Monday, February 24, 2014

A great story

Jeff Carter, a photographer friend, took this photo while on a recent business trip to the San Francisco Bay Area. He set up in front of the exit tunnel for San Vicente Creek on Davenport Beach. (Sandy Lyndon's Central Coast Secrets web site reports: "Before the construction of the cement plant, and this railroad rampart/tunnel system, San Vicente Creek was considered to be the best trout-fishing stream in Santa Cruz County.") Jeff used a Gitzo tripod and a Canon 5d II with Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II at 24mm, f/18, 1/8 second, ISO 50.

Though his work on this image is incomplete, Jeff permitted me to use it recently in a seminar. I used it to illustrate how a simple nature photograph can tell a story.

Permit me to interpret:

"While the earth turns and the sun settles into the western horizon, San Vicente Creek flows from the land to the sea, fresh water becoming salt water. All life depends on this exchange, planet-wide. San Vicente Creek has done this for perhaps thousands of years. It has worn a channel in the rocks. The rocks may be millions of years old. The rocks define the stream, give it shape, provide a channel. But a question arises: Do the rocks shape the stream or does the stream shape the rocks? The answer floats in a myriad of human assumptions about time, cause and effect, subject and object. The stream's liquid and vapor have given life to the moss on the rocks. They sustain the moss. The rocks sustain the moss. As the stream moves outward into the ocean, the ocean presses inward against the land. Clouds form above the ocean, continuing the water cycle, the cycle of life - planet-wide."

Is my interpretation fanciful?


Is it subjective?

Yes, in the form and emphasis of presentation. No, in the underlying facts about natural processes and in Jeff's visual depiction of them.

Is it falsified by anthropomorphism?

Yes, somewhat. Yet the underlying facts are there, and we are, after all, human. We don't paint, sculpt, make photographs for the pleasure of dolphins. They take their pleasures from other sources, different sources. For us, a little anthropomorphism can be expected.

Did Jeff - would anyone - ponder this scene and think up all this stuff about it before taking the photo?

Probably not. In fact, hopefully not. The story is told as a gestalt, all at once, without dissection or intellectualization or the projection of fantasy. This is best. This is the beauty of a still photograph or a painting: It is not a story told sequentially; it is a story told all at once or . . . not at all.

Thank you, Jeff, for a great story!

Chuck Sale
February 24, 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Hidden gem

Naomi Sawyer, my literary partner, and I were walking along the trail from The Crags tailhead parking lot (north slope of Pikes Peak in the Pike National Forest) to the Crags Valley when we came across a fairly unremarkable cascade of water over rocks in Fourmile Creek. The early morning light wasn't perfect, but it interested me. I knew it would be fleeting, so I hastily set up the Gitzo tripod and waded into the water. I took shots from various angles with my Canon 5d II with Tamron 28-300 f/3.5-6.3 lens at 92 mm focal length. The image below was shot at 1/13 of a second at f/8, ISO 200.

We soon moved on.

The point of this introduction is to illustrate how what appears unremarkable in the field, can sometimes be turned into something unique in Lightroom. Even after downloading to Lightroom and doing a cursory overview of the images, I missed the potential of this image and passed it by - for months.

With a different artistic mindset (one imposed by a rather impressive cold/flu), I browsed again through the files of that day, chose this one and others like it, considered deleting them, then played with some extreme settings on this one, and got this result.

I suppose the moral of this story is to pause before deleting files. Play with extremes before discarding what may appear unusable. I believe in murdering my babies (don't be alarmed: It's a writer's metaphor), but I have learned to hold off a bit before I do. Hard drive space is cheap. Hang on to the apparent rejects until you have played with them a bit - not the obvious junk, but the images that you hesitate over, even for a second.

I got several passable captures that day, but this one was special because it wasn't obvious - and it was nearly lost.

Chuck Sale
February 23, 2014