By Jason Schock
Vicki Beilke, of Stella, retired long-time teacher and coach at Southeast Consolidated Schools, and her husband, Bob, in May learned how to take pictures from one of the best in the business when they spent six nights in Monument Valley in southeast Utah to shoot the magnificent sandstone buttes that adorn the clearest blue skies in all of North America.
The Beilkes traveled to Mexican Hat, UT, for one of Frank Comisar’s “Scenic Aperture” photography workshops, shooting pictures “for four hours each morning and four hours in the evening to set up and catch the ever-changing sunlight,” she said.
“We took 300-400 photos each day and did a two-hour photo editing workshop in the day – we were absolutely exhausted but we learned how to run our cameras. We would make changes (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) every few seconds as the sunlight changed,” she said.
Comisar, a retired Omaha architect who now lives and operates a gallery in Durango, CO, is a renowned, award-winning nature photographer and the founder of Scenic Aperture. The professional landscape and wildlife photographer travels throughout the country guiding the workshops while accumulating more and more awe-inspiring material for his Durango gallery (frankcomisar.com). In addition to Monument Valley, Comisar has conducted workshops, which are limited to 4-to-8 people, to capture canyons in Maob, UT, and snap Sandhill Cranes and other exotic prairie birds in Kearney and Burwell, Nebraska, and Bradenton, FL. This fall, workshops will be held in Ouray, CO, on the Grand Tetons in Jackson, WY, and, in December, the white sands of New Mexico. The same trips are scheduled for 2016, though Comisar does provide individual, private instruction (at just $600 per day!) at the destination of your choice. It costs anywhere from $800 to $2,200 per person to participate in one of Comisar’s public workshops.
“It’s pricey,” Mrs. Beilke said. “We paid $3,000 to stay in a dumpy motel, but we got top instruction. (Comisar) gives lots of individual attention.”
Influenced by his previous architectural career, Comisar’s images are well known for artistically depicting a three-dimensional world in a two dimensional medium. “The creative process is not a destination but a journey. It is a journey that includes research, planning, timing, technical skills, creative judgment, and a bit of good luck,” he said.
“We were in the right place at the right time,” Mrs. Beilke said. “We always used a tripod and remote release to prevent any human blurring.”
Monument Valley is one of the most photographed and recognizable regions in North America. Rock bands like The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Metallica have all used images of the buttes for album covers or in videos and footage of the valley can be found in many films, including Stagecoach, How the West was Won, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Easy Rider, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Back to the Future III, Thelma & Louise, Forrest Gump, and Mission: Impossible II,
Beilke said she hopes to join Comisar in western Nebraska early some spring to capture images of prairie chickens.
“Might have to wear a winter coat,” she said.