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An artist friend and I had been talking about art. He, an artist with pen, pencil and brush, and I, a fine art photographic artist. He, with decades of experience, educated in the art field, and I, a new arrival to art, educated in the technical world of engineering. I was the one deficit of knowledge and experience, the one trying to use more of the right side of my brain.

I thought it would be interesting to cruise around the countryside for a couple of hours, looking at various scenes and then talking over how we would each interpret what we saw and how we would put that interpretation on paper. We agreed and set a date.

When we got together, he went over his approach to conceptualising his art. Using a sketch pad and thin drawing pen he demonstrated simple marks that could create form and feeling in one’s mind without drawing a fully realistic image on the paper. This was far away from what I had been doing in my photography, but our discussion caused me to think about what I saw in a different way - a new way to simplifying my photographs.

We headed out at the latter part of a sunny, fall day and stopped from time to time to survey a landscape and talk about it. We looked at several seemingly uninteresting landscapes and I was pleased to learn that we both agreed on the ones that weren’t worth considering. When we did find a scene of interest, he would demonstrate his way of collecting the image in a form that would allow him to expand on a concept back in his studio. I listened and tried to imagine how I would represent, photographically, some of the landscapes that we saw. My thoughts and previsualisation were so uninteresting, so cliche, that I didn’t even bother taking my camera out of its bag.


As our travels wore on, I did notice a landscape that caught my eye. The fall colours were rampant and the sun was creating highlights that made the foliage in the scene glow. I was previsualising a black and white interpretation with a dark sky and glowing ground level of grass and trees. After capturing a few different compositions, we stood, looking at the scene and discussed what we saw. The artist then pulled out a sketch he had done another time that, in his simplified presentation in pen and ink, showed the same basic image, but in a rather abstract fashion. At that moment I got the idea for something different that I could do with the photograph I had just taken. I couldn’t create it in the camera. I needed to do it back in my ‘light room’ on the computer. I couldn’t wait to get at it. What you see above is the result.

I sent this sample of my supposedly new idea off to my friend Bill who has a wealth of experience as a fine art photographer. I wanted to find out what he thought. The result shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it least a little bit. It turns out this form was popular back in the late 50s and 60s. In those days of film, it was created using the lithography process. Evidently, after 5-10 years, critics found that, as visually appealing as the photographs were, very few photographers were successful telling a story with their art created in this manner.

I was left with this skill, but now I’m not sure I know what to do with it. Maybe landscapes done in this way and then augmented with words will work. Nevertheless, the idea of simplicity in my images always haunts me. More recently, I created an image that's proven to be popular with many. I, too, like the result. The autumn colours and the warm toned morning sun almost change this simple picture into abstract art.

Autumn Grass - a more recent 'simple' image

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28 août 2021

I love this image Jack. I’m surprised you call it ‘simple’, your ability to use light, colour, shading, depth of field, composition as you have has resulted in a magical capture of the beauty we see in nature and I have to say it is giving me a lot of pleasure to look at it.


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