Wherever I travel I try to employ color, light and shadow within my tight photographic compositions to draw a rather serene order from the often chaotic visual clutter of the world.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau
One might think a corroded oil drum wouldn’t provide much creative inspiration. I was in India not far from the famous Amber Fort near the pink city of Jaipur. My auto-rickshaw driver was giving me a whirl through the local environs and stopped at a Hindu temple where he thought I might capture some decent photos. I did. But I didn’t shoot one single photograph of that ancient temple or its awesome facade graced with stone-carved erotic dancers from a thousand years ago. I had seen endless such temples in India before.
It was the blue-splashed oil drum I found out back that ran wild with my imagination.
“My last word is that it all depends on what you visualize.” – Ansel Adams
Peeling paint can reveal layers of history. Though I wondered what the red had depicted in the image on the left, the more recent addition of green left me equally perplexed. These yellow-charged paint streaks on the right were on an old signboard. Both images were found down an alleyway in Siem Reap, Cambodia. When I shot these photographs, I was standing knee-deep in flood waters from an inundation caused by Typhoon Ketsana a couple of days earlier. Upcountry runoff had made its way toward populated areas. The sky was still socked in but that provided soft, even light for my photos and helped intensify the deep hues of both subjects. But the water was rising fast and it was time to cut my own yellow streak toward higher ground. See my travel blog post, “Running Amok in Cambodia,” for photos of tuk-tuks trying to make headway down the water-clogged streets transformed into rivers.
“If you are not willing to see more than is visible, you won’t see anything.” – Ruth Bernhard
While wandering the streets of Chiang Mai a few days after the Songkran Water Festival in Thailand, I accidentally stepped on this image at the left above. Well, I should say that I stepped on a glorious bit of cracked pavement as I passed. Normally I’d be looking around sideways not down at sidewalks in search of fine art photo candidates but this one appeared right under my feet. On the right this seemingly black and white image of old wood was blazing in vibrant hues but the three primary colors of light (red, green and blue) were revealed in equal proportion to each other, which rendered the effect of neutral gray so I didn’t need to perform Photoshop color reduction later. I framed this closeup composition at a furniture shop where newly crafted metal chairs were spray-painted silver. Over time there was an accumulation of back spray on the wall and I zoomed in to explore.
To learn about the insane Songkran Water Festival in Chiang Mai each year where locals and tourists alike go berserk dousing each other in wild water fights, see my blog post, “Songkran Wild Ride.” If you’re on the street during the celebration, you’re gonna get wet. Crazy teenagers yank open car doors at intersections and toss the passengers with buckets of water. It’s a blast.
“One should not only photograph things for what they are but for what else they are.” Minor White
India renders me craving for a moment of quiet. My senses have exploded so many times in Rajasthan. Wandering the narrow crooked alleyways of the ancient fort town of Jaisalmer never fails to enthrall me. Upon first glance this simple hand-stitched fabric on the left launched me beyond myself. I can’t remember why I cropped the image so tightly. I don’t know why that shade of green was so intriguing or why those pink sequins propelled me . . . but they did.
Read more about my trip through the incomparable state of Rajasthan in my travel blog post, “Rajasthani Splendor.”
An hour later I ventured into a tiny restaurant at the back corner of the old fort. The menu wasn’t the draw . . . it was the color, the shapes and the backlight I saw. Triangular bits of fabric were hanging in the window and they teased me. I ordered coffee. I needed a moment to collect my senses. Despite the temptation, I didn’t rush into this photo. I sat there a while trying to contain myself and it wasn’t easy. I kept thinking the iridescent quality of light might disappear if I waited much longer. Finally, I raised my camera and lost myself in the moment.
India has a way of doing that to me.
“Those who hear not the music. . . think the dancers mad.” – Old Proverb
Check these links for fine art photography books of interest.