I create images mostly as an intuitive process. I react in the moment to a stimulus that attracts me and then work to make a picture that satisfies my response. I know when I’ve been successful when there’s almost a feeling of relief. Then I keep exploring to discover what else about my visual experience needs satisfying. Sometimes during the process, I talk to myself to achieve the result I want (it actually helps calm me down so that I can be analytical about camera settings).
Because I work intuitively (after 40 years of making images), I don’t do any real analysis of the images while in the field. Back in the studio however, I can spend as much time staring at the images as I please, or need. On a screen I can evaluate what about the images, and my intuition, worked. Then I determine what steps are needed in the development of the images to fully realize the emotion I was feeling.
I typically don’t venture out with any preconceived ideas about particular images I want to make. Generally, my motivation to go out is based on situational elements like, it’s cloudy, the leaves are colorful, I have time to explore.
Below is an analysis that I went through in the studio while developing this image.
Bringing this image into Lightroom and doing some basic developing of color, contrast, and shadow/highlights adjustments, I can then evaluate the image overall. After looking at it for a while, I can judge whether the image is balanced. Since we tend to look at images from left-to-right (the same way we read), I begin there. The left side (1) is heavy with trees, so the visual weight there needs to be balanced on the right. The red sumac leaves (2) progress lower left to upper right, drawing the eye in that direction, good. At point (3), the green leaves are brighter and encompass a larger part of the image, which also drives the viewer to the right. Lastly, the distant trees (4), draw the eye to the upper right, good again. Overall, I feel the image is well balanced and pleasing. This process of analysis serves as a kind of feedback loop which enhances my intuition next time in the field.
I don’t travel much, never have. This has been the case partly because it’s expensive, partly because it requires time, and mostly because I’ve never felt the need or great desire. I’ve always preferred to get to know my surroundings as well as I could, deeply, thoroughly. I always found great satisfaction in achieving familiarity with the area in which I lived. The more I have explored my local area, the greater the esthetic and emotional relationship I have developed with it. As a result, I think my work has been more authentic, more honest, and better.
My work has never been about location. I have always strived to create images that have a universal message, unconstrained by geography. And while many locations have tell-tale signs that give away something about where they were made, I try not to have that information be what is important.
Pennsylvania is a beautiful state, it is where I’ve lived most of my life (a short stint in Delaware being the only exception). It is a state with a good deal of natural area, especially woods. So come fall, I believe Pennsylvania can hold its own for color and splendor against any state.
This image was made near Ricketts Glen State Park, a favorite location of mine. I drove past this stand of Birch and two miles on had to turn around and give it some attention. As soon as I past it my mind began to work out images so that there was no choice. I was working that day with some light gear, an Olympus OM-D E-M5 with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8. This is my choice of format when I really don’t want the tools to get in the way.
I asked a friend recently what her favorite season was, she answered – “fall.” In fact she had her seasons rated 1 thru 4 with great confidence. I’m a bit more complicated maybe. I like fall visually, the colors thrill me. But i think my favorite season emotionally is spring. I like the beginnings of things more than the ends. Fall makes me feel more like the end of something is coming.
Fall is a thrilling time for a visual person though and I welcome it even with its shorter days and with the knowledge that winter is close. When I have the opportunity to work with all that fall color, the only thing that can make things better is a reflection. The best way to achieve a reflection of fall colors is in water. Water bodies display the colors which they reflect back to us in shades which are slightly deeper. So if there are brightly colored leaves on those trees, the water reflection will be quite spectacular.
In this image below which was made in the Delaware Water Gap in PA during an especially magnificent fall, I composed tightly to just emphasize the reflection. The image takes on a rather impressionistic feel with just the reflection of color and line. I then cropped the image to a panoramic 7×14 (2:1 ratio) and inverted it so that the trees are “right-side up.” Inverting the image emphasizes the impressionistic elements I feel.
The image was made with a Canon 5D and a Canon EF 28-300mm L lens. I no longer have either the camera or the lens, but for several years this was my favorite landscape outfit.
January is a time for me to print new pieces which will now appear at both art/fine craft shows and at the Artists’ Gallery (Lambertville, NJ). The image below is a new work that I’ve titled Autumn Meander. It is an image I made here in Bucks County, PA this past fall and continues with a theme I’ve been developing – Paths.
It is available on archival canvas at a size of 24×36 (ready to hang) for $495.00. It is a wonderful piece in this size and really allows you to lose yourself down the path. It does need to be seen in person!