For Love of B&W: Cole Thompson’s Ethereal Landscapes

Editors note: I discovered Cole Thompson’s beautiful photography and website while wandering the net. Cole is a true artist whose passion for nature photography is very obvious. He does not ‘shoot for the markets’, he just shoots and his imagery is presented in a manner we often don’t see and I am sure you will agree. Many of images would in my opinion, not be as powerful in color as they are in B&W. I had to know more about him and his work so I asked him if he would tell us about himself and his photography.

I am an amateur as measured by the old definition of the word; I am self taught, I create out of love and do not use my art to earn a living. I feel extremely fortunate to create only that which inspires me, without regard to how the markets or critics will receive my work. My only measure of success is how I feel about my art.

I am often asked, why black and white? It may be because I was born into a black and white world. Television, movies and the news were all in black and white. My heroes were in black and white and even the nation was segregated into black and white. Perhaps my images are an extension of the world in which I grew up.

I cannot categorize my work since my subject matter is so varied and diverse. In addition to several traditional landscape and seascape projects, my portfolios have ranged from “The Ghosts of Auschwitz-Birkenau” in which I portray the spirits of the dead who still linger at the death camps, to a distorted architectural series entitled “The Fountainhead.” From a street portrait series entitled “Ukrainians, With Eyes Shut” to unique look at “Ceiling Lamps” which were photographed from directly below.

The one common thread that may bind my images together is how they favor dark tones and extreme contrasts. It is a style that I came to love as I studied the works of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Paul Caponigro and Minor White as a fourteen year old boy. Their work was so influential on me that for many years I strove to imitate their style and their images.

But a seismic change occurred in my thinking when a gallery owner saw my images and counseled: “Ansel’s already done Ansel and you’re not going to do him better. What can you do that exhibits your unique vision?” This question hit me quite hard and I had to ask if my goal was to become a great imitator? My answer started a great change in how I thought and created.

I now consider myself an artist and not a photographer. I choose not to portray the world as my eyes see it, but I’m compelled to create images through my own unique vision of the world. In other words, I no longer “capture photographs” but rather I “create images.”


The Lone Man No. 20

The “Lone Man” series portrays how people become introspective when standing at the edge of the world and contemplating their smallness. We wonder what life is all about and question if we make a difference.

Lone Man No. 18

This image was created at the LaJolla Children’s Pool in San Diego. I’m often asked if it’s hard to get people to stand still for a 30 second exposures and I tell them no. The subjects are generally unaware that they are being photographed, and stand still naturally as they ponder the greater things of life.


Lone Man No. 35

This image was created in Guanaja, Honduras. People everywhere seem to react the same way when confronted with the vastness of the ocean; they are overwhelmed with its size and our relative smallness.

Harbinger No. 1

This was the first image in the Harbinger Series, created in the deserts of Utah. What does the series mean? That is for the viewer to decide, but the definition of Harbinger (which also serves as my artist statement) offers a clue: Harbinger: \ˈhär-bən-jər\ noun
1. one that goes ahead and makes known the approach of another; herald.
2. anything that foreshadows a future event; omen; sign.


Harbinger No. 11

I sat for hours in this Nebraska field, waiting for the right cloud to form in the sky (it was a real lesson on how clouds are formed) This image is the only one in the series in which the cloud is not centered.

Harbinger No. 13

This image was created on the West Coast of Florida. After having created my first Harbinger image I imagined it would be difficult to find other solitary clouds. While it is not impossible, it does take a lot of looking and consequently this project will take me several years to complete.

Monolith No. 10

The first time I saw the giant rocks on the Oregon beaches I was captivated. While the locals call them Sea Stacks, I immediately thought of the world Monolith. They remind me of the Moai statues on Easter Island or the monolith in 2001; A Space Odyssey.


Monolith No. 42

Most all of my Monolith images were created in the Bandon Beach area. This is a new image from my most recent trip in September.

Monolith No. 1

There is something timeless about these Monoliths, it’s as though they have stood watching us humans scurry about for thousands of years, and yet are unimpressed!


The Road to Nowhere

Each year I spend two weeks creating in Death Valley; it’s sort of a solitary, cleansing, creative retreat. I try to see things that thousands of others have not already seen, and to see them simply.

Windmill in Moonlight

Created late at night on a lonely farm road in Nebraska, this image taught me an important lesson: Always Stop. No matter how late it is, how inconvenient it is or how cold it is…always stop. There are no second chances and the image you passed by may have been a great one!

Death Valley Dunes

Created at dusk and on a day when the moon was closest to earth, I loved how the late sun fell upon the dunes.

You can view Cole’s work here:

This quote froms Cole’s website is very good: “The problem with quotes on the internet is that it’s difficult to determine whether or not they are genuine.” Abraham Lincoln

If you like what you saw, please leave a comment.

Related Posts: Photographing Badlands NP in 4 Hours, For Love of B&W: 5 Nature Examples