Newsletter #180: May, 2020
© Chris Harris. All rights reserved.
While still staying close to home, I have continued to revisit old adventures, re-discovering many images I never took the time to process. It’s been a most valuable and memorable experience.
In this month’s Newsletter, along with two local photographic adventures, I am taking you back to Ape Lake where Rita and I, along with family members, visited in the summer of 2018.
Whether I am close to home, or at some remote location within the Chilcotin Ark, images that portray the beauty and biodiversity of this land abound. Enjoy!
Abstraction with Intention
“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward, you can remove all traces of reality”.
Over the years I have often remarked on how the painters in my family have influenced my photography. As a result, I often approach my image making as a painter might approach a blank canvas.
I might ask myself, for example, should I make my image of something or about something? Is my vision and style entrenched, or can I enjoy complete freedom of expression? For both photographer and painter, the possibilities for expression are limitless.
Last week I took three early morning walks close to where I live and discovered a tiny marsh for the first time.
I set up my tripod and began my creative process. At first, I studied the marsh with intention, seeking its resonance. I became more and more aware of tonal contrast, colours, and shapes; more importantly, the texture generated by the low-angle side-lighting.
At this point I reflected on the highly textured abstract paintings of a life-long friend and artistic mentor, Irish painter Tony O’Malley. As I did that, my approach to photographing this tiny marsh began to formulate. With a 100-400mm lens, I began to explore and experiment with how best to capture the compositional elements of line, colour, and texture, in a way that resembled strokes of paint with a brush.
I often joke about having several small paint brushes hidden in my camera. In this image you can see the textured brush strokes made by my camera movement.
My earliest abstracts were geometrically simple with an emphasis placed primarily on line and shape, not texture. As I continue to study O’Malley’s abstract paintings, I have become aware of the apparent layers of paint, and my response to texture in and of itself. Because of this, I feel my abstracts are developing depth.
An earlier abstract based primarily on line, shape, and contrast. The element of texture is often overlooked in photography.
My present intention as a photographic artist is to create photographs enabling the viewer to become absorbed in the evocative elements of colour and texture, not the reality from where these compositional elements come.
With intention, the emphasis is line, colour, and texture. I
With intention, the emphasis is line, colour, and texture. II
With intention, the emphasis is line, colour, and texture. III
With intention, the emphasis is line, colour, and texture. IV
In making abstract images, I try to look beyond what I know and recognize; to see with my imagination rather than with my eyes. The results are unique and reflect the intention of the artist.
A Spring Walk in Walker Valley
Last week I took three early morning walks with my dog Duggan in a broad valley near my home. The low-lying marsh lands are the head waters of the San Jose River which flows north to Williams Lake and then west to meet the Fraser River.
Instead of photographing the highly active marshlands, I decided to hug the tree line where the first light of day filtered through the groves of aspen, cottonwood, and Douglas fir trees.
Below are a few of the images Duggan and I would like to share with you! Impressionistic in style, they speak to the variety of trees and how they are revealed in early morning light.
A favourite tree of mine, shaped by cows who use it as a shade tree.
A young fir tree flourishes beside the skeletal remains of two old cottonwoods
A woodpecker cavity displays life, prospering amidst cottonwoods in decay
Among the aspens, I would spend my time studying line, pattern and rhythm
Vertical tree trunks are brought together in a unified way through a sense of harmony
In a breeze, the young leaves of trembling aspens are doing, just that
The first hints of colour in an aspen copse…..
…..draws attention to life in the season of spring
An explosion of colour and new life
As Duggan and I started toward home, two Canada geese flew by, making their way to the marsh
With canoes strapped to our De Havilland Beaver floatplane, we flew to Ape Lake to paddle, explore, and photograph retreating glaciers and the resulting new landscapes.
On one day’s outing, we paddled to a giant granite outcrop where tiny rivulets of water from a retreating glacier above, left a unique rockscape of water-stained patterns. I was in heaven, searching for compositions that provided me with a sense of balance and harmony. Below are a few images I made that morning.
Throughout this small rockscape, pebbles, small rocks, and patches of vegetation are laid out as if by a master landscaper.
Pattern is an important element of visual design. Painters create pattern as a technique of composition; as photographers, we search for it. In the following images, meandering patterns are a major element used to attract and hold viewers’ attention. The placement of small rocks and the division of positive and negative space also play a critical role in directing the viewers eye.
At some point while photographing these images, I tried moving a small rock to facilitate a stronger composition. Mistake! It looked so contrived. I carefully returned the rock to its exact original location and never moved another one! From then on, I peacefully moved about the granite, searching for natural compositions.
Another lesson learned. Who was I to improve on nature’s landscaping, an artform learned over millions of years?
As always, I feel honoured to be a photographic artist, and to have the opportunity of sharing these images in the hope that they generate a deeper awareness for the value of nature; its beauty, its biodiversity, and its generous provisions for sustaining life.
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See you next month!