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Good exposure

Cottonwood photographer makes his mark in national magazine

August 18, 2010
By Jodelle Greiner

CAMDEN STATE PARK - Bill Van der Hagen has a lot of stuff in his vehicle: numerous pop bottles, tripods... and a sniper suit.

He laughs that if he's ever pulled over, the cops will take one look at his ghillie suit and multiple tattoos and profile him as a trouble-maker, but he's got a legitimate reason for the gear: he uses it in his photography.

"You just lay there for eight hours," he said. "That's how the wildlife stuff is done."

Article Photos

Photos by Jodelle Greine/Photo illustration by Aaron Schlemmmer
Bill Van der Hagen of Cottonwood is a photographer whose work has been chosen to appear in Artistik Magazine, a national publication.

Van der Hagen's shooting skills have caught the attention of folks at Artistik Magazine, a national publication.

The Cottonwood resident was one of several artists whose work was featured in the "Exposed" section of the spring issue of Artistik, and he will be one of the artists in the annual "Showcase" in October.

"It'll contain more of my work and biography," he said.

Part of his work that was featured in the Exposed section was a four-picture series of a wineglass. Van der Hagen filled the glass with red liquid, then fired a gun at the glass stem, shattering it. The bowl of the glass flipped, landing upside down with the red liquid still inside. The sequence of shots can be viewed by visiting, and clicking on the Spring 2010 issue icon. Scroll down to pages 54-55.

For a more complete selection of his work, visit online. He also displays his work in local exhibits.

Van der Hagen got into photography only about two years ago, but "I've done different forms of art my whole life," he said.

A musician for 16 years, he's also been into drawing for a long time and was "going to school for web design and graphic design, which is when I really started (photography)," he said. "It was just another art form."

To find out more, he read books, concentrated on his own experience as a life-long outdoorsman and storm chaser to practice his photography in local areas, and consults others in the field.

One of the pictures he submitted to Artistik was a portrait of fellow photographer Crystal Smith's young daughter, Madi.

"I'm very privileged to take pictures of her daughter," Van der Hagen said. "Madi has more expression on her face in five minutes than most people have in two weeks."

Smith, who has a studio in Cottonwood, is a "very, very good portrait photographer," Van der Hagen said, emphasizing that there's no competition between them. He learned things from Smith and John Krohn of Wabasso, whom van der Hagen described as an "amazing landscaper. He taught me landscape photography. Very, very talented."

Van der Hagen is generous with other photographers, as well, passing on what he's learned to anyone who's interested.

"I give all the secrets, I don't keep any of them," he said, adding people can visit to see his Photoshop techniques. "Some of the techniques I get requests for how I did it and I videotape how I did it. People feed off it. They send me back stuff and say 'this is what I did with it,'" and he learns from them how to stretch his expertise.

"Photoshop is an absolute obsession," he admitted. "Because of the digital age, I enjoy the landscapes and some of the experimental stuff. They give me more freedom to play with digital color and things like that."

Color fascinates him because it draws people.

"There's a lot of emotion in color and it varies by culture," Van der Hagen said.

"Most people use dark and light as contrast," he explained. "If you split color into hue, saturation and luminents, that's three different ways to make contrast. You end up with a photo you can pull a lot out of.

"The wildlife ones I keep normal," Van der Hagen said. "I don't do anything to those. My landscape ones have a very different style to them. Some people hate them, some people love them.

"I've definitely gone past the traditional photography," he said. "The landscapes are very digitally colored. I continue to read and study everything on digital color and how it works and how to use it.

"I do a lot of HDR (high dynamic range) where you merge multiple exposures," Van der Hagen said, "because it's a good way to play with color. That's something I do a lot of; it makes a very surreal look."



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