Perhaps my favorite topic in this blog is simplicity - including only what's necessary in a photo. Simplicity is a hallmark of the great painter Edward Hopper, and the minimalist composers John Adams and Philip Glass. It's only nature that I like their works and that the visions and sounds influence my own photography. In looking over my collected works on my laptop, I came across this very simple image which looks like it could have been taken at the seashore or a desert sand dune. That simply ambiguity allows such a simple image to take on more inquiry. Or one might like it for its simply serenity. For the record, it was created at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico and is composed of sand, mountains (the thin band) and sky.
As a new resident of Tucson, I've tried to make an effort to visit a museum or art event each week. Today it was the Univ. of Arizona's Center for Creative Photography. I've been there several times over the years and am always awed by the experience. Today was no different as I viewed their new exhibit: "Longer Ways to Go - Photographs of The American Road." Up through November 24, it's a multi-faceted exhibit of photographs that inspire me to, once again, hit the road (most friends will tell you that just about anything will inspire me to get on the road and explore!). Photographers included in the exhibit include Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Kozo Miyoshi, Richard Misrach, and Garry Winogrand. If you are in or will be visited Tucson this summer or fall, it's well worth the stop.
My creative muse was on my shoulder today as I took in the exhibit. And inspired me to creative several images within and near the Center on the U of A campus. The first was within the Center itself. As I've written before, taking photos of other artwork is not worth much - but showing works within the larger context of their setting in a very precise may (parallel lines on the walls, for instance) can make for positive documentation and an interesting image in and of itself. The photos within the frame, while certainly not incidental, are nonetheless secondary to the overall graphic image.
Near the entrance to the center is an interesting sculptural piece that forms a covering over a small seating area outside of the School of Architecture building. Using it to frame the School of Music across the way, the geometry - curved and star-like - provides an interesting contrast to the more typical university building in the background.
The roof of the structure has both strong longitudinal and latitudinal lines and star-like bursts which I will likely come back to in future forays onto campus.
As I slowly made my way to the car, I noticed a single bicycle in a long row of bicycle racks. With the U not in session for another week (and being a Saturday as well), it wasn't too surprising to see few bikes. But image-wise, it created a wonderful opportunity to show both repetition and a break in the repetition, adding a layer of tension by asking a question: "Why is this one bike here on a Saturday afternoon during school break?"
Finally, I came across the back of another campus structure (the Richard Harvill Building). So often we view buildings and their beauty (or lack thereof) from their front. But other facades can be of interest as well, if viewed for their geometry for instance. Using the bike rack as the entree to the building and the otherwise bare foreground can create more of an interest in the background structure. As with sunsets, look the other way at buildings and see what inspires you.
I was looking at some photos today on another website when I noticed how a bright, white sky which I usually try to avoid like the plague seemed to draw me into the photo. As I was mulling over this, I recalled several images from one of my many trips to Ireland that I had earlier saved but never did anything with since the white, overcast, drizzly sky didn't do anything for me. So, I searched my Ireland collection and, sure enough, found those images. And, with a newfound interest, I made some simple adjustments and, using Lightroom's presets, choose the "Old Polar" color to achieve this image. And the "V" shape, one of many guidelines for photographs, really became prominent but not in a distracting way. It also helped that the signpost arrows pointed toward the white sky. Old Polar also worked well with the rainy saturation of this typical late-winter, early-spring day in Killarney, County Kerry. Fourteen years later, the image found it's calling.
When photographing at a festival or event, you never know when an image may just "appear" and you have only seconds to act. When I saw this woman and her umbrella while photographing at the Timket Eve processions in Lalibela, Ethiopia, I had an image in my head but only had time to take a "grab shot," knowing that I might be able to crop it in a manner that would fit my pre-visualization (to use an Ansel Adams term in a far more general way than he intended). This is the initial image - not great, right? But I knew that I could square crop the image and work with that.
So, when I had time to process and edit the photos from that wonderful journey, I went to work on this image.
In addition to cropping, I made other adjustments in Adobe Lightroom, especially to bring out more detail in the shadows. I'm pretty pleased with the result which was much as I had envisioned in when recording the image. Subsequently, I've experimented with other refinements to the photo. One of my favorite is this stark, high contrast, selenium-toned image that focuses on the graphic qualities of the image and actually brings more attention to her face than in the color versions. I happen to really like this version, even if it wasn't what I had pre-visualized. Give yourself time (and permission) to go beyond your original vision and see where the muse takes you.
When traveling, I'm often on the search for a meaningful experience and a meaningful image (not always at the same time or place). When visiting the spiritual/religious venues in the ancient Ethiopia town of Aksum, I noticed in the corner a woman at prayer before a lightly shrouded image of the Saint Mary the Virgin at, appropriately, the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion. Light was streaming through a nearby window and I could feel, even from a distance, a fervent prayer being offered. A sharply focused, intense photograph would not convey what I was envisioning and what the woman was likely experiencing. Thus I slowed the shutter speed down as I created this image reflecting this time and place. Serendipity? Perhaps. A gift, indeed.