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.