Mostly Sunny, 28 Degrees, Light Northwest Wind.
This morning was crisp and clear with lots of deep blue sky and a scattering of puffy white clouds. Despite the relatively warm temperature, it still feels cold, not spring-like. On the other hand, the woods are now filled with bird song, a noticeable difference from winter. I could hear red-winged blackbirds and geese out in the marsh, a flicker calling and hammering away on a tree, and several other birds whose calls I don’t recognize.
Spring is progressing, even if it’s barely noticeable. The woods still have six inches of crusty snow in shady areas, though the snow has melted in the neighborhoods where the sun gets to the ground more. When I was out driving yesterday I could see that the masses of trees look more like soft brushes now than bare sticks. The buds are swelling in the trees and changing the way they look. I love seeing that change. I’m sure most people don’t notice it, but I always have and it’s really nice to see.
Today I decided to shoot overhead tree branches again. I have come to feel that I haven’t done enough with this subject. I find that when I first start shooting something I am taken with the new subject and fire away instinctively at most everything I see. On a second shoot, I refine compositions more and look for more unusual subjects and effects.
Now, on my third or fourth time shooting this subject, I can feel that I’m really looking closely at what I’m shooting. I’m scanning every tree to see if its branches are distinctive or if groups of trees meet in a particularly interesting way. I saw, and photographed, a lot of new things today and I shot some of the same things in new ways. I’m hopeful that some of these shots will work well.
I was realizing this morning that I’ve shot this subject more than once before and tried to find successful ways to present it. I’ve not had success in the past and that gives me pause, but I find the subject fascinating, so I’m giving it another try. I think the ultimate success of the subject matter will lie in how it is handled in editing. I like the monochrome approach I’m taking, but I’ve done that before. I also like the heavy vignette I used on the last edits, but I’m still not sure it’s enough to make these images work artistically. The fact that I find it so interesting and have for years indicates to me that it’s worth pursuing.
The documentary impulse that I’ve mentioned before is at work again here. It fascinates me how many different forms trees take, just as it fascinates me how many different kinds of bark they have. Just like the bark, I also love the compositional possibilities. The branches twist and swirl, create a filigree, reach out with bold dark arms, and create interesting negative spaces. The pines have those wonderful spiky lower branches set off against their green canopies.
I may also make a trip to some other locations this weekend to see if I can capture that soft brushy effect that I’ve noticed while driving. I’ve done that before too, unfortunately without a successful result. I have no problem getting the picture, it just doesn’t amount to much when I edit and print them. Maybe I’ve learned some things this time that will make it work. Or maybe it’s just not a good idea and will never work. We shall see.
An exciting aspect of the next month or two is that the canopy will go from completely bare to small buds and flowers, to delicate little leaves and finally to a full canopy. That will be really fun to shoot. I can’t wait.
Thinking about this all, I wonder if a lot of this project will yield more of a record of an experience than a lot of fine art imagery. I don’t know. I’d like to make some art, but I’m pretty happy with the documentary aspect of this as well.
It’s a funny thing about photography that virtually everything you can imagine has been done. It’s very difficult to elevate images so clearly rooted in reality to the status of fine art. And, as always with art, it’s a very subjective decision as to whether or not it is art, or whether it’s good art. There are no objective criteria and there are as many different opinions as there are people. The challenge for an artist is to draw their own conclusion and stand by it in the face of differing opinions.
Now I just have to decide for myself whether there’s art to be found in these images. Then I’ll see if I can convince anyone else to agree with me.