Sunday, February 6, 2011
The raft adventures 1: Model making and photography.
I varnished the finished raft to keep it waterproof and got Heather to sew some simple sails and then, impatient to begin, placed it and its first two figures on a blue, crumpled-up sleeping bag to simulate the ocean and began to photograph it from all angles and in different lighting. Even in their raw, unmodified state the images I made on my new little Samsung T 70 were impressive. I now had a much more three dimensional craft to work with and more fully rounded characters to put into action. The moldable clay allowed the figures to be twisted and altered into a variety of poses. The raft was too large ( about 20 inches long) to cruise down the creek but the brimming pond afforded a large body of water and some interesting shorelines to explore. The next afternoon, with two more characters joining the crew, the raft set sail ( and it could really sail) on the calm and sometimes rippled surface of the pond. I began to photograph it.
Sure enough, as it sailed into the bull-rushes and I photographed it from above it did look like the model it was, but what interested me was that when it approached shore and I held the camera at water level, just as with the canoe series, the sense of smallness and model-ness receded. When I put a crew member in the bateau dinghy and she set out to tow a mooring line to shore the effect was increased. The little characters were no longer idle passengers but took on roles and reality. Close-up, they were still roughly hewn, but that did not matter, or more accurately it seemed just right. Model people on a model raft going about their real lives.
I also needed to continue to keep working creatively as I went along. The night sailing image started simply enough. By darkening and making the image monochrome I achieved the first stage of ‘night’ and by tooling in a phosphorescent wake I had the raft moving across the dark surface which reflected a starry heaven. But the image, while semi-accurate to ‘reality’, lacked any real punch. It needed something more and when I placed the imaginary oil lamp at the masthead and lit the cabin from within, I finally had something. The golden light spilled out of the window, through the cracks, and touched the deck and a mast just enough to give the effect I wanted. How often on night watch have I myself glanced down the companionway hatch to drink in that same warm glow from the reading lamps of the crew below and then raised my eyes again to the windswept, star-filled sky and the faint curve of the horizon we were sailing endlessly towards.