Karen Hutton is a professional light bender and storyteller. That’s shorthand for her style of fine art landscape & travel photography, and the fact that she’s also a voiceover artist, online show host, writer, speaker and teacher. She’s been photographing for over 35 years, has over 2 million followers on social media; with over 9 billion views of her photographic work. Karen and her photography has been featured at Google and on Stuck in Customs, TWiP, Macphun Software, Forbes.com, The Grid, Rick Sammon’s DPE Podcast. She lives in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.
Karen believes that “living your life as if it were your art” is the highest calling. That when you let it, light, artistry and passion flood everywhere, pouring through life’s nooks and crannies, uplifting everyone in their path. She aims to create works that offer her collectors and clients a full-body jolt of inspiration… and make them feel transported. Because after all, “Life is Light.”
“The artist vocation is to send light into the human heart.” – Robert Schumann
You can find her at Karenhutton.com.
BASED IN: California, USA
KNOWN FOR: Landscape and cityscape shots with distinctive lighting
SHOOTS WITH: FUJIFILM GFX 50S Camera, FUJINON GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR Lens, GF120mmF4 R LM OIS WR Macro Lens
Karen Hutton is FUJIFILM X-Photographer based in California. Her creative and artistic personality radiates through her images, which are characterized by powerful lighting and a strong sense of mood. As well as being an accomplished photographer, Karen is also an experienced educator, hosting retreats for photographers all over the world. We spoke to Karen about one of her recent retreats that took place in the French Riviera with the ultra-powerful FUJIFILM GFX 50S, to find out why this destination holds so much appeal for her.
Karen, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us. Let’s start by talking about this shot. Where was it taken?
It was shot in the ancient city of Antibes, which has been nestling on the coast in the French Riviera for millennia. It holds innumerable secrets and hides delightful photographic surprises around every corner. It is also home to the Picasso Museum, formerly the Château Grimaldi at Antibes, which is built on the foundations of the ancient Greek town of Antipolis. Pablo Picasso lived in Antibes during the forties, after which he donated a collection of paintings and drawings to the museum.
How would you describe your photographic style?
I often say that I see the world through a lens of fancy. And this is a good example of when I’m able to capture that in a photograph. Gazing through ancient pillars with a wash of light from above is a sight that really gets your imagination working. One of the things I love most about photography is the way it offers a real-time ticket to creative vision, and there’s no better partner for any fanciful visual journey than the FUJIFILM GFX 50S.
Sometimes happenstance provides the best photo opportunities. Can you think of any memorable moments that occurred during one of your retreats?
During one of my ‘The Artist’s Voice’ photography retreats in the French Riviera, we caught the start of the Cannes Royal Regattas. The regattas involve gorgeous racing yachts sailing around the Lérins islands for seven days, treating visitors to beautiful views like this. It felt like a real privilege to be there.
Photographers and creative people of all kinds often find that being abroad makes them more alert and alive to every little detail in the world around them than they would be at home. Is this one of the reasons you hold retreats overseas?
Absolutely. For example, I love the street lamps in France, with all their flourish and flair. The locals may pass them by, but I found they became even more interesting when hit by the sun at the right angle in the afternoon. Somehow the GFX 50S is able to spin the photographer’s materials of time, light and wonder into beauty better than any camera I know of. When you want to emphasize line and shape like this, it’s a good idea to experiment with black & white Film Simulation modes, because removing color helps to focus the viewer’s attention on other elements such as shape and texture.
Your shots of moodily-lit back streets almost overflow with a sense of intrigue and history. Are these the kinds of locations that appeal to you as a photographer?
I adore them. After visiting France a few times I’ve now found my favorite locations. I even have a favorite bed-and-breakfast that I like to stay in, a favorite tea house and cafe, and a favorite Tunisian restaurant. When the sun goes down, or better yet, when it rains small French towns like this are my photographic playground.
This is a very atmospheric shot. What made you choose this look for this image?
When the crowds go home and the neighborhood lights come on, historic French towns start to look and feel like movie sets to me. I used a black & white Film Simulation mode for this shot and I think it really helped to bring out that forties, film noir atmosphere.
This image has an interesting quality. How did you achieve this look?
I think it’s a combination of a few factors. For instance, the FUJIFILM GFX 50S brought out lots of detail in the architecture and the rain made the streets a little more reflective than usual, which gives the ground a little more shine.
To achieve the starburst effect in the lights, I shot with a GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR lens at a focal length of 32mm and an aperture of F22. The aperture blades created the strong starburst effect, but the small aperture meant that I had to lock my camera down and leave the shutter open for 27 seconds.
Any time I visit historic towns like this, I pray for rain, especially at night. The shiny streets and saturated colors light up my images – and my heart. The GFX captures those details and colors in ways that take my breath away.
Photography requires you to consider several different factors at once. What’s usually going through your head while you’re shooting?
As well as the technical considerations such as shutter speed, depth-of-field and exposure, my favorite photos also include elements such as time, color, era, culture, location and spontaneous moments. Anytime I can combine all of those in one image is a fine day. Of course, it’s always made better with a paintbrush that sings, which is why the GFX 50S is great for trips like this.
Although light is vital to your style, it appears that you also venture out after sunset to shoot. What’s the appeal of night shooting for you?
In our 24/7 digital world of constant stimuli and non-stop action, it’s an incredible experience to step into a town that, at night and on Sundays, is simply… closed. A shot like this fills me with curiosity and intrigue – and I make up a new story about it every time I see it.
Karen Hutton is a compensated FUJIFILM X-Photographer.