Friday, January 9, 2015

At Beaver Point on a misty winter's day: breaking through to understanding nature through photography.

Perhaps man will someday reconcile the greatness of his human creativity with the greatness of the wild that created it. If we can do this without diminishing either Man’s great works or nature's then we shall indeed walk in beauty for as long as the rivers shall run and the grass shall grow.
'Navaho Wildlands' ( a Sierra Club book) David Bower

  Some warm moist Hawaiian air has hit our coast in mid winter after several days of frost followed by torrential rains and the result is moisture of the misty variety. But, I wonder, perhaps somewhere in the flat grey vagueness of early morning I might find some useful source material for photography. Besides, I need a walk along the waterfront and on our beautiful island there is never a lack of subject matter. The question in my mind is, can I find something more that the usual 'foggy' imagery: I am still pushing myself to find the original possibilities that must be there if only I can float myself into the right mind space.

And that is the real challenge, not the subject matter, but the twist of mind that will open my eyes and so permit a leap into new visual territory. At the heart of all things is observation: the challenge for all artists is Seeing, much more than is knowledge or smart fingers and technical expertise. We can all produce that which has already been tagged and framed before for us by others, but today I am trying to avoid standard foggy pictures, and skin my eyes and open my inner gates. I will need to take a risk and fall forward into a new place. And now after doing that in paint for the past week, airbrushing for the first time and working on large non-standard imagery, might be a good time to step back into photography and see what I might find on this boundary of land and sea displayed now in vague and interesting uncertainty.

Click, here is my first image as I step out into the parking lot and I notice that the powerlines are in this photo, not carefully avoided to create a 'old and charming' historical image as I might have been lead to do previously. Still, I have framed and organized carefully as though I am not ready to leave composition behind just yet.

And next the pot hole in the road, usually beneath my interest but today I shoot it to break my usual photo habits.

There is a cold wet wind blowing beside the ocean and I wipe my lens and the tuck the camera inside my coat. “Open”! , I am willing myself to both sharpen up and relax, to let the place speak for itself and yet be ready to provide a translation in two dimensional picture form. Between the dark trees, beyond the salal, a cedar drapes across the water and I almost walked past it, headed for the familiar point ahead. I stop, wade through the bushes and See what is on offer: such a small and insignificant thing really, part of the background of my thoughts, but today I will take this image and let it jostle for a place among the standard fare. The guidance from my censor that provides me with the usual compositional  check right up front is this morning being told to go take a hike.

At the first point of land I can peer into the blowing mist at the distant shore and islands, but how to photograph this? I walk back and forth, sort through my usual set of compositional possibilities and in the end choose to place a piece of rock in the foreground that repeats the line of the coast. Despite all my good intentions I have taken a 'composed' image and in the process been reminded that composition has an important part to play; if I wish to permit the landscape to speak clearly, even on this foggy day, I need to provide the supporting framework – the repeating motif expresses the scene better than would a straight shot of distant shoreline.

A set of glacial erratic granite boulders nestle amid the vegetation on Beaver Point. I have photographed these before, but today the flat light provides a new way of understanding them. I take several images and am pleased at last. Yes they are composed, but differently somehow as though I was letting them speak, to show their individuality.

Drift logs along the sandstone shoreline gleam in this light, the colours richer, the shapes distinctive, Not the greys of weathered wood I see in summer sunshine, but now full of colour on the dark shoreline, their skins ground down to new wood by winter storms. It is OK to simply take a portrait of a log without needing to impress some viewer, especially my inner censor who often seems overly concerned with how things might appeal to others.

A sea lion splashes off the point, a lone raven croaks as he flies up and away from something in the undergrowth; I watch and listen - these are the sounds, along with the suck and surge of waves, that accompany the visual. I feel the damp cold chilling my hands and ears. I step through the runoff from the forest's depths that cascades onto the beach below. I need to pay attention and today, without others to walk and talk with and no grandchildren to watch out for, is my time of opportunity.

Ahead, the trail winds among boulders. I have walked here hundreds of times but never really seen these rocks. Now rock faces wave to me and beg for their images to be recorded. At last I feel in sync and taking photographs that seek to reveal, to express rather than impress. I feel in partnership with the natural world.

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