The World is a Photo (and vice versa)

I imagine to many of you, it seems like I spend a little too much time analyzing photography. I mean, inside out, upside and down, haven’t you (you means me) got anything better to do?   

That is a fair question. Often I do not have anything better to do but the deep analyzing of subjects of all kinds began when I was likely about five. It has grown more intense with each of the many years that have passed since.  It is, who I am. Whatever is on the outside, I need to know what is on the inside, and why it is there.

Photographers who have some degree of success, have one thing in common.  They “see” things a little different than most folks. To them, photography is the world, and the world is in many ways, a photograph. One of the secrets to photography, or at least all successful photographers I have seen, is they don’t really separate photography from the world, they blend it.

Photography was created to reproduce the world as we see it, and do so as exactly as possible. Of course the problem with that is, rarely do any of us see the world the same way. That’s why photography is, or at least should be, personal. For every photographer, it is a subjective way to record the world. Our images contain both fact and opinion.

One of the secrets to creating compelling photography, is to look at the “real world”, such as the trees, the skies, the animals, the flowers, the people and the buildings, as if it is a photograph. I enjoy abstract photography and when I look with my eyes, with no camera to be found, I see abstracts everywhere.

The other half of the equation, is to see photographs as if they are the real world, which of course they truly are not.

When the line between the two becomes indiscernible, you are home. The fuzziness of that line, combined with the clarity of your vision, means uniqueness, and often  success.

So you might think that I chose today’s images to illustrate the point I made above?  Right???   Not at all.

Below is an eclectic group of images that I selected at random before I even thought about writing on today‘s subject. They have either not been shown for a long time, or have never been shown before. Some originated on film, and the rest as digital originals.

As most of you know I love creating images of sunrise/sunset.  I had worked this location called Cave Point before. Never however, during a winter’s sunrise. As I began my car journey in the middle of the night, I had visions (my vision of my reality becoming a photograph) dancing in my brain which upon arrival, matched that vision.

This old medium format film image has been published in calendars.  Reality and photography meet. The photo is no more or less reality, than reality is the photograph.

Sunrises/sunsets need not be a direct picture of the rising or setting sun. They also color the objects around them.

I had been to this Utah sandstone land arch before. I was on the wrong side to capture a sunrise colored arch, and time was running out. I settled for a splash of color in the opening of the arch. Sunrises/sunsets have a myriad of purposes.

I never previsualized  this photo as a reality, but I could see the reality as a photo.

My purpose for photographing this Lake Michigan sunrise was specifically to catch its reflections in this tidal pool. I looked at reality, and saw the image in my imagination. Then I made a photo.

The hours around sunrise/sunset create a beautiful scenario for straight forward landscapes. The rising/setting sun, colors the world around it. I dare say that this image is in and of itself, only a moderately interesting view of the Mexican desert from a small mountain.

The “pinkish” clouds and mountains, along with the spotlight gracing the cacti, give the image enough of a boost to share with others.

Yes, I was seeing scenes like this in my mind, only more spectacular, as I drove through the high desert.

I love contrast in photography.  Most photographers use contrast levels more judiciously than I do.

I also love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  What???? The contrast between the sweet and the salty. It seems as though most baked deserts usually have salt as an ingredient.  The salt seems to provide a contrast to the sugar, which then makes the sweetness seem even sweeter.  Even eating can be a matter of contrast.

My photography and my reality often coincided  when it came to high contrast winter imagery. Contrast levels are often off the charts in winter when the sun (at these latitudes) is so low in the sky, at all times of day.. My vision was often that of drama. In photography and in reality.

Light contrast can be powerful, but color contrasts can be glorious.

Visions of warm sandstone rock sandwiched against cool blue skies, danced through my brain as I rushed to make image after image on that morning in Arches N.P., Utah. Introduce a few white clouds into the scenario, and it helps the colors separate and pop.

A vision in my head, and a vision in my camera. Real life and real photography meet. We just need to know what to look for, and how technically to capture the vision.

Dramatic, contrasty light, can add as much to architecture as it does to nature.

My preferences when it came to photographing buildings, was either old, historic buildings, be they preserved or in ruins, or ultra modern. 

The American Indian ruins in New Mexico (first image), and the well preserved San Xavier Mission in Arizona, both came to life via early, contrasty light. Yes, these realities were already images in my mind. It was just a matter of mating each of these subjects to the light.

You can see with the first photo below that it was made with a wide angle lens, which was on my medium format film camera. That tale is told by the uneven polarization. Blue to white. That would have disqualified this image for publication use back when it was made. It did not however disqualify it from fine art use.

In this San Xavier image, the low angle of the sun in winter helped heap a whole lot of blue into the sky. The side angle of the sun also helped create shadows which add to the drama of the image. I love dramatic light with dramatic subjects. They make for dramatic images.

Okay Wayne, you’ve made a lot of images of Snapping Turtles. True. Most of my close-ups such as below, were made with a 500mm lens from a distance, or the images have been severe crops. This one was made with a 300mm and it is barely a crop. Notice that my depth of field is shallow enough that I absolutely needed to focus on the eyes. When in doubt, “the eyes have it” so to speak.

I eventually was even closer to this lovely lady. With snappers, I learned that they are rarely aggressive. I always made my images quietly and quickly, attempted not to attract the attention of other people, and left my subjects right where I found them.

We always owe it to wildlife subjects, to put them ahead of our photography.

This beauty, was exactly the reality I was looking for to translate into a photo. With subjects like this, crystal clear vision (not eyesight) is an asset. Simple is plenty, or better said, less is more.

To me, photography is just a tool to use to describe what I (or you) see in the real world, or a way to find in the real world, an image that matches my vision. Either way.

God Bless,
Wayne

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