Visual Acuity

I used my own images for today’s post because I cannot know what other
photographers were thinking when they made their pictures. In fact, I
cannot say with certainly what I was thinking when I created some of
the images below. I can however, at least tell you what they mean to
me now. I also chose my own pictures because the “vision” we employ
when we click the shutter, is one part technical, but it is also one
part personal.

Make it personal.

I certainly could have chosen images that are more spectacular or more
perfect. You know, those “killer shots” that we all have.  This
article is not about bragging or receiving applause, it is about what
each of us “brings to game“, as individuals.

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
Helen Keller

White Sands New Mexico, is a place that is almost an abstraction of
reality. Even for photographers who are simply trying to create a nice
landscape. Those white gypsum sands and the patterns within,  play
with the light and mess with your inner vision, and do so in a good

This first image is about nothing more than form and light. To have
form and light, there must be shadows.
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There is no place so special, that it doesn’t pay to look down.

There are always “visitors in the night”, no matter where you are.
This one at White Sands, clearly paid its visit the night before.

Vision, isn’t just about some sort of artistic vision. It is about
seeing the story that any location has to share with us.
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Photography as a metaphor is not a new idea. I think most of the
symbolic images I ever made were accidental. On other words, I
discovered the metaphoric possibilities after I got home.

In the case of the picture below however, I meant exactly what I am
telling you now, at the time I clicked the shutter. A conceptual photo
from its birth.

Old and craggy, but strong and unyielding. Bent but not broken.
Neither the wind or the waves or daily life can break it.
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Not much of a subject. Just some old grasses.

I was drawn to the contrast (something I have written about
repeatedly) between the warm grass (and light) the chilling frost, and
the blue sky. The sky is well, the sky. The grasses bend into
naturally artful designs that almost mimic the modern architectural
sculptures of man. Yet they are natural. Another contrast.
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If you have read my writings on photography before, you likely are
familiar with the fact that I find contrast to be a important
ingredient in a lot of photography. Contrast is an ingredient in much
of life.

Likes repel, and opposites attract. That’s because within their
contrasting personalities, they compliment each other.

If you are someone who has never cooked or baked much, and then took
lessons to learn, you might be surprised how often salt is used in
deserts. Concurrently, you may be surprised how often sugar or syrup
or honey, is used in non-desert dishes. Even with meats. They contrast
with each other, but they complement each other as well.

I eat a very simple lunch every day. A banana, and a small peanut
butter and jelly sandwich. It is the sweet and salty contrast in the sandwich that
provides the compliment which makes the combination a longtime
favorite of millions.

Photography with its contrasts of light and dark, and cool and warm,
works much the same way.

Next we have an old board, cut and planed to smoothness by man, but
created by God. Another contrast.

Some minor sidelight helped to bring out a little texture.
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Custer State park in South Dakota is a great wildlife location. It is
also quite pretty,  but this rock form seemingly growing right out of
the water, kept drawing me closer. I finally gave in.

Sometimes that stubborn little person inside needs to be listened to.

This hawk may have been “lightening its load” before take off, or
maybe it was just telling me what it thought of me.

Either way, it’s a story that I decided to tell. We cannot visually
share the stories we find, unless we first see them.

Sometimes birds cease to be the flying/swimming machines we pursue
with cameras. Everything needs rest. Oft times, when birds rest they
create a different sort of art for photographers.

Other times, they prefer to show us their comical “Abbot & Costello” side.
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Clearly the most popular kind of autumn image for photographers is the
grand landscape. I have lovingly made many. Over the past ten years I
have seen an  increase of macro imagery of individual fall leaves. I
began doing that in the 1970s and I have spent hours devoting myself
to that joyful task. With all that said, my personal favorite way to
“see” and photograph autumn, is taking small sections of color and
contrast, and composing what I find, including the tree trunks and

To me, many of my autumn images have ceased to be trees, trunks,
branches and leaves. They become patterns to compose much like an
orchestra conductor would compose a symphony.

Humans write musical symphonys, and God creates the visual ones.
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Okay, so a little ice formed on the lake last night (well, not last
night). Then a few flakes of snow.  The question is, what made that
hole in the ice?  Not a human fisherman. Maybe something a bit more

There is a story behind everything we find. Tell the stories or share
the art. That is what makes photography so much fun.

Take note, this simple image has still been composed. The comp is
mine, what would you have done?
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“You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
Mark Twain

For all of you here in the United States of America, I hope you had
fine Independence Day yesterday. Let us all remember the liberty
filled, democracy driven, people over government purpose, for which it
was created, and for which so many have given their lives to preserve.

Every day of life, no matter what happens, no matter how bleak the
world or your life personally seems to be, give thanks to the Lord for
another day.  You will be shocked at how quickly those reasons to give
thanks will become apparent. They will have been there all along.

God Bless,

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