This is about an image I captured in late fall but more so about the insight it gave me as to what we photographers do. First, the image plus some others from the site, and then the “message” is below.
I had been driving hither and yon on back roads of Salem County, enjoying being in the country and looking for photo opportunities. I whizzed past this small lake and realized I had passed a dramatic scene. What I had seen so briefly was the horizontal line of the tree tops, the leafless branches, and, most important, the shimmery reflection. Stop and turn around? Yes.
I captured it as I had seen it in my whiz-by. The scene filled the frame nicely so no cropping was needed. Back home and post-processing, I liked it still more in black-and-white. In retrospect, however, I wished that I had over-exposed it in order to achieve a so-called high-key effect. Well, as Golde said about the village, Anatevka, in Fiddler on the Roof, “A little bit of this, a little bit of that…” and we have a different scene. Different, yes, but still made dramatic by the shimmery reflection.
I continued to graze the lakeside. With the soft cloud cover it was all enchanting.
Here we have some color and just the day’s light, nothing fancy. But we have the gentle arch of the tree captured in a soft reflection. And, some punctuation marks from the last of fall color.
Here, the reflected branches seem to be scooping up some of the lake.
NOW, THE 200TH POST MESSAGE
As I drove away from the lake I had a sudden realization — an epiphany in that sense. It’s going to sound too simple but here’s what we do:
We sense a scene that moves us, and we seek to capture it.
That’s it? That’s all there is?
Yup, that’s it!
We sense a scene and we are driven to record it so as “to offer an expanded awareness of the beauty in the world around us.” (Parish Kohanim) Call it the artist’s eye.
And, though Kohanim speaks of beauty, the scene sensed could just as easily be an emotional street scene, or an event of life activity of some sort: think e.g. mud wrestling, shooting over your horse’s head while riding through the Pines, your cat in the sunlight, a spooky old asylum or prison, or a cemetery for dead trolley cars … Think also of Cartier-Bresson’s concept, “The decisive moment.” Regardless of image content it is a scene that captures our senses and we are compelled to capture it.
I cannot, however, pick up a pencil or brushes and paints and record such scenes. Instead, I snap a shutter. The choice of lens, the adjustments on the camera and the post-processing are my brushes and paint. But, they are just tools to help with what I bring to the world … the recognition of a scene that I feel should be captured. Or, as a related alternative we may have a vision which we then create and photograph for others to enjoy.
Since passing the lake that day I’ve been looking at a lot of my past work and that is consistently what I have done: reacted to a scene and then captured it. The post processing simply serves to further enhance my vision.
The beauty or drama or impact is in the scene.
Our art is in recognizing that.
Our skill is in composing for, and capturing, the scene such that we can reproduce it for others,
enhanced or not as befits our vision.
I’m very pleased to have this idea as the theme of my two hundredth post. In February I’ll complete seven years of this journal. It’s been a lot of fun!
Thanks for riding along. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.