Dec 042009

Can joy be found in learning to photograph nature? I think it can. Is it possible that contemplating lighting and beauty can provide a lifting of spirits? I think it is. Sometimes a camera and an intent to capture a wonderful scene or subject is simply a reason to go to a special place.

My father used to love fishing. Even if he did not catch anything, he loved to be out in the river country, or on an ocean beach. Mostly he caught something though, he was very good at it. I sense it was a tranquil and contemplative experience for him. His life had not been easy, and these quiet moments brought him inner peace.

My love of photography has taken me places I otherwise may not have gone, and led me to study nature and lighting in a way I otherwise may just have casually looked at.

To photograph lighting is to connect with what you see. Striving for ideal representation of the experience is studying the subject and the lighting. That very study and attention is the inner place I seek. For me it is quite intense, and I often lose my sense of self in the moment. Seeing beauty in nature is like listening to beautiful music. A scene or subject can be pleasing to the eye, as can music. But for some, scenic beauty and lighting can take a secondary place in one’s awareness.

The ability to see nuances of lighting is learned, like listening to and understand a piece of music. One has to give over to the experience, with full attention. Although I enjoy music, my appreciation of complexities is limited. Yet friends who are musicians derive so much more from it because they can get inside it, and it gets inside them.

Here is a quick story with a touch of irony. One experience with photography that set a challenge for years to come, was on a business trip with a close friend. We took a day out to drive through some stunning scenic areas. As the sun was rising, it backlit the dew on pastoral grasses, creating a myriad of sparkling diamonds. Moved by the delicate beauty of the scene, I commented how much joy I got from lighting like this. He responded with, “You make it sound like you have some unique ability to see such things. Everyone sees the world the same!” I think at some level, he saw merit in my work, but had little patience for the time needed to capture it. I knew his seemingly judgmental comment was not accurate. After all, throughout the centuries, artists have sought to learn how to see and portray light. So I worked even harder to see, feel and understand lighting, and use that in my images as part of what I sought to portray.

Sometimes when I am taking photographs, I will explain to myself what it is I am drawn to in the scene and what I am seeking to portray. As if I am telling someone else. That helps me capture the experience and think about the lighting and what goes into the shot. And this conversation continues when I am editing and perfecting the image digitally. In this image, I wanted to bring the sense of morning crispness, the moisture of the dew, the low level back lighting, and the early mists rising off the water.

And this process has rewards beyond a finished print or image on a screen. I am always looking and studying light, seeking the beauty of nature and the nature of beauty.


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