photographer Lee Klopfer

the photographer and landscape architect

Lee Klopfer is a Santa Fe based photographer and landscape architect. He captured the gorgeous image of the home and rainbow on the Green Star Builders website banner and most of the images we used on this site for the 2014 Grand Green Award winning home.  His partner and Santa Fe Real Estate Broker Lori Lanier conceived the colorful and elegant staging for those photos.

1. How does your training in landscape architecture inform your photography?

LK: The training is in two aspects of visualization. One is visual creation of something that is not yet there. The other, taking what is existing and reducing it to the most visually pleasing, balanced piece of the whole. In Landscape Arch school they drill you on design principles – things like balance, proportion, perspective, emphasis, movement, pattern, repetition, rhythm, variety, harmony, unity.  Also, the elements of design like point, line, shape, form, space, color & texture. After a while I think you start seeing with these elements subconsciously. This translates to shooting pictures.

courtyard designed & photographed by Lee Klopfer

2. What is the best and worst advice you were ever given?

LK: “You can’t make a living with photography.” I’m not sure if it was the best or worst advice. Also, “if you can’t be good, be good at it.”

3. What is the craziest thing that happened outside of frame?

LK: Well, I used to shoot a lot of skiing. Had the chance to go out with five spectacular athletes in Vail’s back country. I loaded my pack with two bodies, big lenses and a ton of film (yes, this was long ago). Had a really great time and was able to capture some good images. However, with a heavy pack I decided to crank my bindings down…not so smart. The traverse out was nasty with cruddy snow, rocks, dirt, etc.. Being an ‘Old Man’, one of the young models offered to take my pack and of course I said yes. Wow, it felt good to get rid of that thing until I hooked my tip on a branch sticking out of the snow. So the outcome of a slow motion fall with bindings set for someone 220 plus pounds (I weigh about 160) was not pretty. I could hear and feel something rip. Fortunately, ski boots make good splints so I managed to ski out on one leg. We got out and caught a ride back to town… Next stop, the bar, where I proceeded to take my ski boot off and watch my foot triple in size and turn a nasty shade of purple with a big wad of tissue behind my knee. Apparently I tore my gastrocnemius (calf muscle), ouch. Lesson learned…. carry your own stuff. 

4. Excluding photographers, who inspires you in your work?

LK: People see things so differently. If you are open minded, you can be inspired by anyone. However, a few people come to mind…My partner; Lori Lanier has an amazing eye for aesthetics and perception for detail. She also lights a fire under my sometimes lazy butt to get out & shoot. She is indispensable with staging interiors to help make the shot clean, simple and elegant…My mom & dad have inspired me in opposite ways…Mom has naturally amazing taste, whether it be clothing, art, furnishings, gardening, cooking, etc. My dad had no taste but was an amazing technician as a mechanical engineer. Always tuned his own cars, fixed everything around the house and loved projects. Working with someone that practical has really helped me with technical aspects of work from camera gear to computers. Finally, my brother-in-law: Doug. I’ve never met anyone so passionate about learning anything and everything, he’s a sponge! From the super technical equipment on his boat to helping me sight my handgun so I can actually hit the target. He is constantly reading (no novels) and learning. It’s wonderful to observe someone with true curiosity and passion. And, I can’t forget my sister; Kathy…she makes me laugh.

5. What are your favorite new techie photo tools or tricks?

LK: I just upgraded my camera gear to Sony mirrorless, it’s awesome. I live in Photoshop & Lightroom and they are constantly adding new tricks. I’ve been a Mac guy since day one. I love the operating system. But, with a 42 megapixel camera, my ol’ Mac was too slow. So, my son Ian built a ripping fast PC for me and I attached a BenQ  photography monitor that shows 99% of Adobe RGB colors – amazing.

6. Favorite books?

LK: I could really bore you with this so, I’ll just name a few favorites

magazines: Landscape Architect magazine, Photoshop User & Lightroom, Photo District News, Mac World, Digital Photo Pro, Outdoor Photographer.

books: Landscape Architecture: Andrea Cochran: Landscapes, Gardens in Detail, Private Paradise L.A. Graphics Standards

Mountaineering/Adventure: No Picnic on Mt Kenya; Felice Benuzzi, Arabian Sands; Wilford Thesiger, The Six Mountain Travel Book; Eric Shipton. 

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage; Alfred Lansing, Annapurna; Maurice Herzog, In High Places: Douglas Haston

Anything by Peter Boardman, Chris Bonnington, Reinhold Messner, Joe Tasker

Photo/Computer: I’ll just give some authors: Scott Kelby, Chris Orwig, Jay Maisel, Bryan Peterson, Joe McNally, Gregory Heisler, Art Wolfe and one of my mentors, the late Galen Rowell.

Creativity: Amy Herman: Visual Intelligence, Rod Judkins: The Art of Creative Thinking, Steven Pressfield: The War of Art

Other:  Clinton Romesha: Red Platoon Anand Gopal: No Good Men Among The Living, Ryan Holiday: Ego is the Enemy, Jesse Itzler: Living with a Seal, and all John Krakauer’s & Sebastian Junger’s books.