A Dream Realized

Started 10 months ago | Photos thread
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Phocal Senior Member • Posts: 2,518
A Dream Realized

I have been a lover of the outdoors my entire life and have always spent as much time in the woods/fields/swamps/rivers/lakes that I could. I would see such amazing things when out in the wild that most people never have the opportunity to witness. So when I got involved in photography it was only natural for me to become a wildlife photographer because it finally gave me a way to share what I saw.

My dad was the one who got me started in being an outdoors man and encouraged me to join the Boy Scouts. It was through them and my dad that the “Leave No Trace” philosophy was drilled into my head. I have always followed this not just because I was taught it from an early age but also because it is the right thing to do.

Fast forward to the present…………..

I have spent a lot of time the last 10 years on the waterways of Texas and each year that passes my heart breaks more. I don’t even know how to describe the terrible injustice we are doing to our natural areas. What hurts even more is all the trash I see when out and about comes from the very people that are supposedly out there to enjoy the outdoors.

I mean…………………

It really baffles me that people can’t put the beer can or candy wrapper back into the container they used to bring it out there. Why do they just toss it out of the boat and into the water?

Seriously, I just can’t comprehend peoples thinking.

They wouldn’t finish that beer and toss it onto their living room floor or their front yard. I really just don’t understand because that beer can or wrapper will still be there spoiling their view of the “Pristine Outdoors” on the next visit. It is also still there when I photograph a bird and now I have to clone it out to produce that beautiful wildlife photograph that everyone wants to see.

But my cloning out that beer can floating in the water continues to perpetuate the illusion of the “Pristine Great Outdoors” that most people have. To be honest it has always bothered the nature lover in me when I helped perpetuate that illusion. But a photo with beer can floating in front of the subject will not sell nearly as well as one with it cloned out. Unless I could figure out a way to make the beer can part of the art by keeping it in the photograph and then printing the photo on the offending can.


I got into the habit of always bringing a trash bag with me so I can pick up the trash I come across and pack it out. Then a few years back I came across a process that would allow me to print on anything I can run through the right type of printer or transfer the images to things I can not. I immediately started thinking of ways I could utilize all this trash in a way to bring attention to what we are doing to our environment. For the last few years I have been storing all the trash I collect and not putting it into our landfills, waiting for the chance to utilize it my art.

By using these beer cans as a substrate for my prints serves two purposes.


It keeps the trash from entering our landfills by using it to create art that is visually appealing and not an eyesore floating in the local river.


It will allow me to bring attention to all the trash that people leave behind when they visit our “Pristine Wilderness”. I am not delusional and think this will solve the problem, the political scientist in me knows this. But it is my way to contribute to this cause and maybe, just maybe, it can keep one person from throwing that beer can into the water.

I have a lot of ideas for utilizing the different types of trash I have collected. Some cans I will cut open and use that beautiful shinny aluminum on the inside to create stunning photographs printed on metal. Some I will print my beautiful images on the outside so the can’s printing can come through to make them not so beautiful like the actual state of your “Pristine Wilderness”. The paper I will recycle into sheets of DIY recycled paper to print on, again in an attempt to show the not so “Pristine Wilderness” because the paper will have many imperfections and colors. Other bits and pieces of stuff I have collected will be used to frame or mount the photos printed on the trash.

The trash collected has also been separated and stored by location collected. This way I can print images taken at lets say Brazos Bend State Park on trash that I collected from Brazos Bend State Park.

For the last month I have been working on perfecting the print process. It is not so simple to print on alternative substrates, not that I expected it to be. Last night I finally got the process down and had my first successful print on a beer can. I didn’t use one of my collected beer cans because I didn’t want to ruin any of them. But I did have to drink the beer from the cans I wanted to experiment with. Which partially contributed to my not so perfect taping job after a six pack, which is pretty noticeable in the photo. I have come up with a different way of securing the can to the carrier sheet that will work a lot better and allow me to run multiple cans at one time. While I do wish the taping job was better, the goal of the first attempts was to get the color profile down as well just getting the image to take to the can. I had many tries where the print looked terrible because it didn’t fully take to the substrate and some ink would run off the metal. So in my defense I stopped worrying about the perfect tape job since it was useless if the print wouldn’t take.

There are a few ideas in my head for displaying/framing the cans which I still have to perfect. But the hard part has been worked out and I can start printing on all of these cans I have collected while I begin the paper making process for the next stage of my project.

Photograph printed on a beer can using an Epson P800 printer

I will update this thread as I proceed along this journey for any that wish to see what I come up with next. Because I have some really great ideas that I hope to put into motion over the coming months.

 Phocal's gear list:Phocal's gear list
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 150mm 1:2.0 Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS Pro Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus E-M1 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm 1:2.8 Pancake +6 more
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