Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit: Blog en-us (C) Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) Fri, 18 May 2018 17:53:00 GMT Fri, 18 May 2018 17:53:00 GMT Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit: Blog 120 90 Emotion When traveling, I'm often on the search for a meaningful experience and a meaningful image (not always at the same time or place). When visiting the spiritual/religious venues in the ancient Ethiopia town of Aksum, I noticed in the corner a woman at prayer before a lightly shrouded image of the Saint Mary the Virgin at, appropriately, the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion. Light was streaming through a nearby window and I could feel, even from a distance, a fervent prayer being offered. A sharply focused, intense photograph would not convey what I was envisioning and what the woman was likely experiencing. Thus I slowed the shutter speed down as I created this image reflecting this time and place.  Serendipity?  Perhaps.  A gift, indeed.

]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) aksum creativity ethiopia photography simplicity spirituality Fri, 18 May 2018 17:52:39 GMT
Photo in ECVA On-line Exhibit One of my photographs, "Let the Son Shine In," has been included in the first 2018 on-line exhibition of the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts. While the photo was created a number of years ago, it resonated with the curators in support of the theme "The Jesus Movement: Loving, Liberating, Life-Giving."

]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) creativity photography spirituality Mon, 14 May 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Ethiopia Presentation  

Ethiopia has been of intense interest to me for many years. The country's indigenous religion in the North - the Ethiopia Orthodox Church - and the indigenous tribes in the South - Alaba, Dorze, Karo, Hamer, Dassanech, Aari, and Mursi - have captured my imagination. While traveling to sub-Saharan Africa often means a safari, the cultural and spiritual traditions of this landlocked country spoke much louder. And off I went in January 2018.

Please join me in the St. Barnabas parish hall, 1187 Wyatt Way NW, Bainbridge Island, WA on Wednesday, May 23 at 7 pm for a visual presentation on this fascinating country and its people. You are welcome to bring a picnic or other food and/or beverages of your choice. There is no admission charge.  

]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) creativity ethiopia photography travel Tue, 08 May 2018 16:32:16 GMT
Mere Objects When I was leading a recent workshop at St. Andrews House on Hood Canal, I had the opportunity to view a new art installation by Sarah Jane, a talented and inspired artist who also serves as the Art Program Manager of the Grunewald Guild, Plain, Washington.  

As described on the mere objects website: "Mere Objects is a participatory art project designed to honor and empower people who have experienced sexual violence, and to increase awareness of sexual violence within our communities. It was launched in October 2016 by artist and educator Sarah Jane, in collaboration with an advisory group of survivors of sexual violence." 

It is a moving, sad, but enlightening art project dealing with an issue that is front and center today, but has been with us forever.  I had the opportunity to photograph a small portion of the piece, adding a sense of motion to expand the universe of the piece to beyond just the 200 or so glass beads currently part of the exhibit.  The photographs can be seen in the "Mere Objects" Gallery.  And additional information can be found at:  It's an important project and I hope you take the opportunity to learn more about it.

]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) creativity mere objects photography sarah jane Sat, 24 Mar 2018 01:00:00 GMT
Light and light: the Spiritual Practice of Photography

Registration Information


]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) chuck kirchner creativity photography workshop Thu, 11 Jan 2018 23:00:00 GMT
Upcoming Thin Places and Photo Creativity Workshop

Registration and Information

]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) chuck kirchner creativity photography workshop Wed, 10 Jan 2018 18:53:42 GMT
Learning from the next generation of photographers Check out the student documentary short video (#6) among the thirteen NYT's posts. All worthwhile, but the student one can give us all hope for the next generation of photographers and may even inspire our own work.

NYT Lens Blog



]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) creativity photography Wed, 03 Jan 2018 21:36:41 GMT
Best of 2017 For the third consecutive year, I've followed the suggestion of John Paul Caponigro and have reviewed my photos for the year. John's suggestion is to identified your a)best photo, b)your second best, and c)the next ten and d)find the common threads among them. Its an exercise in editing, and in seeing the direction a photographer is taking over time.  I encourage you to do the same.  Without further ado, here goes:

Wow - when I contemplated doing it this year, I thought I would struggle to find 12 shots worthy of being the year's bests. But, when I actually reviewed 1700 or so photos taken this past year, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a good year photographically for me.  (Hopefully for you too!)  My favorite for the year was taken early in 2017 as I walked around Seattle's Pioneer Square. The young woman's pink hair amongst the outdoor tables just stood out for me. Desaturating all of the colors in Lightroom except red/magenta resulted in this final image. 

Now, my second best was a bit more difficult to determine. But I ultimately had to go with one of my first composite photographs - leaves from Spokane's Japanese Garden overlayed on the Stonehenge Veteran's Memorial on the Washington side of the Columbia River. I felt it just worked and was one of two photos that I used on our holidays cards. Branching out, trying new things, listening to the muse.  


OK, now for the other ten photos that I felt best represented my work during the year.  The first two were taken at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico this past April. Keeping with the monochromatic scheme was weaves its way through many of this year's 12 photographs, White Sands is best portrayed in its starkness.  














Next comes two photos taken at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup this past September. One of my familiar themes is motion and what better place to experiment with motion than the fair's midway.  











OK, the next one is important in that I was photographing on behalf of the Bainbridge Island group of Partners in Health, an amazing not for profit involved in international healthcare. It was taken during the island's Fourth of July parade. 

Now come four photos taken during another "first" for me - a photo series for use in publicity for a new physical therapy/massage business on the island - Healing Motion PT. Deanna was amazing to work and we both loved the results.  



























For the final photo, I go back to the composite work, again featuring the Stonehenge Veterans Memorial, this time coupled with the Pacific Ocean just north of Manzanita, Oregon.

So, is there a recurring theme? Well, not really just one (other than responding to the muse!). But monochrome, people, and motion seem to be the three themes of the year. I can see where I headed off in some new directions, while continuing to enjoy creating photographs that improve upon past work. That's what I call a good year! 

]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) black and white creativity photography seattle Tue, 02 Jan 2018 00:48:22 GMT
Look before you delete With all of the photographs we tend to take with our digital cameras/phones, its tempting to just choose a few "keepers" and then ignore or delete the remainder. I use Adobe Lightroom's star rating system, and usually pretty quickly delete those that get "no stars," which are often out of focus, repetitious of other photos, or have other insurmountable problems. I then focus on the 4's and 5's and ignore the remainder, with the temptation to delete the 1's and 2's at some point. BEFORE YOU DO THIS, go back through the 1's and especially the 2's and see if you're missing something. Don't do this immediately after the initial ratings; waiting six months, or year or more, before looking at the photographs afresh. 

I started working on a self-published book on my Cuba trip of two years ago and realized, after looking at the 4's and 5's that I was missing the full story of my trip. So I expanded the search to the 2's and 3's and was surprised at what I found this time around.  Sure, most deserved to remain "in storage." But a fair number, especially with some adjustments in Lightroom became 4's!  

So whether you are looking for photos to illustrate a trip or a person or an event in the past, don't forget to recheck some of the "backup" photos; you may be pleasantly surprised!  And some of the surprise may be a result of changes in your "vision" of what a good photo is.  

The original on the left; the new (greatly increased exposure among other changes) on the right.  I like the stark look versus the silhouette. But to each there own!  


]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) creativity photography Sat, 09 Dec 2017 02:14:05 GMT
Janine Jansen and Feeling the Music You may think music is a bit off topic, but I think anything that moves you can inspire other artistic endeavors. I just finished watching an excellent documentary on the violinist Janine Jansen.  The first five minutes or so, as she is on stage preparing for her part of the Beethoven Violin Concerto is extraordinary as she gets totally into the spirit of the sounds of the orchestra. And the rest of the movie is equally enthralling as she plays, performs, travels, markets, and all of the other aspects of the artistic life.  Perhaps our lives as photographers are not quite the same as Janine's, but inspiration can come from all kinds of places and people and art forms.

]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) creativity Tue, 05 Dec 2017 02:01:52 GMT
Spirit Meets Spirit

"Spirit Meets Spirit." A composite image created from two other images - the Stonehenge Veteran's Memorial along the Columbia River, and the Pacific Ocean from the Neahkahnie Mountain overlook (Oregon).   

]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) black and white creativity pacific ocean photography stonehenge thin places Fri, 24 Nov 2017 21:31:57 GMT
2018 Ghost Ranch Calendar I've been fortunate enough to have one of my photographs selected for inclusion in the 2018 Ghost Ranch calendar.  My photo, Varied Skies, is "November." You can purchase the calendar directly from Ghost Ranch:

]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) creativity ghost ranch photography Sat, 11 Nov 2017 00:08:03 GMT
PhotoPlus Winners 2017 An interesting selection of photographs by both professionals and amateurs. Always interesting so see what is currently popular amongst juries at major photo competitions. You should always remember that whether or not your images do well in a competition is really tied to what the jurist(s) view as meeting the aesthetic criteria of a given competition. Oh, by the way, it's also tied to how good your image is to begin with!

]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) photography Sat, 04 Nov 2017 01:31:48 GMT
2018 Workshops As fall arrives, thoughts begin to stress (in more ways than one!) Halloween, All Saints Day and Dias de Muertos, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Hannuhka, Christmas, New Years, rain, wind, cold, and snow. What better time to think further ahead!  Working with the Grunewald Guild, I'll be leading two photography workshops during the first half of 2018.  

The first is "Light and light: The Spiritual Practice of Photography." It will be held at St. Andrews House Retreat Center near Union, Washington overlooking beautiful Hood Canal. Dates are March 5 - 9, 2018.

The second is "Thin Places and Photo Creativity." This workshop will be held at the Grunewald Guild in Plain, Washington (north of Leavenworth on the eastern slopes of the Cascades). Dates are April 29 - May 5.

Information on both of these workshops can be found by clicking on the "Workshop" tab above. Details on registering for these workshops will be available later this fall. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact me.  And I hope to see you at one or both workshops! 


]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) creativity pacific nw photo workshop photography thin places Wed, 20 Sep 2017 19:30:41 GMT
On-line Curiosity and Creativity Workshop We often find ourselves in one of two states—stymied or overwhelmed. Two sides of the same coin, especially when it comes to our artistic endeavors. This on-line workshop may be just what you need to journey on—to reignite your curiosity, leading to new creative ideas. This online exploration will initially take place over six months—July through December, 2017. And it could continue beyond that depending on progress made and expressed interest. 

Probably the most important element will be interacting with other curiosity seekers, other creative types, in a supportive atmosphere. A private Facebook page will be established to communicate with me and the other participants and to post photographs.

Secondly, I will suggest specific readings or videos dealing with curiosity, creativity, and artistic endeavors on a monthly basis. Some will explore the work of other artists, both photographers and other two-dimension artists. The FB page will encourage your comments, interactions with others (including me) on these videos and readings.  

I will then give a month or semi-monthly “assignment.” Not your usual type of assignment where I “dictate” subject matter.  Rather a more style-oriented assignment where you can usually pick your own subject and interpret the assignment as you please!  (No grades!!) The purpose is to motivate you to create. When complete (or while in progress), I’ll provide supportive and constructive critiques of your work, the main purpose of which is to push you toward ever increasing greatness!  (OK, at least motivate you to create some more.)  Note: while aimed at photographers, painters should also be able to benefit from this workshop.

Since this is a trial run of this concept, I’m keeping the cost low to encourage your involvement and provide me with input on what works and what doesn’t work.  Proposed cost is $25/month for 6 months (total of $150). Contact me at to register or if you have questions.         


]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) Creativity Photography Workshop Mon, 19 Jun 2017 16:08:10 GMT
The Dancers of Cuba I had the pleasure to travel to Havana, Cuba in the fall of 2015. While the sights and sounds of Old Havana were a draw, of more interest to me, photographically at least, were the dances and dancers of Havana.


The opportunity to work with the students and ballerinas of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, members of the Raices Profundas dance company (Afro-Caribbean), and the flamenco dancers of Flamenco Ecos was truly a joy. The professionalism of the dancers, the gorgeous (and often deconstructed) surroundings, and the group of a dozen other photographers made this an outstanding experience.

My photographs are now on display through July at "Art in the Parlor," St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, 1187 Wyatt Way NW, Bainbridge Island, Washington. The parish office is usually open 9am - noon weekdays and 8am - noon Sundays.

]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) Creativity Cuba Havana Photography Wed, 26 Apr 2017 15:11:47 GMT
Thin Places and Photo Creativity Workshop - Spring 2018 A Thin Place: A place to go to feel at peace, a place to be in touch with one’s origins, a place to go to feel one's natural self, a place to be in touch with one's soul.  It’s a place where the veil between heaven and earth, between the sacred and profane, between our creator and ourselves, is lifted and we connect in an intimate way with the universe. We have all, I hope, felt this once or several or many times in our lives. It could be alone at the ocean, or in the desert, the mountains, or even a cathedral. And, just perhaps, is could be while with another who is in a similar state of seeking - seeking what we may not know but with an openness and experience and seek and commune with our higher power.

So how does this relate to a photography workshop you might ask? Through a series of readings, meditative exercises, solo and small group wanderings (camera in hand), we'll be open to experiences of all our senses and begin to intuitively develop the awareness of translating feelings and experiences with the medium of photography.  In this workshop to be held at Neahkahnie Beach (Manzanita), Oregon, we will spend time along the ocean shore, and in the forest primeval.  We explore the creative potential of photography to record our feelings and experiences in ways you have not have thought about before.  There will be several critique sessions and time for individual one-on-one meetings. Plus some music and meditation. Included will be field trips to Mount Neahkahnie, several locales along the coast, such as Nehalem Bay State Park, Cannon Beach (and the famous Haystack Rock), and/or Sunset Beach. We’ll also visit the Lightbox Gallery (an amazing photography gallery) in Astoria (40 miles north of Manzanita) and see some of the historic sites of this seafaring town at the mouth of the Columbia River.  

The workshop, Thin Places and Photo Creativity, is next planned for the Spring of 2018.  Click on the "Thin Places" tab above for more information, or contact me at chuck (at) to be put on the mailing list. And please contact me if you have any questions!


]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) Creativity Photography Thin Places Workshop Fri, 31 Mar 2017 00:00:53 GMT
Selective Color While I'm not much for drastic manipulation of photographs, I do see an occasional use for highlighting a particular aspect of a photograph in Lightroom. I can't do this in-camera, but when composing this street photo in Seattle's Pioneer Square, I knew that the young woman's hair color was the focal point in my vision. With the multitude of chairs (all a bright yellow) and with no easy way to remove all clutter in the background, I was determined to compose the photograph as tightly as made sense (it is an environmental street portrait, after all). And then in Lightroom, I desaturated all of the color channels except red and magenta. And this is the result. Fashion shot? Environmental portrait? Street photo?  All of these? I'm happy regardless. 

And the next time you're "confronted with" an image where your subject, while not dominating the image size-wise, nonetheless needs to pop. Well, here's an option.

]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) Creativity Photography Seattle Simplicity Street Photography Sun, 05 Feb 2017 04:53:49 GMT
Minimalism and Simplicity in Photography An amazing documentary: "Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things". Not overly preachy, not demanding, but insightful. Highly recommend. (I saw it in Netflix streaming.)


Since watching it, I've given a lot of thought about my go-to photography style - simplicity - and minimalism. Minimalism in photography - is it different than simplicity?  Hmm. I think minimalism, to me at least, is more abstract, stressing a thought or emotion in as simple a way as possible. Simplicity is removing extraneous components from an image (in camera, of course!) but still with a sense of realism. Maybe these are artificial constructs in my own mind. But isn't that what really matters anyway?  Both concepts work for me and are important elements of much of my photography.

Think of Philip Glass, the important minimalist composer. Repetition, notes within a narrow bandwidth, mesmerizing for many, hypnotic, trance inducing. Unconventional, complex in its own way. I wouldn't call his work simple. 

To me the following photographs fit int the minimalist camp - more about an emotion or feeling, tranquility in these instances. The realism of the subject matter is not particularly important (though recognizable). The conveying of feeling is key.         






Compare these with the following photos which I consider to convey simplicity. Realism, but without anything extraneous. Do I need to show anymore of the person handing the child a gift? Just enough face showing to know the arm is attached to someone!  And, again, framing tightly to show enough of the kid in green on the right to ground the photograph, but not add information that's not needed to convey the happiness of the children.  The portrait of the young woman doesn't need a full body shot nor just a front head shot - angle and framing emphasis physique and intensity (in the eyes) of this dancer. And the sunset - well, I know we all shoot sunsets - we can't help ourselves. But adding a "simple" element like the tree branches adds grounding and a personal touch to the image.



You may or may not agree with my interpretation of minimalism and simplicity, which is perfectly fine. But I did want to give you my thoughts on the subject and encourage you to visualize and then "capture" using your film or digital camera a simple or minimalism image, however you define the terms. It's not often easy, but can result in powerful photographs.

]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) Creativity Minimalism Photography Simplicity Mon, 30 Jan 2017 00:50:06 GMT
Photos of the Year 2016 For the second year running, I've followed the suggestion of John Paul Caponigro and have reviewed my photos for the year. John's suggestion is to identified your a)best photo, b)your second best, and c)the next ten and d)find the common threads among them. Its an exercise in editing, and in seeing the direction a photographer is taking over time.  I encourage you to do the same.  Without further ado, here goes:

The best photo of the year, taken at Flower of Hope School on Haiti's Central Plateau. Traveling there as part of a humanitarian trip, I was at time overwhelmed by what I was seeing. But here, there was a flower of hope and an enthusiasm among the students.  Hope indeed.


My second best photo of the year was in a totally different environment - the hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque. In spite of bad weather the previous evening, dawn of the festival's final day brought out the amazing sight of several hundred balloons taking flight. This one, in particular, speaks to me more as a design and color study then as a documentary. It also embodies simplicity at its core - nothing extraneous - yet you know what it is. And that its floating (upward, we hope!).

The next two photographs were both taken in Haiti. While I've traditionally not taken a lot of portraits, portraiture was an intimate part of the Haitian experience and is moving me more and more in that direction.

Now, back to Albuquerque and the balloons. The first is another study in color, the second emphasizing the multitude of balloons and the partly clouds sky of early morning.

While in New Mexico, I led a wonderful photo workshop at Ghost Ranch. The photo on the right was taken at sunrise near my, shall we say, rustic room. The New Mexico skies are picturesque to say the least. The photo on the left was created at a gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. Motion continues to be a favorite them of mine and seeing perhaps 50 such sculptures spinning in the wind was a photo opportunity I couldn't miss.

Closer to my home in the Puget Sound area, Seattle's Folklife Festival is a near annual tradition for me. While there is such a thing as a Ghost Dance, this really wasn't one of them, instead a contradance. But still with a ghosting effect - slowing down that shutter speed! The photo on the right features two professional tango dancers in perfect harmony.


Finally, the year ended for me on a cruise in the western Caribbean. The photo on the left was created at the cathedral in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. The play of the light through the stained glass on the pews just captured my eye. And yes, sunsets are cliche and overdone but from our balcony overlooking the sea and using the geometry of the ship to to further draw attention to the sunset, well, it works. I made it mine. It's all good.



So, common themes? Well, color (all but one), people (in nearly half), landcapes (or seascapes) in half, and motion in a quarter. But the most common them is being away from home - from Seattle to the Central Plateau of Haiti, Costa Rica to Albuquerque. Being on the road (or ship) always brings out my most intense photographic efforts. Maybe its the time constraint, the fact of being there here and now and for a short period. Whatever it is, travel and photography and idelibly linked in my mind and spirit.  So, Journey On!


]]> (Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit) Creativity Photography Tue, 17 Jan 2017 23:04:58 GMT