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Contemplating the Water

Last week I posted a series of images of the water flow at the South Natick Dam, along the Charles in Natick, Massachusetts.  Using long exposure techniques I’ve enjoyed studying the way the water flows around its various obstructions.  My interest in the water, and enjoyment of being at the water is hardly new or unique of course.  The flow of water has been providing sustenance and soothing to humanity for as long as we’ve been here (though it doesn’t seem to help us much in weeks like this one).  Focus on water is of course also not unique to humans.  I was reminded of this recently while continuing to photograph here.

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Of course this fellow does it for a living.  Note that these are long exposures.  But he’s not moving. Those who photograph wildlife routinely will generally confirm that wild animals never actually stand still.  They may be quite, but not still.  He’s staring at the water and continued to do so for a good 20 minutes.  He then changed positions and continued his focused attention.  A young couple nearby struck up a conversation and reminded me that he’s doing that because he has to.  We listen to the water because we like it.  How did it all start?  We’ll see this fellow again soon.

Technical note:  These images were shot on film, TMAX 100 and Pan F 50.  Both are wonderful films, still available.  There is very  little grain visible except under a magnifying glass.  I sometimes shoot with film just to make me think about things in a more contemplative fashion.  I found it most helpful here.

The Structure of Currents – New Work

I’ve been striving diligently to simplify my images.  I can speculate as to my motivation for doing so, maybe it has something to do with how messy the world is these days.  I also have a tremendous fondness for the work of folks such as Michael Kenna.  (If you’re serious about photography or art, please hit the link.  You will not regret it.)  More pragmatically though, this effort requires reducing the number of elements included within the frame.  Turns out this is not as easy as it might sound.  Life around us is filled with complexity.  It is in fact messy.  So, much like creating sculpture, you have to keep taking things out.  Unfortunately, unlike when working with sculpture, you can’t just pop out a tree.  OK, you could with photoshop if the tree is positioned just right and if you’re really good at doing that type of work.  The result though still frequently looks as though the image is missing something that was popped out in photoshop. Alternatively,I find that I have to think about a potential image in a new way.

Recently I’ve been spending time at the South Natick Dam along the Charles River in eastern Massachusetts.  I find it very restful there.  It is also a wonderful place to photograph.  On one side of the River you can even sit in the shade while photographing the River in bright, hot sunlight. It’s almost too easy.

But it is not a simple place to photograph.  Again, there is a great deal going on.  So, as Bill Neil says, you have to edit out reality, often by using a telephoto lens.  I once had an exchange with Bill in which I asked him how he might go about managing some issues in a wide angle shot.  His answer:  “I’d never take a shot like that.  Too messy.”

I’ve posted many pictures of flowing water here including in my most recent post. Typically, I want to give the viewer a sense of place by providing the context for the water’s flow.  What if you ignore the need for a sense of place, and just explore the water?  What you find are structures in the water’s flow.  Every photographer who photographs water knows this of course.  You can see structure if you shoot at around 1/4 of a second to maybe two seconds.  After that, the water just glows, which has a beauty in itself.  I’ve become interested in the structures that emerge with just a bit of a slow shutter.  What do they reveal?  I’ll let you be the judge.

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