap Affordable Tablet

Monoprice Tablet

I recommend that people who want to dodge and burn purchase a tablet. However up to now tablets have been quite expensive. 

Well I’ve just stumbled upon a tablet that is very affordable. I have not used it, but judging by its specifications it sounds pretty good! It’s offered by Monoprice which is a company I’m familiar with and regularly purchase from.

If you’re interested in trying a tablet, here’s a good sized one for a very reasonable $50 price.


If anyone purchases this, would you be sure to let me know how you like it?

Oct 23 2015

Shutterbug Article from October 2015 Issue




Oct 23 2015

Professional or Amateur?

2015-9-19 Shore Abstract No 1 - Final 10-4-2015 1000

Are you a professional or an amateur? And what exactly do those titles imply?

For years I have heard people proudly call themselves a professional or apologetically confess that they were “only an amateur.”

In modern times “professional” has come to imply high quality and of course an “amateur” does amateurish work. No wonder everyone is embarrassed to be an amateur and wants to be a professional.

I’m afraid we’ve lost sight of what the word amateur really means: it originates from the French and Latin and means “lover of.”  The word refers to someone who does something because they love to do it, they are not formally trained and they do not earn their living from it.

I have always referred to myself as an amateur because I am self taught, I chose not to earn a living from my art and because most importantly I create because I love to. And also there is a part of me that refuses to play the name game, trying to impress others with a title that does not fit.

This week I tried an experiment: I’ve been shooting in Nova Scotia where I have been asked many times if I were a professional (I really think it’s the tripod). I normally answer “no” to this question but had an idea after reading last weeks comments and thought I’d try something different.  So this week I answered instead: “I’m a fine art photographer.”

It’s a technique that I’ve seen employed before: give an answer, but not to the question that’s been asked.

It was interesting how it worked, I could see in people’s faces that they weren’t quite sure if I had answered the question and they were certainly not sure what a fine art photographer was (I don’t blame them!). But it then led to a discussion about what I did.

I liked how this answer worked, only one person saw through my misdirection and asked again: “so are you a professional?”

Does it matter what we’re called? Unfortunately to some people it does.  

It’s a shame that we are sometimes are judged by our titles, instead of by our work.

Because ultimately the image is the only thing that matters. We can hide behind a title, but our images cannot!


Oct 15 2015

Are You A Professional?

2015-9-19 Separation - Final 10-4-2015 1000

Recently while photographing on the the Oregon coast, a woman on a bicycle stopped and announced that she loved to talk to photographers. Her first question to me was: Are you a professional? 

In a split second my mind calculated the several different responses that I could give her:

  • Yes.
  • No.
  • What is a professional?
  • What does it matter what I’m called?
  • Wouldn’t you rather know if I’m any good?

Because all the definitions I had seen for “professional” were income based (you must earn at least 50% of your income from your photography) I chose a simple “No” for my response.

The woman then rode away, asking no further questions.

I just smiled.


Oct 9 2015

My Thoughts On; What’s Wrong With This Picture?

2015-9-19 Monolith No 85 - Final 10-4-2015 1000


Last week I asked: “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” 

Many of you guessed that I was up to something because I never list specifications and I never ask others about my work (it’s a Vision thing).

So what was the real point of the post? It was that the listing of technical specifications detracts from an image. They’re not just superfluous, but they actually detract from the viewing experience.

Listing specifications draws attention away from the only thing that matters (the image) and it furthers the folly that with the right equipment and processes…anyone could create this image. 

  • If only I had a full-frame camera…
  • If only I had white lenses…
  • If only I had a tablet with 2048 levels of sensitivity…
  • If only I had an 8-core processor…
  • If only…
  • If only..
  • If only…

I loved what Stephen said in his comment: “An artist doesn’t praise or blame their tools, what only matters is their final work.” 

There were other comments that brought up some important points that I’d like to reinforce:

1. Equipment and processes do not an image make. If I had to choose between the best equipment in the world but without my Vision…or a Kodak Brownie with my Vision…I’ll take the Brownie. 

2. Never learn the rules of photography. But if you already know them, try to forget them and vow to never consider them when creating an image. Rules are an inadequate substitute for Vision.

3. Create for yourself. When you create an image you should only care what you think of it and not be concerned what others think. The best success is when you create an image that you truly love.

4. There is no right/wrong or good/bad when it comes to art. There is only what you like and don’t like. Please don’t be fooled into thinking that if more people like an image, that it’s a better image. The only thing it means is that more people like the image.

5. Never ask others about your images. Don’t you know what you want? Haven’t you discovered your own Vision? If not, then listening to another’s opinion will not help you find it, but will actually harm the process.

6. Don’t give other people advice about their images, even if they ask. Why not? Because it’s their image and what you think or would do with it is unimportant! (sorry to be so blunt)

When people ask me what I would do with their image, I say: It doesn’t matter what I would do, what is your Vision for it? If I kept telling you what I would do and you kept following my advice, it wouldn’t take long before your images would start to look like mine! (which is not a good thing)

7. The creator gets the final word. When I showed this image to my wife, the first thing she said was: “I like it but you should get rid of some of that rock wall.”

My response was: “No, this is how I see it.”

And unlike most things in marriage, I get the final word when it comes to my images!


While the original point I wanted to make with this blog post was that the listing of specifications is not a good idea, I think the more interesting discussion has been centered around Vision. And as you might have noticed, I am fixated on Vision.

Why? Because finding your Vision changes everything. It gives you the confidence to create what you want without the need for validation or the fear of criticism.

Vision changes the image and it changes the image maker.