A Few More Shots and Thoughts from Yosemite

18 May

San Diego – This is excruciating for me; I had believed i came back from Yosemite with some nice images but finding time to work on them with finals week bearing down proved an elusive task.  The progress has been by fits and jerks but at last here are a few more for your perusal.

All of these shots were taken in and around the area known as “Happy Isles” which is a natural island chain formed in the middle of the Merced River by trapped debris, accumulated soil, and lots of time.  Water is the constant in this macrocosm in that it forms, supports, and ultimately destroys the elements gathered here.

The first shot is of the Merced as it flows by Happy Isles.  I have a large mosaic of 27 frames shot a few years ago of a similar view.  But the scene has slowly evolved with bushes and trees growing, thinning out, spreading and shrinking.  The time of year and the day put a slightly different angle to the light so I wanted to do another shot but this time concentrated on a smaller area.  The dappled early morning sunlight painted the leaves and branches and made some of them stand out nicely.  Several frames with various shutter speeds allowed for a blended final where the water appeared to flow and yet have its spray sparkle like the leaves.  What surprised me was that the droplets formed tiny prisms and a very close inspection reveals flashes of color that at first I mistook for noise or an aberration until I zoomed way in to “correct” it and found it was something else entirely.

But the spring brings something other than just big water, it also brings tiny little jewels like the small rivulet flowing through the fens below.  On nearly every trip I have found some view, sometimes wide sometimes tightly focussed, that revealed the spirits of this marshy greenery.

Yosemite is an exciting place to find images because nearly any time you are there, contrasts abound to tell the story of nature.  In the shot below the new spring leaves from trees along the river’s edge dance in the sunlight unaware of their relatively short lifespan while behind them is a boulder which will live much longer and is strong enough to force the raging water to seek a new path.  But water is patient.  Eventually that water and its children, running for years, perhaps decades or even centuries as it patiently pushes against the granite giant will wear it down to a smooth pebble.

In looking at and working on these images I feel sorry for the person noted in a previous post who failed to see the value in photography (and therefore photographers) and in that failure, also failed to see, much less learn from, the lessons nature presents that a photograph can make powerful in some ways beyond the abilities other traditional media.

That is not meant to downplay the power of painting or other art mediums in any way.  But viewers recognize that even the representational painting has only a coincidental tie to the underlying reality and the painter can modify it easily and at will to best present the artist’s story and lessons.  No one doubts that the message in the painting is that of the artist.  That is philosophically powerful, as powerful as any great book of insights into human observation and interaction with nature.   Yet it is also limited in impact by the unbreakable bonds of that human connection.

The photographer, on the other hand, works in a medium that most people still view as “real” even when it is highly edited and modified.  And it is that perception of the foundational reality of the final image that allows the viewer to sometimes ignore the part of the photographer and therefore interpret it differently than they do a painting.

In a frustrating way sometimes, even when the final photographic image bears scant relationship to the original reality, the photographer’s personal narrative becomes transparent and the viewer’s analysis cuts right through the photographer’s vision as if it did not exist and sees the revealed lesson as that of the the actual subject and not the artist’s.

You know what?  I’m OK with that actually.  I think my subjects here, the rocks, trees, and rivers, are far wiser than I am anyway.  If my wisdom stops at simply being able to create a container to carry their stories and lessons to my viewers then I am quite satisfied that I have done a good thing.

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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Uncategorized


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