Posts Tagged ‘abstract nature photography’

It is said rather obviously that the photographer works creatively with light.  After all, exposure meters measure light, film chemicals and pixels respond to light. The “quality of light” that attracted and still does attract so many fine photographers to the southwest, particularly those working in black and white, has created a sort of mystique around qualities of natural light scattered and reflected off of adobe, mesas, distant ranges, badlands, thunderheads.

Of course, it can equally be said that photography is as much about the absence of light. No shadows, no picture. Southwest landscape, for instance, is all about strong shadows, as well as the subtlest shadow gradations from faintest light to darkest dark. Hence, the yin and yang of expressive picture taking—sol e sombra, light and dark, the day and the intimations of night.

Shadows can be extraordinarily expressive, and sometimes become the real subject of the shot (for me, this is oftentimes). Shadows often convey a feeling of the hidden behind the obvious, of a question mark. This is the evasive, emotion-laden impact of shadows, so expressively demonstrated in some still and motion picture photography of the mid-twentieth century. Shadows can also emphasize bright, crisp architectural geometry, intricate organic traceries of nature, complex abstract design and a hundred other esthetic and emotional states and qualities.

Of course, muddy or totally black shadows can ruin a picture. That is, in emphasizing shadows and given expressive intent, exposure is the great leveler. And if my experience is at all common, always will be the great challenge!

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A northwest beach is a driftwood beach, and by that I don’t mean a stray twig or coconut shell washed ashore. Northwest driftwood is a defining essence  of the beachscape, as indigenous as the windblown capes. Driftwood here means immense weathered logs, washed up like toothpicks in Pacific storms, roots, trunks, limbs all sanded, and stripped to essentials, gleaming, buried in dark sands, giant tree trunks washed down in rainforest canyon floods, but mostly ponderous sections of cut logs, fallen from ships I suppose, or the Paul Bunyan scraps from clear cutting that have found their tragic ways to the sea.  Some driftwood is historic—it appears to be part of the sand, like shells or stones, and it may be that a timber from a San Francisco bound lumber schooner is buried in the strand, providing shelter from sandy winds as you enjoy a quick lunch.

The photographic possibilities of driftwood on the wild beach are literally without end.  Overcast to weak sun are the favored conditions for photographic detail, revealing beautiful wavelike woodgrain, writhing forms that have Hansel and Gretel overtones, or clean contemporary monotonic minimalism. Glaring light means blowout on silver highlights on weathered wood. The dynamic range is too great.  The forms are the thing, as well as wood grain detail, and of course the endless compositional challenges of driftwood scattered in sand and seaweed.


Text and photographs copyright SR Euston

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