A Study of Time and Motion in the West

During a recent trip to Colorado, Focal Flame photographer Clint Thayer created photo essays using time-lapse photography, light painting, and other techniques to help convey the astounding natural beauty of expansive land and starscapes. Here, he shares his thoughts on the experiences, as well as several favorites from the series.

It is no secret that I enjoy creative uses of motion and time in my work to help show the spectacular beauty of the passions and achievements of athletes in full flight. Motion in combination with light can create what I refer to affectionately as a soupy mix of fact, the effect is usually so good that it’s hard not to stop in your tracks and wonder a little.  (I like creating that stop-in-your-tracks experience so much that I plan on coming out with our own branded Focal Flame brake lights so we can rest easy knowing we are not going to hurt anyone. Safety first!)

During my time in Colorado I thought it might be interesting to take this idea of motion, light, and time but point the lens at the world itself.  What better area to study the elements and effects of time then the outcropped, weathered landscape of the Rocky Mountains and the unfettered sky at altitude. Below is a sampling of the full Colorado collection.  Feel free to browse all images here and order prints or postcards.

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Click image to view, and purchase

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Guided Tour to the New Focal Flame Web Site

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Sometime when you're in the thick of things, it's hard to slow down enough to capture it all. And ever since we founded Focal Flame Photography, being "in the thick of things" has definitely been one of the best aspects of what we do. But after over two years, it was clear: the time had come to update our web site. This was more easily done during the winter season, when the pace of any outdoor pavement-related endurance sports scene slows in the upper MIdwest (although there was plenty of off-road fun to be had, to be sure.) Because, really, hibernating is overrated. 

So after many sessions of coffee-fueled writing and coding, we present (drum roll, please) the new and improved Focal Flame web site. For a behind-the-scenes look, here's the guided tour.


The home page has been completely redesigned. Our goal was to present a full-screen slideshow of images with a clean, minimalistic design that kept the viewer's focus on the photographic composition. The navigation bar is subtly placed at the lower right-hand portion of the screen, and social media buttons allow one-click sharing. The photo changes every 10 seconds. Now, try this: resize your browser window by dragging. The home page automatically resizes to fit the new dimensions. How sweet is that?! (OK, we're geeks...but you have to admit, it's pretty cool.) In a nutshell, the home page looks really simple by design, but it's kind of like a sports car: under a sleek hood, there's a lot of power. We've tested it on every browser we can think of and so far it has been bullet-proof and dishwasher-safe, but if you notice any issues please let us know. It's also mobile-friendly for viewing on smartphones and iPads.

Custom Photography

Next, check out the Custom Photography page. We've added some description that helps address many of the most common questions we hear about custom sports photography, and there are links to other pages that describe the process for starting a custom photography project and how you can arrange a session for your sports team or club. We've also added a page about other types of photography services we offer, such as career portraits, family and birthday party photography, weddings, and real estate photography. But the feature that we're most honored to include is the set of testimonials from past clients. Each one represents a custom photography project that was borne out of their determination and dedication as an athlete, and it's hard to express just how meaningful it has been to play a part in recording their journey.

Event & Race

From there, take a look at the Event & Race page. We describe a little bit about our approach to sporting events, because we know that competition day isn't just any day - it's the day that you've been working towards, sometimes for months or even years. You can also see an at-a-glance overview of events that Focal Flame Photography will be covering in the near future. Check back often, because we are adding new events all the time. There are also special pages just for Race Directors/Event Organizers and helpful tips for anyone needing assistance with finding their images and purchasing photo products. The Event Status page provides up-to-the-minute updates on photo availability for events that we've covered

We'll just take a brief pause in the guided tour to point out that the new site is extremely social. Every page can be shared with your contacts via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or via e-mail with a single click. So go ahead - chat it up. 

Commercial Photography

Next, let's take a look at the Commercial Photography page. We admit it - we love visual storytelling, and businesses and organizations are just bristling with both energy and photo opportunities. For several case studies, take a look at the links on the right-hand side of the page.

Fine Art Photography 

The Fine Art page is our creative playground. We believe that art is essential, and that fine art photography really does have the power to change the world. In addition to an Artist's Statement by Focal Flame Photography founder Clint Thayer, there are links to descriptions of exhibits and projects on the right-hand side of the page. We have several creative projects in the works at any given time, so check back for updates. 

Portfolio, About Us, and Store

The Portfolio page provides several galleries featuring sample images in a range of subjects, and once again, content will be updated periodically. The About page tells a little of our own journey, and also provides a link at the right-hand side to some of our Photolanthropy efforts. (Not familiar with the term "photolanthropy"? Visit the page to learn more.) The Store is, of course, your one-stop shop for dozens of galleries from events we've covered, and the Blog is...well....if you're reading this, you're already familiar with it! 

So there you have it. We've tried to illustrate the range of photography services we offer, and the types of creative projects we undertake. Questions? Comments? We'd love to hear them. Just drop us a line

And as always, thanks for your support. Your passion, dedication, and determination is what inspires everything we do. Let's get ready for a terrific 2012! On your mark, get set.....GO!

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Photograph by Clint Thayer Selected for Exhibition at the National Art Museum of Sport




Madison, WI – October 24, 2011 – A fine art photograph entitled “Driving Rain” (2010) by Madison, WI artist Clint Thayer has been selected for exhibition placement in the 2nd Annual International Fine Arts Competition: Commitment to Excellence in Art & Sport. The juried competition was conducted by the National Art Museum of Sport (NAMOS) in Indianapolis, IN. The exhibit will run at NAMOS from October 27, 2011-February 29, 2012.

Over 300 entries were submitted by artists from 44 states and 9 countries. Thayer is the only artist in the state of Wisconsin whose work was selected.

“Driving Rain” depicts Arrietta Walker Clauss of Madison, WI during the Mid-America Time Trial Series Finale in September 2010. Clauss holds the 2010 and 2011 USA Cycling National Time Trial championship titles for her age division. “To me, ‘Driving Rain’ represents complete and utter determination,” said Thayer. “In seeking to bridge the worlds of art and sport I focus on composition and on finding the emotional element where sport and the human experience overlap, and both were aligned within this image,” said Thayer.

Founded in 1959, NAMOS maintains one of the largest collections of fine art depicting sport in the United States. The museum is dedicated to encouraging artists engaged in the genre, and also to collect, preserve, and share the best examples of sport art NAMOS can acquire. “The founder of NAMOS, Germain G. Glidden, was a portrait artist and champion squash player,” said NAMOS Executive Director Elizabeth C. Varner. “Glidden believed that sport art is like the Olympics: it has the power to bring together people from all over the world in peace,” said Varner.

Over 40 sports are represented in the over 900 paintings, sculptures, and photographs at NAMOS. Artists whose works are included in the permanent collection include George Bellows, Ogden Pliessner, Winslow Homer, Ray Ellis, James Fiorentino, Joe Brown, and Alfred Boucher.

The museum’s first home was in Madison Square Garden in New York. It has been in Indianapolis since 1990, and will present events related to Indianapolis’ hosting of Superbowl XLVI on February 12, 2012.

The National Art Museum of Sport at 850 West Michigan Street, Indianapolis, IN is open free to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. For group tours and weekend hours call 317.274.3627 or e-mail; for more information see A free opening reception for the 2nd Annual International Fine Arts Competition will be held from 5-7 pm on Thursday, October 27, 2011. 



Sometimes you have to take a little break from capturing photos of super humans from a speeding scooter and take the opportunity to smell the roses.  Literally. Recently, while exploring a native wildflower garden maintained by our dear friend Brook S., Focal Flame photographer Clint Thayer did just that. In the process, he found a completely different sort of athlete.

The following photo essay shows the power of motion in the natural world - bringing the perspective of pollinators within our grasp, and often showing them at angles that are both unfamilar and irresistable. Enjoy!


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A selection of these images are available for purchase in print sizes ranging from 4x6 to 20x24 in the StoreCustom framing services are available for Madison customers.

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Of Bees and Babies

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Delayed gratification. That’s the name of the game in photography contests. Unlike sports competitions, where winners are known by the end of the event, in photography contests the outcome usually doesn’t happen until weeks later. Sometimes months later. And occasionally you forget that you even entered until a message arrives.

Which explains why we were scratching our heads recently at a thick package from Azuqueca de Henares, Spain, bearing a certificate reading “IX Concurso Internacional de Fotograf√≠a Ap√≠colaseleccionado entre las cien mejores fotograf√≠as del a√±o”. After awakening neurons that haven’t fired since high school Spanish class, we realized that the certificate was related to an apiculture photography contest that our friend, well-known Washington, D.C. urban beekeeper and self-proclaimed Bee-Vangelist Toni Burnham, had encouraged Clint Thayer to enter in April 2009.

The annual contest is held by the Town Council of Azuqueca de Henares to raise awareness of its environmental and sustainable development initiatives. At Burnham's urging, Clint photographed a beehive. Not just any hive, though. The Hive. Likely the only beehive with its own security detail, it was established in March 2009 on the lawn of the White House, tended by White House carpenter and amateur beekeeper Charlie Brandt. "The White House Beehive rocked the beekeeping world," said Burnham. "Charlie...fielded questions and was featured in beekeeping publications across the US, Australia, Germany, and many other countries."

The photo was not exactly an easy shot. “Finding the hive, to be honest, was a challenge. I didn’t know beforehand exactly where it was on the grounds,” said Clint. “I walked around the South side of the White House to find the right angle that would put the beehive at an angle that would also show off the White House itself. I remember struggling with a specific tree that was in the way. And then once I found the angle, it was about whether I had the right equipment – lenses and the like – on hand to do the photo justice.”

Whether shooting a sporting event or a beehive, the simple fact is that if you wait for the “perfect” moment, it may never come. Clint only had a few seconds to shoot when  - for some unknown reason – security officers came through and insisted that the throngs of tourists disperse. (D.C. residents assured us that this is a regular occurrence.)

When asked about the significance of the photograph to the beekeeping community, Burnham described her volunteer experience with Brandt  during Bring Your Child to Work Day on April 22, 2010. Brandt, Burnham, and two teenaged beekeepers presented the hive to over 200 children of White House staff members. "I often believe that the experience of being ignored by several thousand honeybees is one of the most transformative for people unfamiliar with beekeeping.  But for most people, the experience has to be transmitted via photographs -- there just aren't that many opportunities for direct experience," Burnham said.

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Clint's photograph showing the sunlit hive surrounded by magnolias with the White House as backdrop helped others share that experience, and was chosen as one of the top one hundred out of 746 contest entries.

Not long after, Clint found out that another photo he entered in an online contest had earned recognition. When he first mentioned he was planning to enter the Adorama iPhone Photo Contest, I was a bit dubious given the popularity of the contest - and at that point there were only a few hundred entries. By the time the contest closed, a total of 12,870 photos had been submitted – all taken with an iPhone.

Cell phone photography has actually become a genre in itself, believe it or not. The New York Times ran a post in its “Lens” blog on cell phone photographer Shawn Rocco, who shoots with a Motorola E815. Other photographers entering the field include Chase Jarvis, Allison V. Smith, and Robert Clark. In his book "The Best Camera is the One That's With You", Jarvis challenges mobile phone owners everywhere to shed their inhibitions and start unleashing their creative side. Thousands of photographers did just that in response to the Adorama contest. “In general, I’m happy that they had the contest. I think it equalizes the issue of gear versus composition, equipment versus photographic technique,” Clint said.

And a good thing it was that he ignored my skepticism, as "Mother and Daughter" was selected as one of about 320 winners. “I think what I learned from entering that contest is that there’s a third component: it’s about taking a risk. It’s about entering something that you don’t think you’re going to win,” he said.

“Photography is about composition, it’s about gear, but it’s also about taking that leap – doing something you don’t think you can do.”

Which is, most decidedly, a concept that resonates with athletes and photographers alike.

Do you capture artistic photos on your cell phone? Tell us about it in the comments - and if you are not already a fan of the Focal Flame Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter, join in the fun!