David Foster is an award-winning fine art nature photographer based in Atlanta, Georgia. After 30 years of photography as a personal pastime, he discovered his artistic passion and a desire to share his images. He began exhibiting and selling his work in 2006, and since then his images have been part of more than 70 regional, national and international exhibitions - including solo, juried and group shows. His 70-image exhibit, Nature’s Essence, has been featured at the Discovery Center Gallery, Callaway Gardens (Pine Mountain, GA) from April to May, 2016.
In 2014, David collaborated with author/artist Julie Hliboki to create a book entitled, Breathing Light: Accompanying Loss and Grief with Love and Gratitude. In it, fifty-seven of his nature photographs accompany Hliboki’s selected poems and prose that convey how love, gratitude and compassion arise over and over again in the midst of suffering.
David was selected as the 2014 recipient of the P.C. Turczyn “Art that Supports the Healing Process” Award from among the fifty international artists chosen by Manhattan Arts International for its 2014 exhibition, Celebrate the Healing Power of Art. The book, this exhibition and the award are part of his growing interest in and commitment to the healing power of nature-based art and its role in enhancing an array of healing environments.
His image, "Jekyll Island Dawn," is part of the Picturing Georgia exhibit in the Atlanta Airport’s International Terminal. The international juried exhibit Gardens in Focus at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia included David's work three years in a row, 2012-2014. His image, “Web of Pearls,” is included in the 2016 book, Inspired Georgia, published by University of Georgia Press. David’s photographs are held in private and public collections across the United States and internationally.
David is an active member of the Georgia Nature Photographers Association. He offers photography groups/clubs an array of nature photography presentations, the newest of which is called The Healing Power of Nature Photography. He is also an instructor at the John C. Campbell Folk School, where he leads a week-long class, Nature Photography: Conveying the Essence, in October 2016. His website is at www.davidfosterimages.net.
DOMINIQUE JAMES: How did you get started in photography?
DAVID FOSTER: In 1967, I spent the summer on a bike trip across Europe and my mother sent me off with a new Instamatic. In hindsight, it was my first experience of seeing differently and taking “interesting” photographs, in addition to the standard tourist shots. The following summer, after graduating from college, I was a dorm counselor for Upward Bound. For my 'day job,' I volunteered to assist the photo teacher, who introduced me to 35mm film photography and life in the darkroom. I was hooked.
After a hiatus for job and family reasons, I was introduced to digital by my younger brother via a hand-me-down 2.1 mp Olympus in 2000. In 2003, I got the original digital Rebel and never looked back.
DJ: What kind of pictures do you like to take?
DF: I am at the core a nature photographer. I do occasionally get intrigued with a human subject project that I enjoy, but they tend to be short-lived. Over time, my nature work has become focused in two major areas: botanicals (particularly flowers) and water (of all sorts from dew to oceans). I find I am drawn increasing to the discovery of images that convey the essence of the subject that connects me, and hopefully the viewer, with the soul of what I/we see. This deep seeing often leads me into the experience of getting ‘lost’ in the moment, of losing track of time and place, which is a magical experience for me. When that occurs, then I am open to receiving and creating the kinds of images that I aspire to.
DJ: Who or what would you consider as influential to your photography?
DF: The first photographer that I really felt drawn to was Edward Weston. There was something about his images and his persona that caught my interest. Over the years, there have been a number of people who have shared ideas or offered feedback that opened my eyes to new ways of seeing or doing my photo work that I have valued. In recent years, my artwork has become increasingly intertwined with my spiritual life. In all aspects of the work—from being out in nature and being drawn to particular visual moments, to working with the images, to sharing them with others—I find myself spiritually connected, more grounded in the Presence than any other time.
DJ: What’s your favorite camera and lens?
DF: I am currently using a Nikon D750, which I find suits my needs pretty well. My ‘walk around lens’ is my Nikkor 105 macro—unless I am doing waterscapes in which case I switch to the 24-120mm.
DJ: Any other particular piece of photo gear that you feel is essential or like using?
DF: I am not much of a gear junky. I tell folks that the things on my don’t-leave-home-without-it list are: loupe, remote release, tripod, rain cover and knee pads (for both my botanical and water work, I spend a lot of time down on my knees, or belly—I like the view from there).
DJ: How you edit and enhance your pictures before showing them? What is your post-production process like?
DF: I use Lightroom for most of my post-processing to optimize my images (as well as for file management). Most of the time I can do what needs to be done to optimize (color balance, exposure, white balance, sharpening, etc) in less than 5 minutes. If I need to do a lot more than this to ‘fix’ an image, I generally move on to another image that was captured more successfully. In my macro work, I am utilizing image stacking more often, and for that I use Photoshop.
DJ: How do you share your pictures and to whom?
DF: I do a lot of exhibiting of my images. I have been part of over 70 exhibits—solo, group and juried—during the past 10 years. These have been in a wide range of venues to reach a variety of audiences. I also use my Photoshelter-based website (www.davidfosterimages.net) for sharing the work. I am doing more work in nature photography education via presentations, workshops and courses. Through these I share a lot of my images with aspiring nature photographers as case studies in how to (or not to) achieve desired results.
DJ: How do you store or archive your pictures?
DF: I use Lightroom for file management, external hard drives for storage as well as ‘the cloud’ via Photoshelter.
DJ: What is that one all-important lesson you’ve learned when it comes to photography?
DF: About 10 years ago, my photographer friend Annie Tiberio observed that all my ‘finished’ images were exactly the same aspect ratio. She posed the question, “What would happen if you let the image tell you what shape it wants to be?” While that may not be the all-important lesson for me, it opened up for me important new horizons both for that specific issue and for moving outside some other boxes I had unconsciously confined myself in.
DJ: What is the best piece of advice you can share with others?
DF: Do the photography work that brings you joy, that lights you up when you’re doing it —in essence, find the photo work that is yours. Then just pursue it, nurture it, enjoy it, as much as you can. The more you do it, the deeper and richer it becomes and the more satisfying your resulting images will be. Seeing images that inspire you will motivate you to get better at the craft, which will yield more impactful images, and the growth spiral will expand.
Notes: All photographs on this page by David Foster are used with permission. Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved. For the complete set of interviews and photographs of all the amazing photographers featured on this blog’s exclusive Q&A, please click here.