|Don Smith Photography's Blog|
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Winter Big Sur Photo Workshop - Magic Light and The Pfeiffer Beach Arch - January 11-14, 2011 (Workshop Sold Out)
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Visual juxtapositions are not always easy to find. Then again, as is the case with this image, they are right in front of you. Juxtaposing two opposite concepts (in this image: seasons - fall and winter) allows for the overall image to represent a new meaning. If I were to have strictly composed an image of the vibrant aspens, that would have said: fall. Conversely, had I simply composed and image of the freshly coated peaks, I would have conveyed the concept of winter. By placing the two in the same frame, the concept becomes changing seasons. Simple to understand, but as I said, not always easy to find in nature.
I feel it is important that we as landscape photographers (think visual communicators) try to do more than just make pretty images. I'm not saying that all our images have to have a deep meaning, but you as the photographer/artist should be clear on what message you want your image to convey. Every element in the frame should work towards presenting that message in an artistic manner (even with abstracts). If the message is not clear, the image fails - at least on a partial level.
Beyond the obvious comparisons of seasons, this scene contained all the elements I look for when seeking potential landscape subjects: quality light (it was overcast and raining), color, interesting subject (notice I listed that third), a cohesion of elements (nothing distracting that doesn't belong), and finally, simplicity of design. I've written before in this blog that when I first started shooting landscapes, I sought out subject first then simply accepted the light. I credit Galen Rowell with changing my thinking many years ago. His famous quote: I almost never set out to photograph a landscape, nor do I think of my camera as a means of recording a mountain or an animal unless I absolutely need a 'record shot'. My first thought is always of light, has stuck with me over the years. Soft light is a green light when it comes to landscape photography. I also love vibrant color and those two elements alone are why I photograph around the fringes of the day. With this image, the soft-light provided the quality I was looking for and the aspens obviously provided the color. Combine vibrant color with soft-light and your subjects will pop off the frame. My job was easy, simply find a composition pleasing to the eye that placed both the aspens and the snow-covered peak into one frame.
I encourage my workshop students to make a mental (or written list) of what makes their images work, or what draws them to appreciate the works of others. I challenge you to do the same. Many times when I am in the field and feeling visually stuck I fall back on my list and I begin seeking the light and color I desire. It never ceases to amaze me how it jump-starts my mind and the visual process begins to flow.
Lastly, if you have never photographed visual juxtapositions, make it a self-assignment the next time you are out with your camera. Like anything with photography, the more you do it, the better you become and it becomes a natural part of your repertoire.
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Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III