Wind sculpting grass, solitary trees in fog, the edges of grass and trees, sunlight and rain, winter and spring... the possibilities go on. There's more personality and more moods to this "boring," nondescript landscape than we sometimes let ourselves see.
In the flat farmland of the Red River Valley, elevators rise against the horizon. These iconic structures represent a point of closure for a growing season, as well as a point of community and fellowship for farmers.
Along U.S. 2 in Montana, between rain showers. I had a long drive ahead on this early evening, but couldn’t keep driving past the compositions with the power lines and highlights.
In a rural landscape, you can see elevators from miles away. Charles-Édouard Le Corbusier, after looking at grain elevators, noted that the form of the structure followed, maybe was dependent upon, its function. “Form follows function,” became the concept associated with modern architecture, or maybe one of the concepts. I’ll acknowledge that I’m not an architect. But the execution of a form that serves its function well plays out beautifully in these old elevators.
So many photographers are drawn to water as subject matter. However beautiful they are, the pictures are often cliche. Yet I’m as drawn to photographing water as anyone. Having said that, the challenge is to understand what draws me to this subject. And from that understanding, the task is to consider how to develop a composition that effectively conveys my response to the scene. I'll probably work on this as long as I make photographs.
Some thoughts and observations about wetlands are included below the image. Scroll down to see them.
Tamarack National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota.
Seemingly in the middle of a farm field, this spring-fed stream flowed to a point where it split and went in a couple directions. Didn’t seem like something you’d see in that context.
Tamarack National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota
I’m drawn to places like this. There’s some component of moodiness or mystery that comes forth for me in places like this.
Near a low-head dam in the city (Fargo). Usually I photograph ice and moving water below the dam. On this day, the tones among the dark open water and the lighter ice flows looked interesting.
The following images were made outside my home region.
Between April 2017 and May 2018, I had the opportunity to visit five national parks for the first time. This collection includes images from Glacier National Park, Montana, USA.
A number of fires were started by lightening strikes a few days before I arrived at the park. During my visit, smoke was almost always visible. Sometimes, if my eyes didn’t notice the smoke, my nose did. A few times the fine ash suspended in the air discouraged changing lenses! But the smoke also provided another visual element to the images made during the trip.
Almost looks like an image from the Smoky Mountains, though the scale of the Rockies is a little more extreme.
This is a well photographed island and for good reason. The sun rises to the left and behind you as you face the island from this viewpoint. The light on the rock faces of the mountain is warm and reddish, changing of course with the angle of the sun and the conditions in the atmosphere. It’s a gorgeous scene, but like so many in national parks, the challenge is to see it and photograph it with fresh eyes, and new point of view.
One follows a two-mile trail to reach this lake. The path is easy enough to walk and a number of other visitors were at this location the same afternoon that I was here. During the times when the breeze was still and there was a lull in the conversations, you could hear the sound of the water rushing down the slope on the far side of the lake. Though the cascades look small from this distance, hearing their sound drove home the reality that there’s a lot of water coming down that mountain.
Another subject that I’m drawn to is grass. Tall grass prairie contains many plant species that we collectively, and generically, refer to as “grass.” Although the structures and life cycles are different, the grass and trees in this composition seemed similar in some way.
The wood of the first tree appeared to be colored silver, like it was painted. The area was impacted by an earlier fire.
Land forms from western North Dakota Approaching this from the east, out of the incredibly flat Red River Valley terrain in Eastern North Dakota, to the rolling landscape of farmland and prairie west of Bismarck, and then… this?!! What are we to make of this? Maybe what Jim Brandenburg said of the Boundary Waters region of Northern Minnesota applies to this landscape too:
“It’s bigger than you are; it’s older than you. And there’s so much mystery, don’t even try to understand it.”
This is a relatively small formation, almost a miniature of the larger landforms that occur in the badlands. Hence the concept and the image title, fractal.
Last time I visited Lake Superior’s North Shore, I was intrigued by the uncertain boundary between the rock and water. There are number of relatively flat sheets of exposed bedrock off Artist Point. The water was moving, but not so much that there was a risk of being swept into the lake.The ambiguity seemed to come across in at least some of the finished pictures.
This series of four pictures just shows sheets of water sliding across sheets of rock. It’s a different approach to a lot of the shoreline photography I’ve seen that uses long exposures to present interesting patterns, or that captures spectacular waves.
East tip of Artist Point, Grand Marais, Minnesota
This gallery includes photographs that I've worked on recently, although the images might have been captured in the past. Where my other galleries are thematically consistent, the subject matter in this one varies.
I found this recently when looking through some older images. I liked the organic forms of the clouds making a bit of a halo around the geometric form of satellite dish.
The title pretty much says it. In late spring and early summer, the light from a skylight in my bathroom causes highlights that pretty much have to be photographed. I suppose the washcloth is optional.
This could be a type of aster, but I need to look it up to be sure. The light and the flowers were wonderful this afternoon. I knew that I'd make a photograph of this as soon as I saw it.
Another image from Artist Point, in Grand Marais, Minnesota. There are many traditionally scenic pictures to be made here, especially at sunrise and sunset. This one is not particularly pretty. Especially in black and white. It might be a bit challenging to viewers. At least I hope it is and that over time, it retains and even increases in interest.
The double reflections of the highlights from the water on the hull of the boat, and then the more obvious reflection of the boat in the water, seemed to work. The boat was tied to a dock in a marina on Bainbridge Island, in Puget Sound, off the coast of Washington.
Cameras record reality. We think they do. But "reality" is a little more complicated than that. Our vision, as incredible as it is, doesn't see most of what's around us. Solid objects, for example, are mostly empty space. Aside from that, what a flower looks like to a gardener differs from what it looks like to a deer or a cow, which differs from how it appears to a spider, which probably differs from what it looks like to a hummingbird or a butterfly. So abstract images can be a little challenging for some of us. We want to know what we're looking at. Maybe because of our expectation or assumption that cameras record reality, it's difficult for us to be satisfied when we can't recognize the reality that a photograph represents.
But abstracts can also be fun. If we can step away from the need to recognize every last detail and allow ourselves to be carried away by the lines, shapes and textures of an image, to enjoy the way the artist composed the image, designed it really, to convey a sense of mystery within simplicity, or perhaps simplicity out of complexity, that when it works is also beautiful, the images can be deeply satisfying. And if they do convey a sense of mystery, they can hold our interest over time, perhaps more than a classic pretty picture does.
Saw this one evening when I was out for a late walk. Came back a few nights later with my camera. Liked the shadows with differing density caused by different street lights, which are the only light sources.
This ongoing series includes pictures that could fit into other categories, or that don’t seem to fit into any category.
As a photographer. I photograph all kinds of things, including things others wouldn’t necessarily think were interesting or workable subjects for pictures. But seeing how the light falls on some ordinary object or scene, or really noticing something that we use or interact with regularly, can yield some of the most interesting pictures. We are aware enough of the objects we live with to navigate around them, to find them, and to use them as we need to. But that doesn’t mean we really see them.
When these pictures work, they can be among the most satisfying images I make.
The shape of the brown oak leaf on the green pavement of a tennis court, photographed in winter after a light snow that had melted on this surface, just looked right for an image. Not sure what it's saying. It seems out of place. It is out of place. Maybe the point is as simple as that.
There's nothing here, just a pile of windblown dust and plant debris that settled in a doorway. Yet the wind left this shape, which seems so much to have been designed for something so random.
I was checking out of a motel room. Shirts and a jacket had hung on these hangers for the past three days. All that was now packed, ready for the drive back to Salt Lake City, and then the flight home. Then I saw these hangers, really for the first time since arriving.
The light is just what was coming in through the window. The arrangement and positioning resulted from taking my last shirt off the last hanger as I packed to leave.
Sometimes we get gifts.
If we’re open enough to notice them.
Stark, hard, angular forms against soft colors and organic cloud shapes.
Not sure if there’s wifi on the ferry. Anyway, on a calm afternoon the cruise across Puget Sound might give a commuter a few minutes of respite from the schedules and pace that too often seem more suited to machines than to people.
Having said that, this passenger might have looked up and out only to take a short break from her phone. Maybe finding respite is as much a matter of attitude and resolve as physical location or circumstances.