Heart-Beating Emotion or Technical Accuracy

The Wif abandoned me for about three weeks a while ago to attend to our daughter in BC.  I use the word abandoned with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.  There was no abandonment of any sorts, our daughter was recovering from an illness and required help looking after a new born and getting three and a half year old up, fed and dressed so Daddy could drop her off at daycare (she calls it school) and then head off to work.  Of course, I was totally on board with her decision.  Besides, I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself.  Plus, the alone time afforded me the opportunity to go out, camera in hand, after the dogs were fed, of course, any time of day the mood so moved me.  

Rising earlier than usual one morning, I noticed that a quick, severe drop in temperature had turned yesterday’s melt water into discrete pockets of ice.  Some pockets had air bubbles trapped as the surface moisture froze quickly and some of the underlying water slipped away leaving a lovely random pattern of ice crystals in some parts of the pockets, while the rest of the ice was a dark solid tone.  And to add a layer of visual interest, a very slight dusting of fresh snow had fallen during the night that, if handled correctly (whatever that means) could add some potential texture to my images.

The ice pockets were on the road against the curb, on the boundary of the sidewalk and the grass/earth of the neighbours’ front lawns and covering the drain grates leading to the sewers below, where, in the warmer weather all the water flowed into.  Slowly, I began to stroll along the sidewalks first staring down between my shuffling feet ensuring I didn’t step on any ice pockets.  I wanted virgin ice; not crushed ice.  Upon seeing something of potential interest, I’d stop, focus my camera, compose an image and press the shutter release.  Sometimes, I’d have to crouch down to isolate specific areas of ice, or to eliminate extraneous debris.

As I moved and photographed, I was oblivious to anyone or anything around me.  My eyes and my mind were open to any visual possibilities and when piqued, I’d stop and make an exposure.  When working on the road, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to stop and check my surroundings in case any early morning traffic was approaching, but given the early hour I figured I was safe.

The above image is an original exposure and, to be honest, doesn’t appear to hold much promise for a resulting impactful photograph.  But first appearances, as the saying goes, can be somewhat erroneous.  If you look carefully and study the exposure a bit you’ll see there is colour there.  One thing I’ve learned with digital imagery, it takes time, patience and practise to see the potential in an original exposure that may look less than stellar.  Now, having said that, it not true for all digital images.

The image below, is what I was able to produce using image processing software and my computer.  I’ve added no additional colours, details, tones or anything else you might want to ask about.  Everything you see in the image below is in the original exposure, it just needed to be teased out.

I titled the image Celestial Ice.  While the image is a photograph of an ice pocket on the side of a road, as I processed the image file it reminded me of a midnight sky I’d seen when camping on a canoe trip in my younger days.  For me, the image brought back the emotional experience I had while floating in a canoe in the middle of a lake in Algonquin Park as I gazed up at the Milky Way.  So I ask you, do you see frozen water, or is it full of stars????

The camera is excellent at capturing fine details.  In fact, the average photographer strives, and often struggles, to achieve the desired amount of sharp, crisp detail in his/her images.  Photographers are famous for paying ridiculous amounts of money for an over-priced lens if the reviews state the ”fine detail is so sharp it beggars the mind”!  Edward Weston, an early photographic artist, was concerned, at times, with the lack of detail he could achieve in his B&W negatives and would stop his 4x5, or 8x10, camera lenses down to 45.0 resulting in exposure times of 4 - 5 minutes.  The optical quality of the lenses he had access to were ancient compared to modern digital camera lenses.  And yet he managed to achieve some amazing results.

Here’s the key question - Is fine, sharp, crisp detail, from edge to edge across the whole frame in a photograph, mandatory to give the viewer an emotionally rewarding viewing experience?

I titled the photograph below Fire in Ice.  I’ve added no additional details, colours or textures to the photograph.  It is exactly as I processed it using the same software/computer as I did in the above Celestial Ice image.

Study the photograph closely, look at it for a while, ask yourself, “What do you see, what do you feel when you look at the photograph?”  (It’s actually slightly out of focus, if that even matters.). To me, I feel this is one of my more moving, emotionally responsive photographs from that day’s photography.  It’s not what it is that matters, but what it’s about.

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