Hidden Sun and Dark Cloud

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black and white / Uncategorized / vancouver island / Western Canada

Dark cloud obscures sun above a ferryboat. Photo in black and white.

April 6, 2019: It was a dim afternoon ferry crossing to Salt Spring Island. The sky spat rain from time to time. The only sound came from the boat’s rattling engines. I was following the path of the sun as it came near the vent/exhaust stacks. The dark cloud was a bit of a surprise. It resembled wings hovering above the ocean. It was one of those moments in photography where things fall into place in front of (or above) the camera. Processed dark to match my mood at the moment.

Low Rolling Cloud

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black and white / Landscape Photography / vancouver island / Western Canada

Perhaps nothing says ocean more than the sky above it. In the absence of giant crashing waves, in periods of lull between the drama, the ocean rocks back and forth with the slow movement of the tides. What happens below the surface remains invisible to those who remain on shore.

The sky, however, is spellbinding as it passes, ever forming and reforming clouds above the surface of the deep.



Low Rolling Cloud on the Horizon

Black and white photographs at the ocean

A Gathering Storm


Land, Water, Sky

Less is More

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Out-of-focus image in a forest

Photography is known mostly for its ability to depict fine detail. Detail is the most exploited property of the medium (think photos from space and ever-increasing digital resolutions). However, it isn’t the only reason for the medium’s existence. Some early photographers valued the aesthetic experience of blurred or manipulated images.

Of course, there are no absolutes in how things are depicted. Blurred images can explore interesting territories, such as memory and Jungian symbols. Freed from the matter-of-factness of sharp images their power lies in allusion and suggestion. Less is more. Whether it is done in camera or in post-processing, the defocused image is more universal than the factual depiction of the things in front of the camera at any given moment. It is a general description as opposed to a specific description.

This is not to say defocused images enjoy exclusive domain in exploring archetypes. It is just that they lean in that direction. These two pictures rely on backlighting through a defocused lens to suggest (to me) waking from sleep on a sunny afternoon — in essence, transitioning back to the world from some other place where things are less defined. One picture is darker than the other and conveys a slightly more serious mood.

Out-of-focus photograph of a forest

Old Flowers

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Artwork / still life / Uncategorized / vancouver island

still life photograph of dead flowersOld FlowersOld Flowers

In another life, these flowers scented the dining room. Now they are transformed by the passing of mere days. I planned these as specimens and photographed them over two days using a single bounced Elinchrom light to flatten them. Isolated on paper and by the white framing, and devoid of significant colour, they possess a certain beauty — a statement, perhaps, on the nature of time and transformation.

Three flowers photographed on paper. Monochrome.


Down by the River

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composite photo-drawing of old building by water

All good stories begin with a river. The river is life and also death. It is motion and passage as it flows by us. It can feed and it can poison. Sometimes in the story, there is a body in the water or close to it. I’m pretty sure this image, a combination of photography and drawing, has such a story within it. It just needs to be revealed.


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black and white composite photo of ocean wake

Rolling waters create a sublime instance of the emerging shadow of the subconscious. Does the light struggle out of the darkness or is it being consumed by it? It is impossible to tell, which is only right because this turbulence is a dance that spans most of our lives.

Much of photography wrestles with the idea of symbols that emerge from the subconscious and require our attention.


The Other in Landscape Photography

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Landscape Photography / vancouver island / Western Canada

Dark photograph in black and white of a large tree

My main motivation in writing this blog is to explain photography to myself and, hopefully, to others of a similar persuasion.

Much of contemporary landscape photography concerns itself with grand vistas and spectacular locations, but I prefer the landscape of small things — that is, the landscape of whatever is close at hand, often within walking distance of where I live. Granted, I live on Vancouver Island where there is no shortage of subject matter or variation in weather. The world is a funny place in 2019. Much of what a photographer does with the landscape is a mixture, in varying proportions, of inspiration, technical ability, materials, and the desire for some kind of commercial recognition ($). Adobe Stock and Getty Images have millions of landscape photographs on file between them. Many of those images are of said spectacular locations depicted in highly saturated, plastic colours. They look “amazing.”

There are some great individual pictures on these sites but en masse, I find them a little disturbing. These are commercial websites, so you have to know you are being sold something (albeit through the intermediary of a marketing department somewhere). What you are being sold is a narrative — that a good life is filled with breathtaking places and “amazing” (mostly) young, stylishly-dressed people who know what is important in life (experience, not possessions) and may meditate every morning. The much-dreaded term, mindfulness, rears its head.

My experience with the landscape had been a little different. Most often, I prefer black and white to colour. My main motivation lies in an attempt to seek something of a connection with the “otherness” of the external world. Most of us are urban dwellers and we have become increasingly estranged from nature unless it is seen through the filters mentioned in the previous paragraph. In the end, our urban smugness may extract a heavy toll on the planet.

Slow time with a camera in a stand of trees, often alone, is an attempt to bridge the gap — to understand the natural world is largely indifferent to us, and realize this is a world that does not rely on humans for definition or meaning. It simply is and is governed by its own conventions. It does not need to be “amazing.”

Much of the landscape work presented on inkriver is dark. It is a simple response to a natural property of Vancouver Island, with its deep green, foggy forests and fields of twisted Gary Oaks, with its Arbutus trees twisting up towards the light, and its crisscross of dense underbrush. The picture at the top of this post is backlit and about three stops underexposed. I have not done a lot to it — darkened the sky and adjusted the curve to try to hold minimal detail in deep shadows. It favours mood above technical rendering. I am guessing it would not make it as a stock image. That may be its strongest asset.