Joe LeFevre Photography
All photos © copyright Joe LeFevre
I didn't pick up a single lens reflex camera until I was 25. I was recovering from my battle with Hodgkin's disease, cancer of the lymph system. After an uncertain time, which included surgery, radiation therapy, recurrences, and, ultimately chemotherapy, I needed something positive and beautiful to counter the dark time that I was enduring. Nature photography proved to be the perfect antidote. I had also rediscovered my Christian faith that I had essentially abandoned many years earlier. It literally saved my life. As a result of my new faith, my eyes were suddenly opened to the incredible beauty of the world around me. I learned how to use my father's Canon FT camera that he had used to take pictures of me playing high school basketball while growing up in Indiana. I took a three month trip out west in the summer of 1978 with a friend from high school, visiting and photographing twelve different national parks. After that trip, I was hooked on photographing natural landscapes to the glory of God in Christ, through whom He made the world (Colossians 1:16). To Him this website is dedicated.
My early attempts at making meaningful photographs fell well short of the mark. I couldn't seem to capture on film what my eyes had seen at the time I made the photograph. I had not yet learned what the late Galen Rowell eloquently stated in his classic book Mountain Light. Rowell wrote, "I am a frame of Kodachrome film waiting for you to open the shutter. If I get overexposed to the light, I'll get ugly and burned out like an old billboard that has been in the sun too long. I can be burned out in a much shorter time, however. If I am properly exposed at 1/500 second, I pale at 1/250, begin to bleach out at 1/125, and I'm all but gone at 1/60. At 1/1000 I'm richly colored, but a little dark. At 1/2000 I blend with the darkest shadows. You can see detail in me only within this narrow range, but your remarkable human eye is capable of seeing an illumination range of more than two thousand to one. No wonder you are always asking for more than I can give! Where your eyes see something clearly highlighted in intense light, I white out completely. Where your eyes see detail in dark shadows, I, like a blind person, see only blackness." Rowell went on to end the essay with the following comment concerning Kodachrome film: "Although I may be a product of state-of-the-art chemistry that is beyond your understanding, the magic in me must come from you. There is magic only in your own vision. If you have any doubts about this, if you still believe some of the magic is intrinsically mine, just remember all those uninspired slides you threw out after using me on a day when your inspiration or commitment was at a low ebb." When I began to see as film "sees," my photographs began to improve dramatically.
In my early days of photography, I thought that the time of day that the photo was taken had little to do with the quality of the photograph. I had not yet learned about what Rowell called "The Magic Hour." This is the period of time approximately one-half hour before and after sunrise and sunset when the warm light from the sun mixes with the cool, blue light of night on clear days. The great landscape photographer David Muench once stated, "In most instances I will plan a scheduling of photographs. First to discover and explore a strong location, sizing up its elements, getting a feel for its potential. Later, at a favorable hour of the day or time of the season, I will return and go to work." I remember thinking, "Who has time to do that? I'll just photograph whenever I happen to be there." Of course, Rowell and Muench were right, but it took me awhile to learn those lessons. Now I plan photographs in advance and return at the magic hour when the light is right. The percentage of successful photographs I am able to make now far exceeds what I was able to accomplish by just wandering around in those early days. After all, life is short; there are so many photographs to make and so little time...