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Drawing With Light

Updated: Mar 25


Yard Light Media

Originally published in the Kearney Hub on March 5th, 2024

Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon
'Drawing With Light' - Michael Kish Photography

Michael Kish believes that anyone can learn to see the world in a creative way.

"Photography is 90% creativity, 10% technical," Kish said.

KEARNEY — For Michael and Gretchen Kish, mastering photography requires a sliver of technical information. To get the

best results, the path to compelling photography requires creativity.

“Photography is 90 percent creativity, 10 percent technical,” Michael said. “And creativity can be learned. Some people

might say, oh, he has the eye for it. To some degree that’s true, but some of it can be taught.”

When he first started teaching, Michael walked his students around with cropping Ls, pieces of paper in the shape of an L that can be held up to resemble the viewfinder of a camera. The Ls can be moved to mask off a particular scene and give the photographer an idea of how to compose the picture.

“For a good portion of those people, it would finally click when they looked at the scene which was condensed by the cropping Ls,” Michael said. “They can start to see things they might not otherwise notice.”

Eventually, with enough experience, his students could see a scene without using the cropping Ls.

“So, yes, I believe that people can learn to view the world creatively,” the photographer said. “Of course some people are just gifted with it, like Ansel Adams.”

Kish referred to the award winning photographer famous for his work photographing nature and National Parks.

For anyone aspiring to learn more about photography, Michael and Gretchen teach a variety of classes, offered through Central Community College in Kearney, Ord, Holdrege and Hastings, as well as specialized individual instruction. A complete listing of classes can be found at

When it comes to digital photography, Michael advises photographers to consider the end use of the photograph. An image intended for printing requires different settings than a photo destined for the web.

“How are you going to use these pictures?” Michael asked. “You want to just show it on the internet? There’s a way to get those pictures ready for web display. That’s different than just wanting to print them.”

Getting back to Ansel Adams, the photographer famously said, “You don’t take a picture, you make a picture.” Michael agrees.

“On my website, I don’t say ‘I took this,’ I say, ‘I make this,’ because I’m not leaving the scene with anything other than light captured on a sensor,” he said. “You make something. You envision it in your mind’s eye. It’s like you’re drawing with light.”

As an example, Michael took apart the word photography, tracing its original Greek meaning to “drawing with light.” When shooting in the field, Michael tries to do everything he can to create a pure image.

“I try to do everything I possibly can in the field,” he said. “As with color saturation, I want to get the best light on the subject. I don’t want to add saturation later in Photoshop. Doing as much as you can in the field will help you minimize the amount of time you spend staring at a computer screen when you get a picture done. I want to compose it correctly in the field, I want to look for good color and light. And then you want to get your exposure right in the field.”

A digital darkroom can fix problems but an image will look better if it starts out in excellent condition. “You’ll have less digital noise and a cleaner file for printing and use if you get as many of these things right while you’re taking the picture,” Michael said. “You can take a crappy shot and fix it in Photoshop and get a decent picture out of it, but when you get as much right as you can in the camera, you start off stronger.”

Michael learned about photography by using chemical film. That experience forced him to compose his shots ahead of time and consider the variables in making an exposure.

“With digital, it costs pennies to shoot hundreds of pictures,” he said. “Yes, you can fix all the mistakes in Photoshop but you’ll make a much better piece of artwork in the end if you just take your time while you’re out in the field and do it right the first time.”

Classes offered by Michael and Gretchen Kish.

For more details or to purchase prints, visit Michael Kish Photography.

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