Cloudy, 12 Degrees, Light Winds
Today is a pretty non-descript winter day. Gray and cold, though not windy. The walk was not unpleasant; it never is. The almost nonexistent winds made the 12 degree temperature quite comfortable except for the usual frozen cheeks. I put Jamie’s winter jacket on and he showed no signs of discomfort either. He’s been staying really close to me as I photograph. If I leave the trail, he comes with me. If I slow down to take a picture, he waits. It’s nice to have the companionship. It would be lonely out there without him.
I was working with a new photographic idea today, so I was pretty excited with what I was doing. Yesterday I took one shot up into the trees at the bare branches above me. I liked the shot immediately when I saw it. Throughout the day I thought about it more and more and I decided to shoot more images like it today.
I loved what I saw through the lens. The shapes that the bare branches make are really cool. I love the way they reach into the frame from all sides when you are in the middle of the woods. I experimented with different compositions and different types of trees and I liked almost every shot at least through the lens. I’m excited to see the images on the computer as I edit today.
I love finding something like this. I hadn’t given any thought to shooting up at the branches and then the idea just comes to me. In truth, I was probably thinking about what I might do next, having shot conventional landscape images from about every interesting viewpoint on my walk. For some reason, the branches came to mind and I took that one shot. Just the one at that point. Then, as I said, my mind mulled over that shot throughout the day and overnight and all of a sudden I have an entirely new thing to explore.
I’ve been thinking about where my images come from. Many photographers, myself included, have trouble deciding what to photograph. For me, new images mostly come from noticing. Just the simple act of attending to what passes in front of you and beginning to explore it with the camera. This particular set of images may have started with a conscious idea, but often, it’s just a matter of noticing an interesting composition or an interesting phenomenon as you pass by it. In this case, it’s a matter of noticing that I really liked the image. It’s something you might easily miss, and most of us do.
Noticing is not a easy thing for us in our day to day lives. Our brains are very skillful at blocking out all of the peripheral phenomena of our lives so that we can attend to what we’re doing. We couldn’t function if we fully attended to even a fraction of what we are bombarded with. Imagine, for example, if you really noticed the reflections on the windshield of cars as you walked by, or any of a million other phenomena that we encounter? We would never get anywhere. By the way, I’ve seen an entire portfolio of images of just car window reflections, and it was pretty cool.
Artists are probably a little better at noticing than most people. It’s kind of what we do. And I’ve really been enjoying noticing things on these daily walks. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a while to relax and let your surroundings in, but it’s a real pleasure when you do. Whether you’re an artist or not, noticing things as you move through your world is worth an effort. Give it a try.
There’s a common theme between the two things I’ve “noticed” since starting this project. I’m speaking of the tree trunks, and the branches. Each is a highly formal concept. And they each call attention to something that we take for granted or fail to notice most of the time. I haven’t figured out how to handle the tree trunks, but if I figure it out and they were collected in an exhibit, it would be a highly formal one. All these verticals dividing the frame. The same would be true if I were to exhibit the branches. It would be all of those beautiful shapes and gestures of the branches repeated over and over in variations.
I love this kind of thing probably because of my background, both my family background (artist parents), and my art training. I was a painter for many years and I’ve studied art history and seen a lot of museum and gallery exhibits. I’ve seen some very simple ideas that were mesmerizing when collected together and exhibited. I love the idea of making one or more of these ideas into a show like that. May well not happen, but I like the idea.
This is the last day of week two of my year long project. It’s been another good week. I’ll write up a summary and post it on the Weekly Summaries page. If I were to condense it to a sentence or two, I would say that I am relaxing and enjoying myself more. I’m taking fewer random pictures and attending to my world much more closely. Good stuff, but there’s a long way to go.