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.
A tricky image to in post k through in post processing. Some low key images are dramatic, their impact and effectiveness immediately evident. Others, and maybe this is true for the majority of low key images, are more an acquired taste, something that you open yourself to. To some extent, they work because we’re willing to decide that they work and then we let them into our consciousness.
The wood of the first tree appeared to be colored silver, like it was painted. The area was impacted by an earlier fire.
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.
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.
Another view of crop storage buildings, potatoes, I think, which I noted in the caption for another photograph. As I write this, a blizzard has come through this area, so the scene is different. I say that not having visited since the storm ended yesterday morning. But between eight and ten inches of snow fell with sustained wind of around 40 mph. I’m pretty sure the scene is different today. Then again, photography isn’t reality; reality always differs from a photograph.
These storage structures sit at the side of a highway. I’ve driven past them many times and finally stopped this month to photograph them. Not sure completely sure that potatoes are stored in these structures, but they appear similar to me to what my wife’s uncle referred to as “spud houses.”
In the early 1990s, I participated in a bicycling tour to raise money to help cure multiple sclerosis. One of the clearest memories of that weekend was the site of an elevator in Colfax that I could see from miles away. It seemed like I road for a long time before finally arriving at the rest stop there. Haven’t been back since, until stopping one Saturday evening. The old elevator, the structure I remembered, wasn’t there. These steel granaries had apparently replaced that structure.
A photographer based in Sydney, Australia, Leigh Perry, made a wonderful series of photographs from a parking ramp, that he titled Primitive Markings. A number of those images are pretty minimalist, with subject matter consisting of worn concrete surfaces, marked by scratches or vehicle tires. Why would anyone photograph that? Or this?!! The simplicity of the color scheme, the repeating lines and shapes, and the flaws and grime, are the very things that make it compelling for me. Your mileage may vary.
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.
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.
Some photographers are known for capture many images. Despite some travel opportunities in the first half of the year, It appears that my output was less this year than it’s been the preceding few years. The numerical count probably doesn’t matter, but it seemed like an interesting, and possibly worthwhile , exercise to distill hundreds or thousands of images to an arbitrary ten images that might have been worth the effort. So here they are.
I’m not sure how best to go about this. I looked through the photographs that I’d some post processing on and selected a small subset of those. That brought me to about a hundred images from which to choose the final ten. On another day, I might well have selected a different set of pictures, although a few would probably make into any selection of ten best or favorite dozen for the year.
I’ll elaborate on this more in a blog post before the end of the New Years holiday.
So simple really. I would think that it either resonates with you, a lot, or it doesn’t at all. Either you think, “Yeah!!” or it arouses a though like, “this is why I hate (so-called) art!”
For me, if I let go of the all the comments that all the editors are screaming at me in my own thoughts, and just accept the pleasing arrangement of shapes, the simple but pleasant color, without judgement or preconceptions, it’s a pleasing picture.
Visited my aunt who lives in Arizona this spring. We did some touristy things, spent a few hours in Saguaro National Park, visited Tombstone and San Xavier del Bac mission. To be honest, I don’t recall where this image was made, other than that I’m confident it wasn’t Minnesota.
These are wonderful plants and extraordinary for their ability to survive in harsh conditions. They’re slightly challenging to photograph in ways that I hadn’t seen before. I’m still not sure I accomplished that but the attempt to do so made me look at them more carefully and appreciate their graphical beauty that much more.
Stuff was blooming in Arches National Park in May. It was my first visit to this area. I stayed in Moab (the park is in Utah), which I knew of as a mountain biking mecca. It draw people who enjoy lots of other pursuits, as well. This flower image didn’t attract my attention the first few times through my photos from this trip. Eventually it stood out from the many pictures of rocks, juniper bushes and broad landscape pictures.
A lot of the weathered wood had wonderful texture. This twisted mess of branches provided a little canopy, almost a natural arbor, for the plants that were flowing this morning.
If you’re familiar with Dan Steinhardt’s wonderful blog, Between Meetings, this image fits that theme; it was captured during a business trip on an afternoon between meetings. Our work group had a morale event on Bainbridge Island, and I had an hour or two to photograph on the marina in Puget Sound.
We visited Eleven winery one spring afternoon on Bainbridge Island. The wine was good. Really good. The light was even better. I recommend the wine. And if you get a chance to visit the winery in person, the staff is friendly, hospitable, and knowledgeable as you’d expect about wine. It’s the Pacific Northwest so I can’t guarantee what the light will be.
Back to the north edge of the lower 48. Summer afternoon in a city park. There was an event, a picnic or something, going on. Not quite sure what the point of plastic spheres is but you put them over yourself and then you can bump into someone wearing another one, or roll down a hill without injury. I guess. Summer is the time to be outside, to spend time together outside, to run, to bask in the warmth, the grass and the sunshine and shadows.
An aging but possibly still-used elevator in Park River, North Dakota. I happened to be in Park River one evening and had some time to photograph. Elevators add a strong vertical element to the Red River Valley landscape, which holds a profoundly horizontal character. But for someone who grew up in a city, they also include lots of interesting details.
New structures for storing grain are more like tanks, and less like buildings. They’re also interesting in their own right. But there’s something about these older structures that I struggle to describe. Yet the newer structures don’t have the same quality or character. It seems important therefore to capture these gems. While I heard that this elevator was still being used, I also heard that it was destined to be taken down in the next few years. Hard to know. But I don’t see new structures like this rising in the countryside, just the existing structures getting older each year.
In August I visited a place on the state university campus where a variety of flowering landscape plants are kept. Several acres of both perennial and annual plants grow here. The good fortune on this afternoon included an overcast sky that provided even, shadowless light and virtually no wind.
The bees were as interested in the flowers as I was and had more right to them than I did for that matter. One wonders if they get annoyed by some configurations of petals that might make it harder to get at the nectar. If they were, they didn’t show it, but went about their work with the all of the businesslike focus that they’re known for.
This is a bit of an illusion. The seemling wide open space depends on your point of view. Commercial and residential structures are close by. My vantage point for this image was at the edge of an urban drain, a concrete trough that nevertheless draws ducks at certain times of year. I’m often drawn to the symmetry of man-made structures along with more organic shapes of plants or natural structures. Maybe that combination of things drew me to photograph the scene in the first place, and then to come back to it as a personal favorite for the year.