Category Archives: Yellow

Direct Experience, Not Conceptual

Flowering Trees, Tulips, and White Hat
Flowering Trees, Tulips, and White Hat, 2019

I’ve just made some spectacular prints of this new photo on Canson Aquarelle Watercolor paper. The 15 x 20 print is especially drop-dead gorgeous, but they all are good. Purchase here.

One commonality between my practice of photography and practice/experience of Buddhist meditation is a practice and aspiration to experience directly and non-conceptually. This applies to perceptions, emotional experience, logical process, physical sensation. It’s a trick that will take a lifetime. I won’t go into the Buddhist philosophy and practice behind this, assuming you are on the site for photography. And there are better Buddhist teachers than me.

So in photography, a conceptual approach might be fine. Many photographers have succeeded with a conceptual basis for their approach. In my opinion, quite often these often fail. There are photos in major modern photography galleries of, say, a tree with cheese doodles stuck around the trunk with toothpicks. Then in the blurb it will say the artist is exploring the post-industrial relationship to nature, or something like that. It doesn’t work for me, but then they are in those galleries and I am not, and probably won’t be.

I find though that as I work in any situation different levels of conceptual approach, in one way or another, will creep in. I think ideally working with a camera might be like a master jazz musician improvising on an instrument, that kind of transparency, being able to instantly hit the notes without thinking about it. The musician might think, “what if I went into that dark key right here?” — and that is a kind of conceptualizing that works in the service of the playing. I will think, “What if I tried that old Olympus 90 at a wide aperture?” — and I know what kind of a “key” I will be playing in then. You’ve got to think, think on your feet. Just don’t over-think and make it a formula or purely a concept.

So in the case of the photo above, I had gotten to some extent into the conceptual weeds. I was working with this composition: the branch of the flowering tree in the foreground with a shallow depth of field, the tulips and large background flowering tree beyond the focal plane. Trouble is that people kept coming into the composition, sometimes looking good with umbrellas, sometimes with that clunky tourist vibe. I was usually waiting for them to pass out of whatever frame I had. I had come to be pretty boxed in by the concept of what I thought I wanted to be working with. But then this woman popped into my viewfinder — the orange shirt echoing the tulips, looking up, the round hat perfect. I wish I had been able to work more quickly and fluidly with her there. I did what I did, and I was glad to have made this and a few other exposures of that situation.

Yellow Apples in Ice

Yellow Apple in Ice and Rime on Grass, Vermont

Last fall was of course very strange weather, and it featured a bumper crop of apples everywhere in Vermont. Of particular photographic interest was the one tree of pale green/yellow apples that hangs over our little pond. It dropped them in greater numbers than I’ve ever seen as the leaves were turning and beyond, as there was new ice on the water around them in the mornings. They were interesting nestled into the shore with the grass and leaves and plants, and then they were also interesting out in the water. Each apple in the new ice acted as a sort of seed for the ice to make a different pattern right around it. This one at dawn with birch reflections is a different warm tone than many of the blue and green images of ice on this pond:

These photos are for sale as prints on Canson Baryta Photographique paper:

Apple in Ice, Rime on Grass

Yellow Apple in New Ice and Birch Reflections 2015, Dawn

Yellow Siberian Iris Leaves, Frost, Fall 2013

Yellow Siberian Iris Leaves and Frost

Well, maybe I’ve been a little heavy in recent posts. Certainly my mind feels heavy now; I’ve been coding hard all week, working on the shopping cart for this site with PHP, Javascript, JSON, etc.

This afternoon, sick of it, I decided it’s time for a Photo of the Week, and it reminds me that part of photography is that it’s fun. It just is; hence its current popularity. I opened up a few raw files in photoshop and played with tones a bit, some burning and dodging.

Ahh, the most fun I’ve had all week.

(update: I got the shopping cart working!)

This print is for sale here.