Whenever we are witness to something we feel compelled to photograph, we are lucky to come away with a single image that illustrates our emotional connection in a way that viewers of the final print respond to in a similar way. If I can communicate my initial response through this visual medium, then I consider the image a success. Occasionally, I may photograph a scene and find it difficult to stop taking frame after frame in an effort to obtain the absolute best result possible, and when I think I have achieved that goal, I still continue to “perseverate”. Luckily, I’m not burning through film, but just filling up a memory card. But I may end up coming away with two images that are similar, yet so completely different that I’m torn between which of the two to print for an exhibit since to have both included would be redundant. Most times they are taken just moments apart from the exact same position, yet they convey a completely different response to the scene.
These first two images are a recent case in point. While the second clearly illustrates a fisherman encapsuled within this dream-like world of colored fog and may be a perfect photo for a story in a magazine, the first is simply an expression of soft, quiet pastel color where the partially hidden presence of the sun, rather than the absolute, strong presence of the fisherman, provides a more nuanced context and a more magical abstract image. From my own point of view, the first conjures up thoughts of the divine intervention a sunrise always invokes, while the second is much more secular. I feel both are compelling and continue to struggle with which would better connect to the viewer. It is because I can never view my work with the new eyes of someone who has never before seen these images, that I feel I cannot wrestle my own connection to them away from my viewing them.
The second pair, although a bit different in perspective and color, differ mainly in the elimination of the bright areas of the sky and its reflection on the top and bottom of the first image to create the second. Both have the watercolor/pastel painterly quality I wished to illustrate, but the first has a more graffic look in that the various elements of clouds, sky and forest trees form basic shapes that are perfectly reproduced in the mirrored reflection in the water. It is much more abstract than the second. It is noteworthy that in each of the two, the placement of the horizon was directly in the middle of the frame thereby breaking the “rule” not to do so. It is always important to be aware of these rules when the decision is made to break them; otherwise you would never know they are being broken!
In the second, the thin strip of clouds above and their reflection below seem to create a frame through which the scene is viewed thereby losing some of the graffic feel and design of the first, but adding greatly to the sense of depth or distance contained within the image. The quandary is which is more important: the abstract character of the first, or the greater depth created by the “frame” in the second? Which of the two wins out will only be determined in the future because the jury is still out on these two.
The final pair is a perfect illustration of my perseveration. The stillness of the scene was what I sought to get across while maintaining its watercolor properties. I consciously did not want the sun to be in the photograph because I thought those properties would be lost with it’s addition. The soft reddish glow of its impending rise through the light fog only added to the watercolor effect, while the sun’s inclusion may have destroyed the delicate pastel transitions in the sky.
As it turned out, my perseveration paid off by not moving on, but continuing to shoot as the sun appeared. Because it was filtered through the mist, the sun’s initial appearance was much more muted than anticipated and did not “destroy” the watercolor effect. In addition, the intervening seconds allowed for the fog to coalesce a bit more into a thin strip along the treetops mimicking their shape and creating a bit more separation between the two planes of trees. Again, a dilemma. In this instance, I was not able to reach a decision which to choose and printed both!!
Although it is always a good idea to have options available to us, it sometimes leads us down a tortured path of forks in the road that, unlike that wise, sage Yogi Berra said, we cannot just “take it”.