Lee Mandrell


I have been actively involved with photography and art for more than 35 years. When I’m not taking photos in the field or in my home studio, I am either learning some new technique in photography or Photoshop, drawing or painting, fishing, building a custom fishing rod, or bowling. I love reading books and watching tutorials in order to advance my skills in the areas that interest me. As I get older, the more I learn but I also realize that there is still so much more to learn. I will always be a student. My education is ongoing.

I am published with I.U. Press, Quarry Books, Mountain Press Publishing, Brown Trout Publishers, Tide-Mark Press, Shutterbug, Digital Photographer, Photoshop User, Sun Day Greetings, Luminous Landscape, Pro Nature Photographer, travel, destination and vacation guides as well as having photos hanging in restaurants, hospitals, nature centers, and various other outlets. Seven of my books are co-authored with my wife. I have an extensive library of stock images from around the mid-west which are availabe for publications or various decor. Feel free to contact me if you are in need of an image, a consultant for either photography or post processing, a speaker or a one on one workshop.

Art Biography

As early as I can remember, the ability to draw what I see has always came very naturally to me. My interest in art started at a very young age and began with pencils. I always had encouragement from family which during that time was the fuel needed to keep at it. After enrolling into grade school, my art interest was furthered by a wonderful teacher named Carol Bright. She guided me all through grade school and nurtured my artistic interests. It was here I learned about water color and washes, poster paints, pencils and pen and inks. It was an amazing time and I soaked up every bit of information she shared. I was awarded a third place ribbon in fourth grade in the 500 Festival of the Arts. This sealed my passion for art, drawing and painting. Mrs. Bright saw to it that I was placed into art classes when I entered high school as I had not elected to take any art courses. I really owe her one for making sure there was no lapse in my art education.

High school is where the real magic began for me. Three instructors of major influence were Kermit Swenson, Ray Browne and Wendel Price. I learned various techniques and valuable lessons from each of these educators, but the real reward has been becoming personal friends with Wendrel Price who would eventually take up the mantel of mentor as well as a life long art advisor. We are still good friends to this day. I placed twice in the 500 Festival of the Arts, second place each time. I had also won various other awards for different contests along the way. This helped to further solidify my passion for the craft. I was awarded two separate scholarships for two years to take college art classes at Herron School of Art as an A.P. student while I was in high school. It was here that watercolor became my medium of choice for quite some time. My senior year I was chosen as the recipient of the Arsenal Technical High School Elizabeth Jasper Art Award. This is awarded to one senior each year for outstanding performance and is determined by judges after an exhibition of multiple entrants works of art. I then graduated with a vocational degree in Commercial Art/Sign Painting.

After high school I took some continuing education classes locally. I was also fortunate enough to work for a time for someone that also was an artist who was much further along in his development, and willing to share his knowledge. It was at this point I became interested in oils. I painted with oils until I eventually became frustrated with what I viewed as a limitation of the medium where fine details were concerned. The time had come to learn and take up acrylics. This was the level of detail I had been searching for and I have never looked back. I have purchased many tutorials over the years in order to further my skills and on going education.

The creative process, not just in art, is a driving force in my life. It's wired into me and always with me at all times. It's simply who and what I am. I have to be creating or making something often, no matter what it is.

Photography Style

My style, even though it’s digital today, has its roots firmly planted in darkroom techniques based on my many years as a custom darkroom printer, almost a lifetime in fact. I find the “wet lab” techniques are still my favorite look and I "mostly" process my digital photos based on darkroom methods as much as I can. I prefer photos that don't look over worked, over saturated etc., but rather have an overall nice contrast and color balance to them. In the days of film, contrast used to be selected by the type of film you shot then paired to the grade of paper you printed on. This was done no matter the type of film you used. Then time was spent burning and dodging, even burning and dodging with filters when needed when you made a custom print. I personally still like this look to this day. I also believe my art training and background helps to bring out the depth in my photos, defining shapes, contour, lighting, nuances, etc. I feel It gives my photos a subtle depth and character that many people pick up but can’t quite put their finger on, but they know it's there. My art style and techniques are also evident in my processing, it’s just a different medium today is all.

Photography Biography

Photography, for me at least, started out as a hobby that quickly ignited into a fiery passion, then into a lifelong career. I am strictly self taught in that I have had to figure things out for myself until much, much later in life. I had no one to show me how or to ask advice of in my photography beginnings. I have taken photo’s with many different kinds of cameras through the years, some being as basic as you can imagine, while others have been quite sophisticated. I joined the school newspaper and yearbook my freshman year. There I worked as a staff photographer as well as a black and white darkroom technician and stuck with it all four years. The photo training there was about as informal as it gets, and on a Yashica Twin Lens at that! I was simply handed a twin lens camera, a hand held meter and told to go take photos without any further instruction other than how to load the camera. I learned from trial and error, lots of errors, and soon realized that there is no better way to learn, hence being truly self taught. My darkroom training here was pretty much the same. That same year I bought a second hand Minolta Hi Matic E 35mm range finder. I was headed to Canada for the first time and felt I needed to create paper memories of the trip. I was quickly hooked and couldn't get enough! The next year my parents bought me the first 35mm SLR I would use for the remainder of my teenage years. The year after that I got my first job and bought my first darkroom from that same employer. Looking back, I realize now that this had to be more than a coincidence. Little did I know that I was only beginning into a passionate lifelong love affair with all things photography, and there would be no turning back. It really is a creative outlet for me, a passion, and a way of life. It’s mostly the only work life I have ever known, as I have done little else outside of this field.

At some time or another, I have owned and shot with every film format up to 8x10, and let me tell you, lugging around an 8x10 is either crazy or dedicated. I’m pretty sure I prefer to be labeled dedicated. However, each camera I have owned and the many different formats I have shot have all taught me various technical lessons about photography. I feel I have taken my love of photography a bit further than most others. I went the extra mile by building and shooting my very own 4x5 field camera, which I named the Leman’s View. This camera is a woodworking masterpiece in its own right, and even has a rotating back. I can’t articulate what it is like to take great photos, let alone great photos with a camera you made with your own hands! Simply amazing! It’s a chance to get inside of a camera, design and build it from the ground up just to see what makes it tick. It translates into a much better understanding of what’s going on inside and a greater appreciation of cameras and photography in general. Many of the images on this web site were taken with this camera.

I spent two years at IUPUI Herron School of Art getting accredited in watercolor while still in high school (AP). I did this on a full scholarship granted from the Arsenal Technical High School Art Department. However, I never pursued a career in art after school. I simply do not like to sell my original paintings, and I have almost every one I have ever done to this day. So, my early career was in sign shops which for me personally was unfulfilling and lackluster to say the least. Soon after, within 3 or 4 years, I decided to change direction and pursue a career I was quite a bit more passionate about and what I felt was more in alignment with my life’s purpose. It was an easy choice once I realized photography was my own personal passion that couldn’t be contained. It is certainly more fulfilling. I took a risk and made the leap into a Kodak and Fuji certified commercial pro photo lab. Since then, I have worked in a certified commercial pro photo lab almost my entire working life, and still do. Now that things are digital, my job description has changed a bit from darkroom technician to graphic designer simply because it's the closest job description that fits... albeit a bit inaccurate in my mind.

I spent many years as a custom darkroom technician and was quickly promoted to production manager due to my attention to detail, quality, and perfection. Even though I became the manager, I still worked in the darkrooms alongside other top notch printers, I enjoyed it that much. I’m a digital image manager to this day, overseeing hundreds of images and files per week in my day job. In this role, I have used Photoshop since its' initial release as it quickly became a job requirement, and in the early days of digital some retouching software only select people have even heard of. I became an expert in hand printing, film development, and even Photoshop over the last 25 years. I have worked on Durst, Beseler, HK, Ilford, and Chromega enlargers to name a few. I have spent many years developing all types of films, printing everything from B/W, RA-4, Type R, Cibachrome, photo paper and even inks on about every type of substrate that exists. At one time or another, I have printed on almost every kind of printing device that exists. I did copy work professionally for years, shot in the studio using a Sinar 4x5 camera, then onto a Dicomed and Phase One 4x5 digital back when they first became available. I have done copy trans, dupes, pin registration, and even drum scanning on an ICG scanner, etc. Needless to say, I have been around the block in the world of photography.

This career has allowed me to be on both sides of the camera pretty much non stop and allowed me to personally know many of the local professionals while also allowing me to talk with them one on one for years. This insight has been invaluable to me and has also allowed me to see first hand how different pros handle different lighting and different photographic situations. My many years of shooting coupled with my years as a professional darkroom printer, (more than 25 years professionally), gives me a very broad understanding of both sides of the camera and photography business. My personal feeling is this has given me a unique perspective into how I think a shot, my shots, should be taken. I understand what works and what doesn't in print, how certain colors will reproduce and the realistic expectations and limitations of a given printing device and substrate. Therefore, I feel I have a broader understanding of how I want to compose and shoot my photos because I know what works best for final printing.

I understand and see color very well and have even attended classes on G7 color methods and color management taught by none other than Don Hutchinson. I served as a technical adviser / consultant to the Indianapolis Career Education Center on a volunteer basis for many years, and was their keynote speaker twice. Currently, I travel around the mid-west, looking for exciting landscape images to capture, sometimes creating excitement from the blah or mundane. When I’m not doing that, I’m looking for things to shoot in my home studio. I have photographed many different types and styles of photography over the years, but landscape photography will always be my first photo love with studio work being a very close second. You can see my work published in books, calendars, magazines, destination guides, greeting cards, hanging in restaurants, hospitals, nature centers, and many other outlets as well. It has been a very fulfilling career to say the least, and it isn't even close to being over!

My Landscape Gear

As you look through the gear list of equipment that I use for landscape photography, one thing you might notice right away is the lack of new equipment. I find all too often that people I know and meet are swept up in having the newest gear on the market, or seem to be looking for that magical camera that can take great shots with little more required on their part than pushing a button. As good as cameras and software have become, we still need to know how to use them and process our images. We are also influenced by other photographers and the gear that they use, especially when they rave about what gear they used to get their shots. I look past new gear on purpose because it’s very important to understand that gear is only a part of making great images. I feel my gear is of high quality and still fits my needs to this day, and with this gear I have no problem making top notch images despite it not being the newest thing on the market. It’s also a huge money saver as well and I always look for used equipment and deals when I decide I might need to have something. I’m a firm believer that the newest gear isn’t a necessity, but rather learning to use the gear you have and how to process your images correctly is what is essential to making quality photos. I’m convinced this is the secret ingredient people are looking for…

Thank you for visiting my website. Send me an email so that I know you were here. I love to talk photography, Photoshop techniques, art, fishing, rod making, and bowling. :)

*All images within this photo collection are the exclusive property of Lee Mandrell / Leman's Studios and are protected and registered under the United States and International Copyright laws. The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without prior written permission. Use of any image as the basis for another photographic concept or illustration (digital, artist rendering or alike) is a violation of the United States and International Copyright laws. All images are copyrighted © Lee Mandrell / Leman's Studios.

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