After several articles about the overheated antics and egos of studio shoots, we thought we'd end this issue with an idyllic scene of natural splendor: Claire Curran's "Maple Leaves in Workman Creek," shot in Arizona's rugged Sierra Ancha Mountains.
"Actually, it's one of the filthiest creeks I've ever seen," Curran says. "Each time I go there, I have to do a major sweep of all the beer cans and plastic bags lying around."
So much for idyll.
Despite the detritus from careless hikers, Curran often returns to the Sierra Ancha region to beef up her stock portfolio. "You get just an amazing amount of maples out there," says Curran, who has a studio in Santa Ana, Calif. "You like to look for places like these, where you know you'll always get lucky with a great shot each time you come."
Shot about three years ago, "Maple Leaves" was created in a dark canyon, requiring a time exposure of between 15 to 45 seconds, she says. There have been several requests to use the image, she adds, most recently for a calendar published by Arizona Highways magazine.
The image was taken with a large-format, 5x7 Canham camera, using a 4x5 back. Curran prefers the Canham, she says, because it has a long bellows yet is relatively lightweight and can be easily stored in a backpack. "The Canham folds as flat as a pancake," she says, "or at least a short stack of pancakes."
Curran, a New York native who has spent most of her life in Southern California, has been photographing professionally for 35 years. "Back when I started, you couldn't find a lot of schools that would teach photography," she says. "You had to figure things out for yourself. Now you can find everything on the Internet, so there's a lot more competition."
With stock photography on the wane in recent years, most of Curran's income is derived from assignment photography — mostly flower and garden images for use in catalogs and horticultural publications. Her work also has appeared in Sunset magazine as well as a 2004 gardening book, "Simply Roses: Essential Guide to Easy Gardening."
When not backpacking through the woods, she does indoor work at her studio, shooting items such as car parts and jewelry.
One thing that always surprises Curran is that she has so few female colleagues. "For all the years I've been doing this, I've only found two other women who are doing large-format photography and hiking out to remote locations," she says. "I guess there's still some sort of fear factor out there for a woman hiking alone. I don't understand it."