#1 of my top 7 images that I've created in the last 10 years.

December 15, 2013  •  Leave a Comment


Title: “The Traveler”

October 2011

Canon 7D, 70-200mm, 100mm @F/8, ISO 100


Score: Perfect 100, PPA North Central District 2012

Top ND Portrait 2012

Judges Choice Award at Northern Light Convention

Kodak Gallery Award

International Nominee for the Grand Image Award

  -Top 10 Portrait for the year of 2012 in the PPA International Competition.


And now…My number one print I’ve created in the last ten years.

The Traveler was created in October of 2011 in my studio. I asked my cousin, Matthew Burkholder, to model for my Steampunk theme. Matthew is the Son of the Keith, who modeled for my #5, "Lost In Translation" image.

(Steampunk: is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century. Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American Wild west Retro-futuristic.) - Wiki

Matthew was involved / lived to be in Theatre. He portrayed hundreds of different characters through his career in Fargo, Boston, NYC, and Alabama. He was my only choice for the Traveler. He showed up at my studio and was ready to try on the outfit I had purchased.

The Shoot:
I added a few additional items such as the winged gear sprocket (found on his left lapel.) I also took a watch and broke the front glass and that was placed on his left wrist.  There was also a pocket watch chain coming from a gear pin that is hovering on his right side. The double broken watches help signify the Traveler is out of time.

Having a little bit of gray in his goatee and hair shows that he’s been around for some time and has many stories to tell. He also has a scar on his neck that shows that he’s been through some tough fights in his travels.   The goggles were, of course, needed to finish off the look.

In the studio I had a yellowish-brown painted canvas background. Its texture looked Victorian enough, and I knew it would be in black and white so the color didn’t really matter. I had the chair a few feet from the background and asked him to simply lean back and look beyond. I had a single light feathered camera left.

Post Processing:

After the shoot, I did my usual culling of images and found the one pose that would work perfectly. I brought the image into NIK Silver EFEX, just like I did with the train image, the Vietnam wall, and the escalator image.  I got what was needed, a more contrast, selectively toned image and imported it into Photoshop.
The process in Photoshop was working with multiple layers and darkening all the lighter toned parts of the wardrobe.

I darkened the chrome on the goggles, I took off the shine on the gears and put the ascot / handkerchief on a separate layer to darken it way down since it was a brighter tan and it was competing with the face for the brightest part of the image. I added a bit of contrast on his neck scar so it would pop a bit more and be more noticeable. I also lightened (dodged) the broken watch area so that would show up a bit more. 

About Matthew:

Matthew took my odd vision and simply brought an emotion and uniqueness to it. He was the perfect casting choice and he had an academy award performance. It wasn’t my camera, lens, lighting that made this photo unique. He didn’t sit in a chair to get makeup done for hours; I don’t even think he combed his hair.
The performance is the way he sat in the chair, the way he knew how to bring the emotionless expression in his face.  It’s bringing an emotion to a viewer without saying a word on screen. A few months after this photograph, Matthew found out that a cancer he had beaten a few years back had returned. At the end of 2012, this time the cancer may have won the second battle, but the way he impacted his friends and family won the war. He will never be known as a person who gave up. His humor was there until the end; his positive attitude was unlike anything that could have been expected. To this day, I still have people coming up to me and telling me how much Matthew had an impact on their life as a theatre director, an instructor at MSUM, NDSU and Alabama University. He was a remarkable person and I’m so glad I got to show so many people this image of a unique man.

  at Matthew's hospital room.

“The Traveler”

The traveler is leaving. His time with us is up.

The energy within him is running out,
and we believe him to be within the stars, once where he had lived before.

Before he had arrived, he was once living within the stars,

he made his way here to this planet,  now he has returned home.

The traveler is leaving us.
We shall not see him in this form again, but we shall see him within us all.
Close your eyes, look up to the sky and look for him, for he is there.
He is there until he falls back down.


Also, now that the countdown is over... Here is a teaser for 2014.



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