I'm Chuck Kimmerle, ask me anything!

Hello nature photographers. My name is Chuck Kimmerle, and I am honored to be doing an AMA and answering your questions. No topic is off limits (hence the second A, which stands for “Anything”). And while I will be happy to talk about my own work, I also encourage queries into deeper issues such as the creative process, artistic frustrations, the loneliness of photography, or struggling to find our own paths.

Let me get this started by asking the first question: why am I not a nature-only photographer?

Well, I began my photography career as a newspaper photographer (more than 16 years!), and photojournalism is about people. And people, in turn, are about stories. I learned to appreciate photographs that offer a story, or narrative, which is greater than the sum of the content. I want to challenge viewers and encourage them to think, to have a short dialog with my work, and often that means adding a man-made element into the composition.

I do photograph nature, of course, but I would not call myself a nature photographer. I am not even sure that landscape photographer is an appropriate title. I have always struggled to find an appropriate label for me and my work. For now, “creative” photographer will have to do.

During my career as a photographer, I have photographed a wide range of subjects: Super Bowl, commercial airliner crash, a devasting flood, shelter belts in North Dakota, elk bones, and the Grand Tetons. I have done four National Park artist residencies, have had multiple art museum solo exhibits. I have lived in both North Dakota and NYC, do most of my photography close to home, and have no idea what most of the buttons on my camera do.

Neither my work nor my opinions are always popular, but they are always honest.

I am an open book.

Ask me anything.

Portfolio Website - https://www.chuckkimmerle.com/

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Hey Chuck,
Big fan of your photography.
I’ve always wondered though - for someone who focuses on close to home subjects that are often not “sexy” like animal skulls and what not (super cool stuff, btw), what has it been like for you to monetize your photography, if that is at all a goal you have with your work? I’m guessing you are down the path of “the photographer’s photographer” meaning you teach etc. but I don’t want to assume. So - what’s it like for someone with your type of work? Easy? Hard? Somewhere in between? Sorry for the multi-layered question.

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Good Morning, Matt.
To be honest, I don’t make as much money as I would like. My work is not really decorative and is, by some, even considered to be a bit morose. I understand that. Most of us have to find a comfortable balance between personal, unique creativity and monetization. I seem to find myself stubbornly trending towards the former.

I would not necessarily call myself a “photographer’s photographer.” But I do believe that photography, to be meaningful, has to be personal and, in no small way, unique.


First time exploring Nature Photography Network, considering a membership. I follow you on Instagram and decided to check this out. I’d love to pursue exhibiting my work. What is your process for preparing an exhibit submission? Does it start before you click or is it inspired from a Photo Series/Projects that developed organically (and then develop further)? How many details do you already have in mind (title, type of prints/medium, size of print, layout, concept/artist statement, etc.)?

Thanks Chuck,
Sometimes I wonder if creating more personal work has become a luxury for those that don’t depend on monetization to “make it,” which to be fair is probably most photographers. Thoughts on that?

How does one go about creating a compelling application to be an artist in residence? I have long been interested in becoming an AiR, but wonder if I would even be considered as I am not a professional photographer. I have been fortunate to have several photographs published in an online photo magazine. My wife has been selling her paintings for years, and we have collaborated on several photo/painting collaborations. I would really like to apply, either alone or in collaboration with my wife, but am not sure I/we would even be considered for an AiR opportunity. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Hi. My name is gill vanderlip. I do some nature photography but black and white photography is the main style. What software did do you use do editing.
Really like your contrast in your photos.


Hi Chuck,
If I recall correctly, you’ve been living in Owens Valley for a while. Has waking up to the Eastern Sierras every day changed your photography? Also, what’s your favorite restaurant on 395? :slight_smile:

It has, until the personal style becomes popular. However, it has been that way for a very long time. Just look at Van Gogh’s career among many other. I believe it is one of the fundamental aspects of art: that art does not pay off financially until, or unless, the artist follows a popular style.

The fact that today many artists want to make art their main source of income is a new trend. However the income producing potential of art has not changed. Except for a small minority, art is not a reliable and regular income producing activity. Just look at career choices. Most artists become professionals (meaning derive their income from their work) because they do not want to stop doing art, not because they see a juicy income opportunity!


Hi Ann,

Having an exhibit can be both wonderful and terrifying. Nothing will bring out more insecurity than the first few minutes of an exhibit when nobody has yet showed up.

There are two types of exhibition venues: galleries and museums. The difference it that galleries are usually in the business of selling artwork and want pieces which will sell, while art museums are in the business of featuring artists (they do not directly sell work) thus can be a bit more evocative with their image selections. Art museums often feature much larger exhibits.

Our fist consideration, though, should be to build a body of work. We can either collect existing images from our catalog, or find a project which interests us and create new work. In either case, it may help to develop a preliminary artist statement early in the process as it will act as a guideline for the images we choose/create.

Submitting to national or regional galleries or museums is extremely difficult. Very few accept blind submissions. There would simply be too many. Local galleries are much more lenient, but it helps to have a contact or friend who can give you a reference. Another option for getting your in front of museum/gallery people is to attend one of the many portfolio review events such as FotoFest in Houston or Photo Lucida in Portland, Or.

When making submissions, your first priority should be to understand the specific venue. Is it a museum or gallery? What has been exhibited in the past and what is upcoming? What type of work does the gallerist/curator prefer? How much wall space do they offer? It is imperative that we do our homework. The final artist statement will usually be very important as it shows the scope and purpose of our project . Write and rewrite until it is perfect.

The details of print size, framing, or overall presentation are usually the last considerations we have to make, and should be done with input from the venue folks.

Exhibition space is extremely competitive, so don’t be discouraged if it does not happen right away. If you are confident in your work, keep trying.


Hi Chuck,

Very nice work. I read what you said about some of your audience finding your work ‘morose’. I don’t find it morose at all. This judgment, for I see it as such, is more a reflection of people’s move away from Black and White and towards color work. If something does not have color, and features minimal features, then it may be perceived as ‘morose’. I have not had this comment made about my work, but then I only do a small quantity of black and white images, or to put it differently only a small percentage of my work is B&W, so that’s most likely why. If I was to do the same exact compositions in black and white, I may hear that, all of a sudden, my work has become morose!

That is a good point. Nowadays, many people go into landscape/nature photography with the sole intention of making a living at it, even if they are not yet accomplished or experienced. That weighs heavily upon their image choices as marketability will be more important than personal expression. And, to be honest, that makes sense.

There are others for whom photography is more about personal expression and sharing something deep and meaningful. For some, that is as much a necessity as is income. To be honest, calling it a luxury seems a bit dismissive, although I know that is not how you meant it.


Hey Chuck,

Blessings and peace be with you.

Simply wondering how much spirituality (if any) you might bring to your photography? I’ve always sensed a deeper seeing of the moment you receive with the images you share. I’d love to know if there is anything going on at a spiritual level not only when you are out in the field, but also in your post processing and printing.


Hi Gill,
Thank you for the kind words. I start all my images in Lightroom, including b/w conversion, and do as much editing as possible. If an image needs more controlled edits or is giving me issues, I will then open it in Photoshop as it offers much more precise control.

I find that as time goes by, I do more and more of the editing in LR.

Hi Chuck,
I confess that I had not been familiar with your work until today. I went over to your website and I have tell you, I was gob-smacked. Outstanding work - so varied and, indeed, very personal. Your work has a kind of intimacy that really touches me. There were a few photographs that particularly caught my eye - “Flooded Streams”, Mesquite Dunes", and especially “Arrow Weed”, all taken in Death Valley. I will pay you the highest compliment I could offer any photographer by saying these photographs reminded me of the work of Sebastaio Selgado (- another guy who is pretty hard to pin down in terms of categorizing his work.) So, this brings me to my question, who are the photographers who have most influenced your work over the years and in what ways?
P.S. - I see you are offering one and two hour personal tutorials and I am going to give that some serious thought :thinking:

Hi Chuck. I have been a follower of your work for several years and am always amazed how you can find subjects others don’t see or pay attention to. Your body of work in the Manzanar gallery is incredibly moving and beautiful. I have visited there several times and it’s overwhelming, personally and photographically. When you photograph there what are your feelings/reactions as you find and study a subject? It’s evident through your imagery that you are connected to this very special place.

Hi D.G.,
That is harder to answer than I thought. When I am in the field, I try not to overthink things, and instead rely on feelings and emotions. I try and do my editing in a similar fashion. In both parts, I want to share a part of who I am. So in a way, there is an aspect of inner spirituality. But that is not something I consciously think about.

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Thanks, Carla.
That body of work means a lot to me. At Manzanar I am looking for scenes which offer a slice of life or a feeling. It’s not easy as the site closed more than 75 years ago, but there are echos of what happened here and I want to share those while they remain.


Thank you Kerry. I am glad you like my work.
It’s a bit cliche, but I am heavily influenced by the work and philosophy of both Edward Weston and Minor White. Both considered photography to be about much more than the content of the image, thus did meaningful work in a variety of subject matter. True artists. But it is the narrative work and the writings of Robert Adams which are the most important to me. His small but seminal books “Why People Photograph” and “Beauty in Photography” were incredibly important and relevant to me. His work, while not always easy to understand, is straightforward and unpretentious, yet meaningful and personal.

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