Blog Gallery: How It All Began - Why I Love Fine Art Photography

August 2020

Ever wanted to know the backstory...just read on below.

Note my favorite images are for sale as luxury fine art prints (sublimated aluminum metal and Lumachrome acrylic wall art) on my online photography gallery that you can access here.

You can also purchase directly from this page by clicking the 'Prints Available' link under the available images.

image of a horse, horse eye, close up image, ranch, Santa Fe, New Mexico, southwest USA, blue eye, white horse, compelling image, photogenic, photo

There I was, in the back of the open-top jeep in the freezing cold of the North Indian winter with my miserable wife and another couple. My hands and feet were freezing, despite the fact that we had purchased additional clothes, including long underwear and gloves, after realizing that what we had packed was sorely insufficient for the biting wind. We were also recovering from a bad case of food poisoning we got prior to arriving at the park from a late night meal at the train station.

My wife was the smart one, and she stayed at camp for the first morning safari — I could not risk missing a tiger, so I suffered through the cold and stomach issues (including doing unmentionable things in the forrest that I am sure kept the tigers away for years after my departure) but with no luck other than some massive footprints in the dusty road and some claw marks about 12 feet high in a tree. Our guide reminded me that tigers often jump the park fence, kill a cow, and then bring it back over the park fence to eat it inside the park. Anything that can get over a fence carrying an extra 850 lbs deserves respect!

It was my third trip to India over a period of 10 years, and although I had attempted to see one of the elusive great cats on each trip, I had yet to be successful. On the first trip, I had heard a tiger that the car in front of us was enjoying, but we only saw the thick brush where it was hiding from our vantage point behind the parked jeep. The second trip also had turned up nothing. Tigers are solitary and hide in the forrest, so they are notoriously hard to locate.

Now it was the last day of the trip in Bandhavgarh National Park and the last opportunity to see a tiger this trip. I had gone all out to make sure I saw one. I had researched the park with the most tigers and booked it for several days, increasing our chances of a sighting. Even though it was quite a long train ride away from everything else we were doing in India, I knew it would be worth it if we would finally see a majestic cat. I had even purchased a new camera for this trip, so I knew I was ready.

Lady luck shone on us this time, as we had located one large male named Bitu and were watching him sleep in the brush, waiting for him to wake up and move. As we waited, I checked the settings on my new camera. I wanted to get the perfect shot and did not want to be disappointed in the souvenir that had taken 10 years to get — a stunning tiger photo.

Other jeeps started to join us, but as we were one of the first to locate the tiger, we had the best vantage point. Our guide had followed the sounds of monkeys in the trees, as they have a special call when they see a tiger. Since he knew the ‘tiger call’ of the monkeys, we followed that call until we came to the location of the sleeping giant.

We waited for around two hours, making small talk and keeping our eye on the big cat, trying to forget that the temperature was dropping with the setting sun. Bitu, the large male tiger, was sleeping in the bushes, so we could make out his head and the flick of his tail, but there was no way to get a good shot where he was. Our guide predicted the direction he would walk, so we moved next to a clearing where he would appear from behind the bushes.

As the sun got low on the horizon, the big cat started to stir. Our guide was right, he moved in our direction, towards the clearing. He came out from behind the bushes, his full body was visible — click, click, click! I got the photos! He was gone again. It was only a couple of seconds that he had been unobstructed. 10 years of waiting and planning for those 2 seconds! What a rush!

I took a look at the images on the viewfinder, knowing that I had some amazing shots. From that tiny screen, I was happy that I had something stunning. I would see it in glorious detail on my large computer screen when I got back home. The other couple in the jeep, also knowing that my new camera had served me well, gave me their email address and asked for me to send them copies.

I spent the rest of the trip satisfied that my dream of seeing a tiger in the wild and taking awesome photos of it had been realized. Dreams of making the cover of National Geographic swirled in my head. Although I was not a photographer at that time, I knew that I was on my way to awards, prizes, and fame.

Then I got home.

I loaded the pictures on the computer to get a better look at my prize-winning images, but I could not believe my eyes. What I could not see on the tiny viewfinder was that my prize-winning image was actually blurry. There was the massive tiger, Bitu, walking through the clearing in the bushes, but it was not the crisp, sharp image that I had thought I captured.

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I was devastated. I was so sure that I had finally taken the image I had been after for the past 10 years, only to realize that in reality I had a fuzzy, blurry snapshot of a tiger. Seeing the great cat in the wild was definitely a once in a lifetime experience, but the disappointment of not capturing a perfect image with my new camera stung.

teak wooden bridge, Mandalay, Myanmar, Asia, monks, sunset, iconic image, silhouette, photo

Let me take you back to the beginning. I was born in San Antonio, Texas to a middle class family. We had a modest house with a dog and a huge oak tree in the front yard. I would walk to and from my elementary school, before it was considered ‘child endangerment’. In all, a pretty simple and boring upbringing. But there was one thing we did as a family that I found very exciting — we would take road trips. And when I was super lucky, those road trips were down south across the border to another world called Mexico.

I was young, but I remember how different everything was. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the friendly people, the taste of the food. We eat something we call Mexican food in Texas, but it is quite different from what is actually eaten inside Mexico. Those trips across the border are some of my most cherished childhood memories, and they seem to have had a significant influence on me as I developed a life-long passion for travel.

As I grew older, the trips grew bolder. There were family volunteer trips to Honduras in high school as well as an exchange trip to Russia. Things really took off in college as I met people from all over the world while attending the University of Texas in Austin. It started with a trip to visit new friends in India, my first visit to the sub-continent. Then Guatemala to study Spanish, a study abroad in The Netherlands, followed by a post-graduation journey through Thailand. I always a camera in hand, though my pictures were not inspirational by any means.

By the time I finished my degree, all I really wanted to do was travel, not work some lame corporate job. So I did something that gave my parents a heart attack, instead of going to work in industry, I joined the Peace Corps and moved to Africa to teach match and physics in small village in Eastern Cameroon. Talk about jumping in head first!

My experience in the Peace Corps was both difficult and amazing at the same time. Heading off into a totally unknown environment was nerve wracking, even for someone who loved traveling as much as I did. I was determined to learn a new culture and language, so I did everything I could during the training sessions to get a post in the French-speaking part of the country.

I was successful and found myself in a small town called Batouri in the East Province, only 14 hours from paved road. I had a decent house with running (cold) water and a few lightbulbs but no other modern convinces. There was no TV, no refrigerator, no micro-wave, no oven, no AC or heat, no hot water, no internet, and not even any cell phones at that time. Good thing I enjoyed reading, as there was not much else to do after work!

I attempted to teach math and physics to middle school and high school aged children in the day, and then either read, drank with friends, or took pictures in the afternoons and weekends. I had an old, cheap film camera (digital cameras existed in 2003, but I didn’t have one yet), and I would take my rolls of film to the local print shop to get developed. I enjoyed taking pictures, but they were still just basic tourist snapshots. After returning home, I shared these images with friends, family, and even school classrooms, but they hardly captivated my audience.

After Peace Corps, I went back to the US and joined the corporate world as an engineer. I was fortunate to find ways to continue to travel, and I have had several assignments living and working overseas as an expatriate including Thailand, Brazil, Angola, and Nigeria. It was while living and working in Thailand with my wife that we made the trip to India discuss earlier, and where I learned that buying a new camera was not the secret to taking amazing photographs.

Luanda, Angola, Africa, red leaf, almond tree, sand, color, texture, abstract, photo

That blurry image of Bitu the tiger that I took in Bandhavgarh National Park in India in December 2010 changed my life forever. It was finally the kick I needed to start taking photography seriously. I had come to realize that a new camera was not the secret to taking better images that I had hoped, so I knew that I had to find another way.

I started studying. I read books, took online classes, watched videos, and eventually even started taking in person workshops with some of the best photographers in the world like Bryan Peterson. All of this was to learn the skills required to take compelling images so that I could show the true beauty of the world I saw through photography. I learned about exposure, composition, white balance, shutter speed, aperture, isolating subjects, and many more ways to create beautiful photographs.

To summarize what I learned on how to create appealing images — photography is an art. Just like painting or music, a beautiful image has certain qualities and characteristics that make it attractive. It is about how it catches the viewer’s eye and pulls them into an image. It is about seeing things from a different perspective. It is about color, light, and shadow. It is about getting the viewer to connect on an emotional level with the scene in front of them, as if they were there experiencing it for themselves. Once I learned that photography is an art form just like so many others, I was able to start to take incredible images that stood out from the crowd.

I did also buy new equipment, some of it quite expensive, but only after I had learned the skills required to make good use of it. I started to find it funny and mildly insulting when someone would look at one of my images, comment on how beautiful it was, then ask me what kind of camera I use. As if the camera was the main reason my images were captivating, rather than the thousands of hours I had put into learning my craft.

Traveling was still my main inspiration, but now I had a new way to allow others to participate in my experiences. I started a Facebook Page and Instagram account to start sharing my images, building an audience that enjoyed my regular posts of beautiful scenes from around the world. I was excited that I could finally realize my life long dream of impacting a broad audience, getting them to see the world and inspire curiosity about life outside of their current boundaries.

Although I grew a decent following on Facebook, I was still not having the impact that I had hoped for. I started to realize that sharing images on social media was not enough for me. Having people look at small pictures on small screens was not giving them the emotional connection that I felt while being immersed in the scene.

So I started looking for new ways to share my art. I knew that I needed to show people my work in a larger format to have true impact, so I began exploring how to print photographs to turn them into wall art. The difference between seeing a tiny image on your phone and experiencing a massive 40” x 60” print of a majestic landscape on your wall is transformational. I will never look at art the same way again now that I have found large format prints.

I founded Jason Clendenen Photography to take my artwork and make it available to the public. I know not everyone has the time or desire to travel and enjoy the world in the way that I love to do, but now anyone can experience the beauty of the planet from the comfort of their own home. My journey of over a decade has taken me from avid traveller taking mediocre snapshots, to serious photographer making compelling images, to interior designer selling wall art to customers looking to transform their home and stun their guests.

Note my favorite images are for sale as luxury fine art prints (sublimated aluminum metal and Lumachrome acrylic wall art) on my online photography gallery that you can access here.

You can also purchase directly from this page by clicking the 'Prints Available' link under the available images.