I got back from my first ever trip to the east coast a few days ago! I already want to go back, but catching up on real life is important too. I’m not finished going through the photos yet, but this one stood out to me. I’ve always loved the fairy-tale richness of mosses, mushrooms, and small streams. They’re the backdrop for a thousand story lines, and at the same time a peaceful place where nothing needs to happen.
Mossy stream early in the morning in Fundy National Park.
f11, 6 seconds
Taken at Skookumchuck Narrows, BC.
300mm, f22, 1/8 of a second
In a lot of ways these photos could not be more different. The top one was taken at Beaverhill Lake, which at this point is a big marshy field in the prairies. The bottom was taken near the Saskatchewan Glacier in the mountains. The top was taken in spring, the bottom one in fall. The top is macro, the bottom is a landscape.
But when I was developing the top one today, my mind immediately went to this bottom photo that I took four years ago. The tones of the images help to group them, but what really strikes me is the similarity of composition. Both are triangles with the base at the bottom of the photo. They both have interesting lines thrusting up at angles through the frame.
When I’m composing an image, I don’t often consciously think about what to call a composition or what photo it will be like. I’m usually trying to balance the elements in the frame once an interesting line catches my eye. After the fact, when I’m looking through my images though, I start to notice themes. In some ways I like this — consistency is good. But I also don’t want to overuse themes and become boring. It’s a constant struggle of evaluation, and I probably overthink it. But it’s something I’ve noticed and thought was kind of interesting.
On a warm idyllic autumn afternoon in a provincial park on the BC coast, I was exploring and taking photos, as I do. The warmth from the sun and the contrasting coolness of the forest was so peaceful. In photographic terms though (as is often the case in life), the details were a problem. There was really high-contrast harsh lighting and because it was pretty late fall, there were brown spots in a lot of the leaves. In this case I made that all go away to communicate a peaceful feeling. By using a wide aperture and purposely mis-focusing, I could communicate what I was actually feeling, instead of focusing on the exact details of the scene.
Below is what the shot would have been if I wanted things in focus – in this case a much worse photo.
An Ochre Sea Star and Anemones
When I was in BC I found tidepools pretty difficult to shoot. There’s such a variety of colors and textures that it’s easy for everything to look messy. The way I tend to deal with scenes like this is to get closer and crop out distracting elements until the subject is where I want it, and it stands out against whatever background I’ve chosen. Sometimes shallow depth of field can help too, although this was occasionally tricky to use because as soon as I wasn’t shooting straight down I had to deal with reflections on the surface of the water as well.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been looking at photos for so long, but I tend to prefer abstracted photos. They often keep my attention longer.
They add another layer to the meaning of the photo. It’s no longer just the subject, but the subject being affected by or interacting with something. Abstracting can change a normal scene into lines and shapes and colors that interact in a way we wouldn’t normally expect. It takes an expected scene and turns it into a beautiful little mystery.
This is a ochre sea star and an anemone on Vancouver Island. The tide was coming in, and every once in a while a wave would make its way into this tidepool and disturb the water. It caught my eye, and I like the version with ripples a lot more than the one taken with placid water.
I just switched out all the prints at Tix on the Square, and updated a wall at Fresh Cafe, so if you’d like you can go take a look!
Just finished teaching another “Mastering Your SLR” class yesterday and it went great! I’m always nervous leading up to a class, love the teaching it as it’s happening, and completely crash, drained of all energy, afterwards. After a four hour nap right after class, a huge supper, and then a full night’s sleep I’m pretty much back to normal. I’m sure most of the students are pretty drained too – it’s a full day of working your brain pretty hard. But students of all levels are leaving the class pretty excited about the new-found abilities and choices they have when creating their photos. It’s fun to see their process of discovery, and it inspires me too.
Now for the composition class on Wednesday (there’s still space!), and then I get a little break from teaching until we set up the next classes in a month or so.
The photo is from Blackfoot Lake Rec Area this past fall.
14mm, f4, 1/80 of a second
150mm, f2.8, 1/640 of a second
There are so many different things to learn and ways to expand photography, art, and paths of thought. My photos tend to be visual and design oriented. I recently started creating some videos and that’s been pushing me to think about story or narrative. This is an area which I think could improve my photography as well.
I received “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell as a Christmas gift, and have started reading it. It’s a really interesting mix of fairly dense academic writing, ridiculous un-academic assertions, and inspiring observations about human experience. I’m not very far in yet, and I’ll update with further observations, but it does prompt me to think differently about art. And I love that.
This feeling is predictable and it has very little to do with photography. It goes on: “I’ve already taken all my best shots. I might as well quit now. What’s the point of going out trying to get more photos? My photos aren’t that good anyway. And even if I do take good photos, why? Does anyone care? I’m not saving any lives, or improving anyone’s living conditions.”
In the morning light, my brain isn’t as critical as in the dead of night. I start developing some photos I missed from a trip last year, and I actually start to like them. I realize maybe I’m not horrible. But even on good days, the negatives linger in the back of my mind, waiting for their chance to work their way into my thoughts.
I think this is something a lot of people struggle with – regardless of their profession or hobby. Ignoring the negative thoughts sometimes works for a bit, just so I can be productive, but the problem is that they have an edge of truth. So then I have to take a step back, try to be objective, and decide whether I’m on the right track. Find the things that are good and true and believable.
I think adding to the beauty of the world is important, and I have the ability to do that. I might even be able to pique interest in the world around us. I think a sense of wonder and curiosity can make life immeasurably better. And even though this isn’t necessarily saving any lives, I think it adds to the net good of the world. And I’m satisfied with that.
A cedar forest in Pacific Rim National Park.
12mm, f4, 1/40 of a second