What Your Eyes Don’t See: Part 2
If a camera has the ability to record light and color beyond what we see with our eyes, why do so many landscape images look close to what we see with our eyes?
For this series of posts, I’m containing my thoughts to landscape photography although there may be some parallels with other types of photography. In my previous post, I touched on how familiar and common images are not what our eyes see when clicking the shutter. I wanted to share some thoughts on this topic because I’ve been having conflicting thoughts on how to describe the types of images I enjoy creating. I’m often asked “What kind of photos do you take?” and the easy answer is “landscapes”. This type of photography is so wide-ranging though, that I feel sharing my view will help clarify my work moving forward.
The first image is obvious. We see in color. This monotone image is not what I saw when I was at this lake on a chilly autumn morning. As a photograph, the subjects are still present and only necessary elements are present to show the viewer the intention of the image. Creatively removing unnecessary elements from an image is accomplished in many ways. Composition, light, shadow and perspective all come in to play to accomplish this. The final image is a combination of the actual scene, a bit of the conditions and room for the viewer’s imagination.
Untitled – 2015
The second untitled image of mountains and valleys at sunrise is an example of how telephoto lenses can give a perspective that is beyond what our eyes see. The human eye can’t zoom. By using a telephoto lens, a subject can be isolated and once again, show only the necessary elements. Showing more of the sky or more of the valley doesn’t add anything to this image and only distracts the eye from the important elements. Isolating a subject also serves the purpose of removing a specific location from an image. This image isn’t about a specific place, it could be anywhere. By giving the location of these types of landscapes, assumptions are made which may be irrelevant to the actual image. Additionally, this is a split-toned image which was used to accentuate the coolness of the valleys and the warmth of the rising sun. Our eyes have a hard time with the transitions of cool to warm colors but cameras can help us with this:)
Let me take a moment to point out a photographer you all know, Mr. Adams. His iconic image “Moonrise Over Hernandez” serves an important point here, it isn’t what he saw with his eyes. The two images show his original negative on the left and a print he made late in his career. They are dramatically different and both are far from what our eyes see. Maybe landscape photography can be about something other that what a scene looks like? Maybe it can be about something other than what it feels like?
The 3rd image, “Limitations”, touches on another aspect of photography in which an image can be more about what we don’t see than what we do see. Our eye is immediately drawn to the hole in the rock because of composition, contrast, color and light. This is highly intentional on my part. We physically see a rock wall with a hole and nothing else. My thought is that your mind is telling you something else though. Once again, our eyes can’t see what your mind is telling you but a camera can help make sense of this. I’m curious what you think about this image and notion of using a camera to show something beyond what our eyes see.
The 4th and final image is a combination of all the above aspects and adds another element which I’ll discuss in a future blog post, symbolism. Our eyes are limited in the range of light, colors, color temperatures, perspective, time, motion and framing. Cameras are excellent tools in all of these areas. Again, this image is not what the scene looked like. Knowing that this type of rock reflects light in various colors, as does water, the scene provided the right framework for the final image. Recognizing this while in the field is a challenge and something I enjoy as a photographer. This way of seeing can have implications for those who aren’t photographers as well. I’m not going to explain this though. I’m a photographer. I’m going to show you.
Thanks for reading,