It’s The Bean’s World

You have eight hours of free time in Chicago — two hours one evening, six the next day. For once you get to see more than the inside of O’Hare International. You think you will not visit The Bean. There are so many other things to see before the rains come. Well okay, maybe you will just walk by at a distance and see the crowds and be glad you are skipping The Bean, at least this time. What is The Bean anyway? Is it art, or already a commodity? Warhol might have painted The Bean, but this is 2017, right? Will you have trouble sleeping after consuming a legume of this size?

And yet, something happens — you are pulled, your brain waves curve and flatten and bulge like reflections in The Bean — and you go to there. You go to The Bean. It’s all right, everything will be all right. Surrender to The Bean. It’s The Bean’s world; we only live in it.

Light, Shape, Trade-Offs, and a Windermere Dusk

At its root, photography is “writing (or drawing) with light.” That’s why there is no end of photography websites and businesses that incorporate the word “light” into their names. We live in a golden age for photography, with a dazzling and dizzying array of tools to sculpt light in the most minute and sophisticated ways, both in camera and in post-process.

Yet for many of us, the draw of images from the earliest days of photography is still strong. And our love for these images comes not from paternalistic patience (“Ah gee, they did such a good job considering their limited tools”), like one feels for a two-year-old’s first crayon scribbles. No, it comes from true appreciation of powerfully used light and shadow, shape and composition. Our brains seem wired to respond to these basics, as much as they do to fine details, elegant mid-tones, or creamy-smooth gradations. It’s as if we’re responding to buried memories of our first infant days, of the swimming swirl of blurry light and undefined shapes that welcomed us to life in the scarily wonderful world outside the womb.

The two images below (click to enlarge) were captured at dusk, near Orrest Head in Windermere, in the U.K.’s Lake District. My lens was a “travelling trade-off” lens. That is, it had great zoom range, but this range was packed into a compact form which — though excellent for international travel —  came at a price of high digital noise and decreased sharpness in low light. Yet there is still light, glowing contrasty light; and the “noise,” when you transform the images to toned black-and-white, can even fill in for the lovely grains one found in film developing. Even a homemade pinhole camera can create affecting images, after all, and even so do I treasure the images from this “trade-off” lens.

Sheep, Dusk, near Windermere

Dapple, Dusk, near Windermere