Denise Remfert said she believes photography lets the viewer see things that the eye cannot.
Remfert recently won best in show for the 2017 Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge’s annual photo contest. The contest saw more than 300 images from 24 photographers, but Remfert’s “Dinner for Two” was crowned the best by contest judges Courtney Anderson, Laurie Lawler and Tom Judd.
“I want my photography to have purpose and meaning,” Remfert said. “I would love to connect with someone working on a project of environmental, historical or scientific importance. I collaborated with an author for a children’s book and several local history books documenting local people and landmarks as the area changes with all the development. Photography is art to be enjoyed.”
Remfert uses her photos to capture special moments, emotions and history.
“It shows us things we cannot normally see or remember,” she said. “It is a legacy we pass down to future generations. None of this will happen if the images stay in the computer and are not printed. They will surely be lost if not printed. I have spent a lot of time learning to do retouching and restoration so old photos can be preserved for future generations. I paint and process both my own and other’s travel photos so they can print their favorite shot with pride. I have made prints for families who lost a loved one so they have something to remember them by.”
The more images that hang in homes or places of business, Remfert said, the more she knows her work will be enjoyed and remembered.
“Those who fish will relate to the desire to get outside and catch a keeper,” she said. “My favorite image is the one I will take today. Looking for a photo opportunity is a wonderful adventure and a healthy activity.”
Remfert’s work is for sale now in the Irving Arts Association galleries.
“There is a seven-foot by nine-foot canvas hanging in town hall to remember a beautiful tree canopy that was cut down to widen a bridge,” she said.
Remfert is a member of Heard Nature Photographers Club in McKinney and has won the year-end members’ choice award several times. She has also had some images submitted to National Geographic Your Shot that have been selected as editor’s choice. This year all eight images of hers that were submitted to the International Photographic Competition did well and four have been selected for publication in the Professional Photographers of America Loan Collection Book.
“My personal favorite print hangs in my living room,” she said. “I took the photo of a white horse grazing in a large field of wildflowers with a double rainbow in the background. I smile every time I see it. Interior wall decor using your family in a location that means something to you will also make you smile and serve as art and family portraits at the same time. I love doing that for families because they are so special to them.”
While pursuing a corporate career, Remfert realized that she was doing a lot of mathematical and left brain work. When she left her previous field, digital cameras were just becoming popular. Around that time, she began working with a group photographing critically ill children at Children’s Hospital in Dallas.
“My first edit was a decisive moment,” she said. “By copying a handful of pixels at a time, I replaced bandages and tubing on the face of an infant with normal skin color, texture and shadow. Five hours later when I toggled the before and after, I sat there and cried.”
Seeing what the software had done was amazing to Remfert. She said that she could not believe what it had allowed her to do.
“Now the parents had an image of their baby they had never experienced, could share with family and friends, and would be proud to frame,” she said. “That was when I began to exercise my right brain and I found meaning and purpose to my photography and editing.”
Now, each year Remfert attends the week-long Texas School of Professional Photography in Addison.
“I’ve taken several classes to learn to paint in Photoshop and Corel Painter using a tablet and stylus pen,” she said. “This gives me more control and sets me apart from those who use a one-click filter. The bird was physically far away. When the image was enlarged to make it bigger in the frame, it was low resolution with pixelated squares.”
By zooming in 300 percent and using a tiny mixer brush only two pixels in size, Remfert said that she was able to smooth and paint every pixel in the image.
“That also allowed me to add back detail,” she said.
Generally, editing is done to direct the viewer to the subject. Remfert said that she likes to take pictures at Hagerman because it always has something to offer.
“It is alive and changes with the season and weather,” she said. “I made a point to go in all seasons because some birds and butterflies pass through when they migrate so there are different photo opportunities. Some creatures are indigenous and there are always sunrises and sunsets. A friend and I stayed overnight in Sherman so we could arrive just before sunrise. We were rewarded with beautiful clouds and water foul taking off for the day. They spend the night in the water for protection from coyotes and then lift off at daylight to feed. The opposite happens at dusk.”
Hagerman is also a great place to find animals to photograph, Remfert said, because the refuge works hard to attract species by planting food sources. The refuge also schedules activities to help people learn what to look for and where to find them.
“Places like Hagerman provide vastly more than food and water sources for the wildlife and insects,” Remfert said. “They educate the public to appreciate and love nature and to go home and practice ways to attract and conserve nature in their own backyards.”
When she goes to Hagerman, Remfert said that she generally knows what she will find, but there are no guarantees that she will get the shot that she is going for.
“I have learned to use an open mind and several techniques so I always go home with something interesting,” she said. “An award winning abstract was captured because the sunset failed to be remarkable so I focused on sticks in the water and the reflections of sky and clouds. Of course, it is so wonderful when serendipity happens and something unexpected appears but even then, one has to be ready to capture it.”
Putting images together to make a new scene is more artistic, Remfert said, and the process requires a new level of creativity for her.
“Take your time and think about what catches your interest,” she said. “You want your viewer to be interested in it also so avoid distractions in the background. Less is best. Always get the eyes in focus. Get low for wildlife and insects. Hand holding will cause motion blur. Brace the camera or use a tripod for sharper images. Learn to see and use light to draw attention to your subject. Learn your camera controls so you can get proper exposure in difficult lighting situations. Try to capture decisive moments or emotion and tell a story.”