We’re approaching a line of thunderstorms. The sun is setting and we’re riding through the storm’s shadow. We’re traveling west at 8/10ths the speed of sound, but at 36,000 feet, the drama plays out over hundreds of miles, and it feels like we’re crawling through the atmosphere. I have time to enjoy the slow-motion-sunset-light-show and keep an eye on the big cells that we’re steering around.
Every now and then I have a major insight that changes my photography. It’s more of a feeling that comes over me and then that feeling leads to the transformational insight. This doesn’t happen a lot, maybe once every couple of years. Right now, I think I’m on the leading edge of one of those transformations.
Around the west side of the weather, the last glow of the summer evening sun paints the towering clouds. A wall cloud droops down from the center of the storm. Look out Missouri.
My last photography revelation was about details and capturing relics of time. At the time, I was deep into the work of Joel Sternfeld and his book American Prospects. I loved the large prints and the details Sternfeld captured with his medium format camera. I was excited that my modern DSLR could capture the same level of detail without the expensive of film. Rebelling against the trend towards viewing images on tiny phone screens, I decided to pack my photos with details, textures, and little markers of time. It was a good progression for my art, and as a new father it was important to add all those details to my photos. I’m finding that over time those details are turning into sentimental gold. My framing opened up. I let my lens breath in all those important details. And, as that evolution was taking place, I was also learning how to photograph children. Taking quality candid kid photos depends on speed. So as my frames and compositions were opening up, I was also learning to take photos on the fly, not worrying so much about the perfect composition, and accepting good enough. The biggest surprise was finding out that my photo taking could work faster than my consciousness mind. These speed photos are a product of thought, but they happen in a different part of the brain — I think. I can explain the photos after they’re made, but mental process that goes into them comes and goes like a flash flood. In some ways, it’s out of my control.
The thunderstorm’s delicate crown stretches across the Missouri sky. Sometimes the best photo is just a straight on view of the thing itself.
My new revelation (and resolution) is to concentrate on intensity. This might be a response to all that fast, sloppy, experimental shooting I’ve been doing the for past few years, but I think it’s more the result of my writing. In writing, I’m always searching for the best word, and my editing process is merciless. I try to say the most with the fewest words. Why not do the same with my photographs? I’m not suggesting that I remove subtly from my photos, but rather that I streamline the message, frame things so there’s no confusion about what I’m trying to communicate. And, like digging for the best word to make my point, I’m now on the lookout for the visuals that make the greatest impact. My photos will still be about the details, but maybe the details will be more in your face, and my compositions simplified when they can be. A short declarative sentence is sometimes more powerful than one of Faulkner’s page spanning monstrosities. I’m bringing conscious planning back into my photography. I’m slowing down.*David is a California Photographer . You can order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!