A Fresh Perspective
Photography is more than just a vehicle for capturing the world around me; it provides me with a palette and a set of brushes, with which I paint not only what I see, but also look to express the emotions that are evoked by the scene in front of me in that moment.
Growing up in the Netherlands exposed me to a wide cross-section of visual arts that laid the foundation of my photographic view of all that surrounds me. Early influences were the Dutch Masters of the 17th century, to whom I was introduced by my grandfather during museum explorations; favorites among them are the scenes of quotidian life depicted by Jan Steen and Frans Hals and the vivid landscapes of Jacob van Ruisdael.
My classical high school education was supplemented by the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum, where I spent many a lunch hour exploring its great collection. Here I was introduced to surrealism with a particular love for the approach taken by Salvador Dali; Dali also rekindled my appreciation for the work of Hieronymus Bosch, who often showed the folly of us mortals.
My approach to any photographic subject is to look for understanding first; in this I look to establish either a connection between the viewer and the subject or capture the connection of the subject with its surroundings. The captured image then aims to portray this connection from a perspective that is part of my personal interpretation.
This interpretation is often a form of externalized introspection, which may alternately display the connection of isolated beings and items with their environment or highlight the whimsy of the profound world, in which we find ourselves. The universe is full of connections, many of which are waiting to be discovered; part of my journey as a photographer is to document these connections.
Any assignment, be it an event, a product shoot or a portrait session is always approached through communication with the client; this is where the first connection is established. Ideas are exchanged and a collaborative plan of action forms, ultimately resulting in a set of images that aim to exceed the expectations of each client.
And, lest we forget, it is important to have fun while practicing the serious business of photography!
This week, I am going back to one of my many agility photos and am picking one of my favorite obstacles to photograph, the A-frame.
This image was taken in October, 2010, at the Cape Cod Kennel Club AKC agility trial in Falmouth, Massachusetts. It was a beautiful day with great light and a pretty good breeze, so the dogs were ready to run!
Clearly, this pug had a good head of steam, when cresting the A-frame, which, for this jump height, stands at 5’0″ (apps. 1.52 m). For a small dog, that is quite a height; if we’d scale this for the average human, it would be 4-5 times as high! Luckily, these dogs are well-trained and quite used to it, but it is still a feat of courage for them to fly over this A-frame at speed.
Out of curiosity, have any of you run your dogs in agility or other competitions?
Dear Reader, begging your indulgence, I’d like to share with you that I have been nominated for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award! As a small repayment for your indulgence, I promise that this is the last reward that I am posting. As much as I enjoy receiving awards, I want to make sure that my blog stays on point, as much as possible, which means that I want to focus its content on you, my much appreciated Readers!
First of all, a great big thank you to Sherri, aka MysticalWriter, who thought me deserving of this award. I have been following Sherri’s blog for quite a while and love her take on the universe and, particularly, her posts on crystals and minerals, which are extermely informative. So go check her out at MysticalWriter.
Here’s the rules for this award, should you want to accept it:
1. Display the award on your blog. 2. Announce your win with a post and link back to the nominator. 3. Present 6 deserving bloggers with the award. 4. Link your awardees in the post. 5. Write 7 interesting things about you.
What could be 7 interesting facts about me? It’s a little tricky; after all, what I might find interesting, might be mundane to you… However, here’s an attempt:
While I was still in elementary school, I learned to speak basic English from kids in a British family, who lived in a windmill close to where I lived in the Netherlands.
I learned to read basic hieroglyphics, so that I could understand some of the writing on Egyptian artifacts that I saw in museums.
My high school was closed to an excellent museum in Rotterdam, so I often spent lunch time looking at Dali and Bosch paintings.
I have walked with a wolf, who accepted me enough to even lean into my leg and let me photograph her at eye level.
I find moose amazing animals, who posses untapped grace.
I have caught fish by walking through gullies in a part of the sea that falls dry at low tide, and feeling the fish wiggle underfoot.
I didn’t see my first computer until I went to college.
“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing–and keeping the unknown always beyond you.”
– Georgia O’Keeffe
Bringing the unknown into the light, exploring what might lie hidden, changing our view of the world around us, these are all aspect of the Kryptomorphaics series.
Here, in Arbor Fugit, I explore the energies that are stored in this powerful weeping willow, its ability to filter and re-radiate the light that it accepts from the Sun. One of the surprising aspects to me was the variety in color cast that came from this wondrous tree.
What do you sense in this image? Does it call out certain things?
This week, we are travelling a bit to the north to touch the arctic circle. Last year, I had the pleasure to spend 4 days in Iceland, which were not nearly enough to take in its beauty, but gave me a taste for more.
For 3 of the 4 days, I stayed in Akureyri, which is on the northern coast of Iceland; it is the second largest population center in Iceland with around 18,000 people. Through AirBnB, I had found a lovely farm where I had a room overlooking a fjord, and wonderful hosts.
I did my exploring in the area around Akureyri and found some amazing sights, such as the Mývatn area, where I found this rather surreal landscape. Lesser known than the Blue Lagoon in southern Iceland, Lake Mývatn is also the beneficiary of a geothermal plant. The light blue hue is due to the rich mineral content of the silica sediment that settles on the bottom; think lots of sulphur!
Over the pass couple of weeks I have covered concepts and techniques, and I promised to do a bit of a deeper dive into what lies beneath the surface of the process of capturing these images.
In terms of photographic technique, the ideas are rather simple and mastered relatively quickly. Most of my personal photography projects tend not to last very long, as quickly I start looking for novel ways to capture and present material; at such a time, I usually put the project aside for at least a year or so, waiting for it to feel fresh again when I go for the next image in a series. This project has been different, in that I have been shooting in this genre for more than 4 years thus far, and it has not felt stale to me yet. As this surprised me somewhat, I started looking into the how and why this project is different.
There are several elements that I uncovered, which make the Kryptomorphaics project different from prior efforts:
I am certain that there are other elements that I may uncover, as I push forward in this project, but these appear to be the drivers at this time.
Discovery – photography is a journey of discovery for just about all of us, who have picked up a camera and started shooting in earnest. This project has afforded me continual discovery through opening up all senses and taking input from all of them in the process of capturing content that is not just visible to the eye. This deeper sense of uncovering this cryptic that lies hidden within the world around us has opened my mind’s eye to further explore these scenes in new directions. These include examination of the scene not only in its current juncture within the space-time continuum, but also past and future lines that may be occupied by the players on stage within the scene. This has opened up some connections that I had hitherto not observed, some of which demonstrate how universal forces flow through the quotidian.
Emotional Connectivity – as I deepened my exploration, part of which included opening up all senses to the environment in which I found myself, I started noticing a sense of emotional connection to what I found within the scene. In a manner, which can be likened to meditation, a more complete sense of the image, as it should be captured, is refined by opening up the senses to subtle emotional triggers. It can be described as opening oneself up to a feeling washing over the entire being and letting that guide the decision making process for how to capture the image. This feeling is more pronounced for certain images that others.
Re-Examination – upon capturing an image, the next thing I do is a taking stock of how it felt to capture the image. I take sensory stock of the image rather than examining it visually (I am not a big fan of chimping, but one could say that this is a sort of sensory chimping). Without looking at the image, I will then make a decision to either shoot the scene with some adjustment, which can be slight or radical, or if it feels just right, I then walk away from it.
I find that the success of the process depends more on my ability to quiet all my senses and open myself up to my surroundings; this is where the simile with mediation extends, as I will use meditation techniques to improve my feel for the environment. In this process, I do not over-analyze how I might be able to capture the feeling that lies before my lens; a couple of rough guesstimates guide my camera settings adjustments, as I let intuition be my guide.
This wraps up this 3-part series on abstract photography, but, fear not! From time to time, I will feature an image from my Kryptomorphaics collection to discuss it in more detail.
I sincerely hope you enjoyed this introduction and look forward to hearing what other topics might interest you.
During the same day that I captured the images in yesterday’s post, Another shot of cold, I grabbed the opportunity to catch these leaves backlit by the sun.
I had just finished shooting some shoreline details and was walking back along the water’s edge to climb up the embankment and trudge through the snow. The clouds were beginning to look more interesting, which caused me to look up and notice the small cluster of leaves still attached in this hard winter.
Positioning the leaves in front of the sun gave me exactly the look that spoke to me, with a bit of drama in the clouds and the structure of tree from above. The way it is presented here is without any touchup in postprocessing, as I like the little bit of warmth that flows forth in this mostly black&white image.
I captured this with a Canon EOS 5D MkIII using an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II. The settings I used were a bit unusual, as I wanted a shallow depth of field, so I used f5.6 at 1/8000 second (probably the first time I’ve ever used that shutter speed).