exit to pataha landscape clouds barb thrall fine art photography

Painterly Photography — Fine Art Photographs by Barb Thrall

exit to pataha landscape clouds barb thrall fine art photography

Exit to Pataha, fine art photography landscape by Kennewick photographer Barb Thrall

Whoever coined the axiom, “The camera cannot lie,” probably didn’t believe it himself, because photo editing and manipulation have been around almost as long as photography. One of  U.S. history’s most iconic photographs, that of a full-length Abraham Lincoln standing with one hand resting against his vest, is actually an 1860s composite of the president’s head set atop another man’s body.1

lilacs artichokes still life floral fine art photography thrall

Lilacs and Artichokes, fine art still life photography by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Barb Thrall

“There is an idea that all photography must be realism — that if anything is manipulated in Photoshop then the photographer is cheating,” says Barb Thrall, a Kennewick artist who creates photographic fine art images incorporating her intellect and skill, digital camera, judicious use of Photoshop and Lightroom, and a wise selection of paper.

“In the same breath,” Thrall continues, “people will mention Ansel Adams or any other famous landscape photographer — but taking the photo is only half of the creative process for these photographers. The other half occurs in the darkroom or in Photoshop or whatever process they are using to get their photos to the printer.”

Painterly Photography

In other words, not all photography is the same, just as not all painting styles are the same. It’s one thing when the photo is on the front page of the newspaper, purporting to accurately represent an actual event, and a totally different element when the photo is an art piece, with keen attention to color, subject matter, perspective, layout, and, as Thrall describes it, connecting the viewer with a visceral or “gut” feeling in the soul.

evening sun forest landscape photography barb thrall

Evening Sun at Schrag, fine art photography landscape by Barb Thrall

“The editing I do, while certainly giving the photos a painterly feel, is more about experience,” Thrall explains. “How can I translate the feeling of a moment into a photo?” For Thrall, this involves not only the initial capture of the image, but the processing of it afterwards, which in earlier years took place in a traditional darkroom, but now involves photo software allowing the artist to work with light, texture, shadow, shading, and more. Also involved is compositing, the merging of one or more separate images into one.

Photography Mimicking the Old Masters

“There is a certain subtlety to processing photos this way,” Thrall says. “I love the photography that mimics the Old Masters — there is an elegance and romance to this.” And while there are diehards who insist that “a photo should be a photo” and “a painting should be a painting,” the play between painting and photography has been around as long as there have been cameras, Thrall explains.

three pears fine art photography still life barb thrall

Three Pears, fine art photography still life by Barb Thrall

“Anyone who takes their photos straight out of a camera and doesn’t process them is doing themselves a disservice. Ansel Adams was a great photographer, but he was a master in the darkroom.”

Thrall has had a camera in her hand from childhood, starting with a Kodak 110 cartridge and working her way through various models as she has shot images of landscapes, floral still lifes, portraiture, and black and white flora macro images with a graphic abstract feel. Vindication of her artistic passion came from, of all places, the State of Washington and its pre-college personality test that Thrall took in high school. The top jobs recommended for Thrall were photography and wildlife biology.

Interior Design, Paralegalism, and Fine Art Photography

And in what did Thrall receive her degrees? Interior design and paralegal studies, neither of which were in the top ten career choices on her test results. But because passion frequently trumps practicality, Thrall incorporates both interior design and paralegal principles into her photography.

after crush vineyard landscape grapes barb thrall larson gallery

After the Crush, vineyard landscape at the permanent collection of Larson Gallery, by Barb Thrall

“Color theory and the theory of thirds are certainly part of an interior design education, and a paralegal ought to be good with details.” A recent interest in architectural photography is “nothing but details.” The combination of those details with the love of the Old Painting Masters results in a lot of breaking of the rules, and advancement in technique.

“One of the biggest influences in my work is Vermeer. I love that light — truly, truly love that light.”

Capturing Attention

Thrall has shown her work in juried shows throughout the Pacific Northwest, with one of her pieces in the permanent collection at Larson Gallery in Yakima. She takes a workshop every year in a different aspect of photography, and has studied under Ray Pfortner — who worked under wildlife photographer Art Wolfe — and received a photography certificate from the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, whose founder  studied under Ansel Adams.

A finished work, for Thrall, starts in the field and ends with an image that captures the attention, the eye, and the soul.

“I want people to just slow down a bit, to breathe in and out.

“One of the series that I did focused on just shooting at rest stops or in places very close to the I-90 Freeway. I wanted to show the beauty in places not that far off the road.

“We don’t have to go very far to see beautiful places.”

Wenaha Gallery

Barb Thrall is the featured Pacific Northwest artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, October 23 through Saturday, November 18, 2017.   

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at

1McKay, Katie. “Photo Manipulation Throughout History: A Timeline.” Ethics in Photo Editing: WordPress, April 1, 2009.



A wall of ready-made frames is an art statement in itself at Wenaha Gallery, Dayton, WA.

Modish, Voguish, DIY

A wall of ready-made frames is an art statement in itself at Wenaha Gallery, Dayton, WA.

A wall of ready-made frames is an art statement in itself at Wenaha Gallery, Dayton, WA.

DIY — Do It Yourself — is a trend that never goes out of style.

With many people seeking to incorporate a uniquely personal touch into their home decor, DIY is chic and in vogue. It’s a great way to update the walls — some people create entire art installments using nothing more than well-placed, ready-made picture frames. And with a little effort and minor financial investment, even the least artistic crafter can put together something useful and attractive, a boldly bordered mirror, say;  or a memo board that looks like something Jane Austen would have used if she had had access to dry erase markers; even a place to hang jewelry.

A classy refreshment tray holds ceramic cream and sugar holders by Wenaha Gallery artist Caprice Scott, as well as a DIY ring holder.

A classy refreshment tray holds cream and sugar ceramic-ware by Wenaha Gallery artist Caprice Scott, as well as a DIY ring holder.

“Excluding the price of the frame, you can construct a classy looking craft project for $20 or so in materials,” says C.J. Horlacher, a lifelong DIYer who recommends Pinterest as an excellent site for creative inspiration. In the last several weeks, Horlacher has created frame-based projects ranging from a ring-holder incorporating folded fabric onto quilt matting and tucked into a small, deepset wooden frame, to a refreshment tray consisting of foam core (available in any art, frame, or craft store), topped by wallpaper, and then protected by glass. The entire sandwich is mounted into a carved wooden picture frame and attached to the back using offset clips (available at hardware stores). Adhesive felt or rubber protector pads add the finishing touch.

“Many materials I found just around the house, or in my husband’s shop,” Horlacher says. An especially popular project, one that she has been asked to make many times, is a jewelry holder consisting of small-meshed welded wire adhered to the back of a ready-made frame. A dab of glue in the corners ensures that the mesh, and any jewelry adorning it, stays in place.

“These are fun, and depending on the frame you use, you get a different feeling. An ornate gold frame is romantic; a clean, smooth wooden frame is sleek, almost glamorous,” Horlacher says.

A ready made frame and fine welded wire mesh join together to create a classy way to keep one's earrings in place.

A ready made frame and fine welded wire mesh join together to create a classy way to keep one’s earrings in place.

Ready-made frames, of all sizes and styles, are everywhere, she adds — from box stores to craft outlets to frame shops, and they make up about half the price of the project.

“It’s worth getting a high-quality frame, because the finished piece, whether it’s a mat-covered bulletin board that you’re going to pin things to, or a mirror that will dress up your bedroom, is part of the art itself.

“I happen to work in a frame shop and gallery, so that’s where I pick up my frames, but even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t use a cheap plastic or faux wood frame — the small extra cost is worth it, because it individualizes the finished craft piece, and makes it something you’re pleased to show off in your home.”

It's modern, it's classy, it's quick-to-make and it's useful -- a bulletin board doesn't have to look like cork.

It’s modern, it’s classy, it’s quick-to-make and it’s useful — a bulletin board doesn’t have to look like cork.

Mat remnants, available at many frame shops for a fraction of the original cost, add color and texture to a project, and set behind glass that is then mounted into a frame, they reconstruct themselves as a memo station; adhered to foam core or some other pinnable surface, they transmogrify into a swanky, upscale bulletin board. Useful, practical items don’t have to look like what they are.

Not everyone can paint a painting, carve a wooden  bowl, fashion a bronze sculpture, or shape a clay pot, but many of us still desire to create something artistic — that doesn’t look like something we fashioned during summer camp — which we can proudly display to our friends and family. And because we’re a practical people, the functional nature of many of these DIY wall projects is an added bonus.

They’re artistic. And they’re functional. And they’re inexpensive, expressive, and customizable. What’s not to like?

Wenaha GalleryThe Ready-Made Frame Extravaganza is the Art Event at Wenaha Gallery through April 4, 2015. C.J., our DIY expert, is also on hand many days for those who want to learn more about DIY creations using ready-made frames.

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.