“The enjoyment of beauty is a kind of escape from, a going out from, the urgencies of place and time.” ~ Virgil C. Aldrich (American Philosopher, 1903-1998)
There was a point early in my career where I realized that the process of creation was no longer an option. The act of creating had became an escape from the everyday stresses of life. If I didn’t get into the field at least once a week, I went into a low level depression (withdrawal?). Being out in nature was a big part of what drove the creative process. The science is clear about the benefits of being in areas of woods, around water bodies; even just looking at pictures of nature lowers stress levels.
I have come to realize as well that beauty itself drives my creative process and can serve as an escape. One of the benefits of working in the arts is the ability to create things of beauty. I can create my own escape when I need it. In my farmhouse studio space I can explore subjects in detail at my own pace and experience a world of beauty all to myself. For me art is all about experiences.
The image above was the result of an exploration of a silk moth which I found on our farm earlier this spring. Discovering its intricate wing scale design was a joyful experience. It felt like I was looking at a mosaic of tiles when I viewed a section of wing close-up. For the period of time in which I created images I thought of nothing other than the wonderfulness of the color and pattern. With its rhythm of scales though, it was the curve of the wing that I was drawn to most.
Curves introduce a feeling of tension. While sensual in form, curves imply resistance. Straight is less tense while driving; a curved road requires more expenditure of energy to maneuver. A river that flows through an oxbow is constantly fighting the curves. Straightness implies a fight with gravity which is lost, or even a struggle with death no longer fought. Leo Stein (American art collector/critic, 1872 – 1947) remarked, “Tension in line can be observed if one will follow the outline of a vase and notice the force it takes to bend the line of a contour.” Curves to me speak to a life force, something I think art can convey uniquely.
I am in the unusual position of writing a blog entry in late February with the windows open and still being slightly warm in my studio. It reached the mid 70’s today in north central PA. But it is still winter and the visual stimuli that excite me about winter are still forefront of my mind. It wasn’t that long ago that I made this image even though the temperatures suggest it should have been months ago.
I’ve always enjoyed the visual aesthetics of patterns in nature. I work with them not strictly out of a sense of design but because shapes convey emotions. The same way that human posture conveys feelings, so do the curves, lines, and geometries that are all around us. In some ice forms, those curves, lines, and shapes can be very complex. As an artist I am working to compose an image that expresses movement, joyfulness, tension, harmony.
This image was made along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. Using a Nikon D810 and an quite old 28-105mm Nikkor lens in macro mode, I isolated a section of ice and grasses frozen into a geometry that I found quite stirring. A small aperture created the necessary depth of field. This depth had to balanced with a sufficient shutter speed to hand hold the camera during the exposure. Because of where I chose to compose this image, using a tripod was not practical.
Yesterday morning I spent 5 hours working frozen ponds trying to create new images along the theme of ice patterns. It was cold, but very pleasant. My greatest challenge when photographing during winter is focusing as my eyes water easily in the cold. Physically, the kind of macro work I did yesterday is very straining and I am feeling the effects of long periods of squatting and bending over a tripod while standing on ice. I do regular weight training because show set-up and tear-down can be gruelling. However, I’m thinking I need a different routine for macro work, especially now that I’ve discovered this ice theme. Things will not get any better in the spring when flowers begin to bloom. Where is the book – A Photographer’s Guide to Physical Training?
At least I feel there was a gain. I really enjoyed myself working outdoors yesterday and I am happy with the quality and variety of images I made. The more I explore this ice theme, the more I like it. It seems that the fluctuating temperatures around these parts may actually make the ice patterns more interesting and varied. The cycle of thaw and freeze allows me to go back to the same locations and work new ideas and new images. This small group represents a series that has more complex lines than many of the others I made yesterday.