Even if you can’t get uphill before the sunset’s gone, you might find an image elsewhere. Here, I caught an orange sky reflected in a stream of water, which was pouring down a driveway and heading downhill in the gutter. The glistening contrast was quite strong to begin with, and I simply darkened any distracting bits and then tilted the image 90 degrees to complete the abstraction. You can get a sense of the original sight by looking at the picture sideways.
These four images (click for slideshow) may be different in subject matter and treatment, but have two things in common. First, they all arose from one morning’s shoot in the Presidio of San Francisco. And second, they are crops — in a couple of cases, significant crops — from the capture that came home on my camera’s memory card.
This second happenstance is not unusual for me. In some cases, the crop is planned. Maybe I see a square composition, and my camera’s proportions are not square. Or maybe the lens I’ve chosen can zoom in only so far, and I know that the final “zoom” — the crop — is available later. In other cases, though, I discover my final composition only after the fact. I may try a number of angles at the moment of capture, but it isn’t until I’m in front of my computer that some essential combination hits me. Often I go through a multi-stage process, whittling and stripping away non-essentials.
Now, this discovery process has the obvious disadvantage of limiting the size at which the piece can be printed. Since my current camera is not one of those 50 megapixel monsters, it can be an important “error” in my practice. Occasionally I will return to the subject and, if possible, do a retake to maximize megapixels. More often, I just live with it. Life and light inevitably limit the time I have to work a scene, so there’s no reason to beat myself up over not getting it perfect on the spot — especially when my goal is usually a creative rather than a documentary piece.
With every editing session I learn a bit more that informs future shoots in the field. But I suspect that the artistic play of “whittling” will always be part of my process.