Mother Nature Sings to Her Flowers–Mythic Storytelling Photos

There are photographers who picture reality–gritty street scenes is one example.

There are other photographers who go to great lengths to set up scenes often with disorienting, out of place aspects that jar the viewer’s sense of reality.

Somewhere between those two extremes are photos that add elements–like the veil here–that create a mythic/storytelling quality. Sometimes I like to introduce an element like this veil and see what happens. In this case, I’m pretty sure I actually photographed Mother Nature Singing to her Wild Flowers. It is a photograph that is larger–more mythic–that what I thought I was setting up. Magic is everywhere. Just wait for it.

Moab–What If Environment Is Overwhelming?

Went on a photo shoot in Moab with Rick Cummings and several other photographers. Moab is Utah’s red rock playground. The scenery is spectacular. It is large. It can be overwhelming. The challenge is to make great photos that don’t allow the environment to take over. Actually, managing the environment is always a issue. Moab just blows that problem way-way-way out of proportion. So what to do?

I tried doing the unexpected as in putting silhouettes against the iconic red rock and blue sky. See photo above.

I tried to forget the environment, pick up a broken bottle and zoom in on the figure.

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I tried letting the size of the environment overwhelm the figure because that was true to the experience.

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I tried capturing lots and lots of detail as well as the figure. Note there is even a second figure.

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I tried letting the shadow be the subject.

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What do you think? Love to read your comments on what worked and what didn’t.

Male Vs Female Models

I’m sometimes asked which I prefer–male models or female models. No preference. No difference in how I work with them. However, it’s almost impossible not to notice that my photographs feature female models much more often than male models. I’ve even been accused of using too many young women in my work. I actually use many models who are in their 30s and 40s. Susie shown here is in her late 50s. Here’s the problem: culturally we seem to be more comfortable with female nudity than male nudity. Full frontal in both cases is cause for many people to suddenly turn on their prude, but male full frontal is ten times more shocking somehow.

That said, I think these examples are equally interesting and serene. Both were shot same day, same pond.

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Mystical Photograph–Such a thing?

Photography balances somewhere between art and science. For a long time, people debated whether or not it was art. Photography was supposedly just the science of capturing images of the real world, it was argued. The art, of course, is in the composition of the photograph. In today’s digital world, the art is often in how the photograph is manipulated. Then this happens . . .

Notice that the reflection shows the face of a very old woman. It is not at all a true reflection of the model’s real face. Water distorts reflections. That’s why water is such an interesting element to add to a photograph, but . . .

I didn’t see this old woman image when I shot this photograph. When I saw it in the captured print, I was startled. How did that happen? I love happy accidents. In this case, it’s almost mythic, mystical. The image seems to ask if this Is a picture of reality or something more?

Our Lady of the Forest

Catching a reflection on the surface of a pond is fun. Capturing both the reflection and the complexity of the pond habitat is better. In fact seeing the depth and living dimensions of the pond in the reflection gives this photograph a mythic quality, I think. Seems like a goddess has paused for a moment amidst the forest world where she lives and rules. Again you have to look carefully to see that reflections can also be windows to what’s beneath the reflection itself.

I like this photo a lot because it does that.

Abstracted by Water

I love the way water will abstract the body. In this case you can’t really identify the person in what seems to be a portrait. On the plus side, I think that adds universality to the image. I also see depth, mystery, beauty. What do you see?

Karin Rosenthal Class on Cape Cod

If you get a chance to take a class from Karin Rosenthal–DO IT. If you get a chance to take a second class in a different place, DO IT. These are opportunities not to be missed.

I have been fortunate enough to take two classes from her. The latest was on Cape Cod, working mostly in ponds and forests in that area.

Here’s a photo of Rosenthal working with a model next to a lake, typical of one of her classes.

Her classes offer scenery–usually water. Great models. AND more important, a chance to have her critique your photographs. She takes that seriously. Sometimes she can be blunt! She wants nothing but the best to emerge from the photographers that she works with. That is the reason her classes are worthwhile. You grow as a photographer because she cares about photography–hers, yours, everyone’s. That is what makes her a good teacher, a generous one.

She regularly teaches classes in Vermont and on Cape Cod every summer. She is based in Boston. Check her website www.krosenthal.com

Here’s a photo that I took in her class. One of many that I like.

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SCALE–means letting a photo be big and small at the same time

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In order for a photograph with SCALE to work, you need something of immediate interest like the figure in the foreground kicking up sand as she runs. Then you also need to have a wide background that puts the figure in context. Here it’s the dunes and the ocean in the background. Not enough! You also need points of interest in that broad background. Notice the shadow of the runner. Notice the second smaller figure in the distance. Notice the mystery–the question of “what’s really going on?” All of those element add to the overall composition and not all of them are visual. The mystery is only visual in the sense of wondering how all of this works as a setting.

I don’t do a lot of photographs that feature scale. They’re hard. I think this one works. What do you think?