A strange one this week, and one that I have to admit I’m not sure about – is it too ambiguous, too messy, too unformed? But there’s something about the way the tree branches seem to drape themselves over what could be boulders but are actually seats inside the car that I find interesting, and I keep coming back to it to have another look. Does it have something, or am I fooling myself? That’s always a tricky one to answer.
I may be getting a little hooked on ‘tree in car window’ reflections right now, and have been taking rather a lot of them. The more I look, the more I see, and of course they’re everywhere. It’s the multi-layered, ‘double exposure’ effect that appeals to me, where you see both the reflection of what’s outside the car and also through the window to what’s inside it. I tend to like images that are either very simple and minimalist or very complicated – complicated in the sense of creating ambiguity and mystery and with that idea of different layers in the image. This one definitely falls into the second camp.
I have another, similar, image that’s easier to ‘read’ and had intended to use that one for this week’s post, but sometimes it’s good to be a little controversial. However, just in case you really hate the one above, here’s the other one below.
Newark Library is housed in a modern building largely made up of glass and surrounded by trees. The glass is tinted to stop excess heat and glare, but there are also blinds high up on the glass walls to help give shade from the heat in summer. I often do some shifts there, and I’d noticed that on sunny days the trees outside cast their shadows on these blinds, and I’d just as often felt the urge to photograph them.
I don’t take my camera to work as I don’t want to risk leaving it in the lockers, and I’d been meaning for some time to make a visit there specially to take some shots, but sod’s law had seen to it that my free time and the right weather hadn’t coincided. However it had to happen sooner or later, and this week I finally got the opportunity.
I also got some strange looks from people wondering what I was doing. As I’m sure lots of you know, this is an occupational hazard when you’re into photography, particularly the kind of photography where you’re using your own vision and awareness to see things that other people miss. I’ve got used to the embarrassment factor now, and mostly feel sad that people miss so many of these visual pleasures. I always did notice things that others didn’t, but photography took that ability and expanded it tenfold. This has been one of its greatest gifts to me, and I can’t imagine life without it now.
I couldn’t decide which of several shots to post, so I thought I’d include a couple of other favourites as well.
Not a very big tree this week, but it counts, I think. I liked the way the shadow of the picket fence leads you to the tree, and how the electrical cable on the right somehow works to balance the whole thing out.
Life feels very full at the moment – I haven’t been out much with my camera, and what pictures I have been taking all seem to be of water reflections (which I’m rather obsessed with right now). However, it looks like the busyness is beginning to slow down a little, so I’m hopeful that this week will see me with a little time to play.
And play is what I need right now. I have all sorts of things I’d like to try photographically, including a technique usually referred to as ‘in the round’. It involves taking a series of pictures while moving 360 degrees round the subject, then combining these afterwards to give a very painterly, impressionist effect. If you want to see some examples, or read a bit more about it, there’s a great article on Stephen D’Agostino’s site. I’m pretty sure it’s a lot harder than it looks, but if I have any success with it I’ll be putting the results on here.
I’d also like to do more with Intentional Camera Movement, experiment with pinhole, and spend some time with my Lensbaby, among other things. It won’t all happen, of course, but perhaps some of it will. Finally there’s some spring colour around, and that wonderful haze of green that appears just before the trees come fully into leaf. It’s all so much more inspiring than the grey days we’ve had for so long, and I’m longing to get out there.
Although I’ve only once posted some of my ripple reflection pictures on the blog, I’ve been working on them for the last little while behind the scenes and now have quite a collection of them. This reflected tree, however, is a little different due to the inclusion of some colour and the hint of sun. It’s one of my favourites so far, and I’m hoping to be able to go on developing this theme as the trees come into leaf, although the lines formed by the bare branches are not going to be there. As always, though, there will be something else to take their place and I’m interested to see what that might be.
Another sunset. At this time of year we begin to get spectacular sunsets much of the time, and the sun goes down just behind the huge tree that grows a couple of gardens over. Later in the summer, with the earth’s rotation, the sunset moves clockwise past the tree and the skyline isn’t nearly so interesting there, so it’s good to make the most of it while it’s happening. Well, that’s my excuse, anyway!
I’ve photographed the amazing sunsets I see from my study window plenty of times before, but this is the first time I’ve tried some intentional camera movement. I had to delete most of the shots I took as they didn’t work at all, but this one, my last one, came together in the way I was hoping for. I found the trick was to jiggle the camera rather than move it in any particular direction. It was a bit of a rush job as the colours were fading fast and I had to grab my camera, find the key that opens the window, lean out, and shoot like mad in those few moments.
I’m pleased with the result, as I think it captures the feeling of the soft but fiery sky, and the quiet gentleness of dusk. I can see myself moving more and more towards this impressionistic style of photography as time goes on.
I once planned to do a whole project on nature reflected in cars, although I never did get round to it and it’s joined my very long list of ideas for themed projects that have never actually happened. Something about juxtaposing a hard, mechanical, man-made thing like a car, and the organic shapes of the natural world really appeals to me.
They seem so at odds with one another, but I was struck at the time with the fact that I needed a car to get myself to the kind of wild, natural spaces that I love – cars and roads paradoxically both destroy our environment and enable us to experience it. And everywhere I went for a while, I saw nature and cars coming together in some way – piles of spring blossom fallen on windscreens, trees reflected in bonnets, tyre tracks in woodland access roads, leaves trapped under windscreen wipers, a bunch of flowers on the parcel shelf, a sapling growing out of an abandoned car. And cars run on fossil fuel, created over time by trees, plants and other organic matter.
I love my car for the freedom it offers me, and its ability to take me to wild places that I couldn’t access any other way, while at the same time I’m aware that the act of doing that is helping to destroy those very places.
This little project is teaching me many things, and one of them is how hard it is to stay true to my own vision and not be swayed by what I think other people will like. Unusually, I had quite a number of images to select from this week and have changed the posted image about four times so far because I can’t make up my mind. Some were ‘safe’ – the kind of thing universally liked but not that interesting – some were dark, both in tone and visually, hinting at darker emotions that are not so immediately appealing. Some I loved myself, but knew that others almost certainly wouldn’t.
I never photograph for anyone other than myself. While I’m using the camera, it’s all about how I’m seeing things and what I’m drawn to. Afterwards, though – afterwards – I begin to see my pictures as other people are likely to. In some ways this is good – it introduces a little bit of objectivity into the proceedings – but it’s also when I start tying myself in knots.
It’s easy to say it shouldn’t matter and of course there’s a lot of truth in this. On the other hand, some of my motivation to continue taking photos lies in sharing them, and I like to feel I’m sharing them with people who enjoy what I do – for the most part, at least. I’ve questioned this need to share more than a few times, and the conclusion I came to is this: I need to share in the same way that if I got a piece of good news or something fantastic happened to me, I would feel a strong urge to phone up a friend and tell them about it. It increases the pleasure for me, and I hope gives them some second-hand pleasure too. It’s not a case of looking for validation – rather, an intention to connect through the medium I most enjoy. So I’m very grateful to anyone who takes the time to look at what I’ve done, and I’d rather not alienate them with too much stuff they won’t like.
Then there’s the business of trying to assess, as objectively as possible, what I’ve produced. I believe that I’m producing better art these days than I did a few years ago – in fact, I believe that I might venture to actually call some of what I do ‘art’ – but self-doubt is never slow to poke its head in. It’s so difficult to judge your own work – it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve looked at something I’ve done and loved it, only to realise later that it was pretty poor stuff.
Other people’s reactions are not really something you can go on here. The more you look at images the more sophisticated and informed your taste becomes, and any one person’s reaction to what I’ve produced is likely to be dependent on where they are on that scale of visual experience. What I’ve resorted to is looking at other people’s work – work that’s gained some recognition – and comparing with my own. Much of the time I can see how far I lag behind them, but on occasion I see people doing the kind of thing I’m doing myself, and even more occasionally I think I might be doing it better.
So I think I prefer the weeks when there isn’t much to choose from. I’ve no idea if I’ve made the best choice here or not, but I’ve been playing with diptychs lately – something I haven’t done for a long time – and this is one of them. I was also playing with my Lensbaby – another thing I haven’t done for a long time – and I liked the way it blurred the background layers of these hanging branches. It’s a quiet image, with perhaps something of a Japanese aesthetic about it.
I’m at the stage where I’m getting a little bit bored with this project, or at least, bare trees with no leaves. However, we’re now getting a bit of sunshine and on Sunday it was bright enough to cast these wonderful shadows on the Georgian houses round the corner from us. It makes a change from reflections.
I guess this is the danger time in a project, when you’re well enough into it to have lost the initial excitement and you begin to get the feeling you’re repeating yourself a little too often. Time to up my game a bit, I think, and start thinking a little more laterally.
It does help to have a camera with you at all times. I don’t usually, because mine’s far too big and heavy, but on this occasion I happened to have a little digital compact in my bag. The quality’s not nearly so good but, as they say, the best camera is the one you have with you. However, at long last it’s looking as if I might get a bright shiny new camera in the near future, and I’ve decided to go for the Sony a6000 which is going to be small and light enough to carry around with me most of the time. I’m rather hoping it will give my photographic creativity a bit of a boost.