When we were sailing through the Pacific it was an exciting moment when a new island appeared on the horizon after many days at sea. First the highest peak, then the bare or forested slopes and finally the flash of surf on the encircling coral reef. As we followed the reef`s edge to find the pass that would allow us safely into the lagoon we feasted our eyes on this new landfall. We never thought to say that this really was not perfect; that the mountain should be higher, the lagoon greener and that the palms on the little islands at the pass entrance could be taller or more neatly arranged. No such judgements as we stared with hungry eyes on LAND! One simply viewed natural reality and accepted it as it was.
When we look at a photograph of ‘reality’, do we use the same criteria or do we apply a series of filters, - expectations and judgements -, that stop us from really seeing it as it is? For example in the first photo of trees one could simply accept nature`s placement and concentrate on seeing it as we viewed the islands, or we could place some screens of judgement before it and by doing that miss seeing its reality at all. The trees are too evenly spaced, we might say, or it is much too dark, or apply whatever theory of composition we espouse. The second image of a lone tree and power lines is definitely stripped down to some bare essentials and a lot hinges on very little. Perhaps one might find problems with the exact placement of the elements, (“That tree should be definitely at the ‘thirds’ position”) One might miss the tension between lines and tree and cry out that powerlines are so ugly and miss the contrast that I saw when I looked up at that moment. Of course, they are a reminder of our power, our rigid grasp on the natural world, and isn`t the tree more noticeable, more fragile and more beautiful as a result?
The reality is that both nature and photos exist within their own particular set of relationships and we must see them as unique with their own individual standards. They are as they are and our efforts should go towards trying to see and understand them as clearly as possible. Our limited understanding is restricted even more by standards and judgements. That island we see with eager eyes, no judgements please, just get us through that pass and safely into the heart of this place.