I’m working on a multi-image project about Fall which I will publish on these pages, but Fall is not what this essay is about. I would like to reflect on a recent moment when I discovered a better picture—not a story about a place, but a story of an experience.
I found a place where many indicators of Fall were on show. There was one position that gave me an image I liked. I moved into the scene, backed away from the scene, and moved my camera to many different heights above ground looking for the best representation of what I saw. I took photos with no people in the image and then with some people in the image. I ended up with something that I liked, but I still didn’t have consonance with the place. Graphically, it was good, but emotionally…..not much going on.
I tried to analyse why this wasn’t doing much for me, but quickly realised that this wasn’t an academic question, maybe not even an aesthetic one. I was looking for an image that would touch me, inside.
I walked around in this setting considering my options. I even went through the ‘entry’ at the far end of this image and looked back into the scene. Still nothing. I had lots of time, only limited by the movement of the sun that would change the shadows and luminescence, so I started walking. I purposely walked out of this scene and started following a nearby creek, making photographs as I went, starting to think that this image was probably the best one I was going to find.
Some kids came by and were playing around the trees, so I let my eye drift to tracing their movements and joy with my camera. Still, I photographed nothing notable, so turned to walk back to the car. After taking a few steps, I looked ahead, along the creek in the reverse direction I was walking in before, and felt that familiar jump of excitement in my chest—something was coming together for me. I moved into the scene, backed up, composed the image in my mind’s eye, then in the camera, and pressed the shutter. The lighting was terrible. Too many deep shadows and some colours that I didn’t like, but the composition was, I thought, just right.
I took a few more photos of the scene, then went on my way. That evening, I worked for several hours, post processing the image trying to create the same feeling inside as I had that afternoon.
What made this time special to me was the experience of venturing away from a ‘good’ image in search of a better image. Sure, it’s a ‘place’, but the intrigue for me were the extra steps I took to find a scene that I felt was more than a place. I think it worked and having this image ensures that I’ll not forget that afternoon.