Slot Canyon walls
As you wander down slot canyons and arroyos, you will often see hundreds of millions of years of earth’s history carved by the sand, wind, and waters. It makes one feel quite small. Yet the complexity of the years displays a remarkable beauty. Over the hundred of thousands of years the deposition of the sands changed and then was compacted by layers above it to create these remarkably beautiful variations in texture. Different pigments get piled on others. Seas and rivers deposit myriad sands from upstream. What we see now has happened many times before.
So much time and so much to imagine.
Even the wind attacks the walls and carves them into unique forms and textures. Walking these slices of history is an opportunity when simply seeing shows the uniqueness that remains exposed. So when walking in a slot canyon of any form or depth, simply stop, look, and see what is there. Seeing is an activity that is grossly under-rated, but of paramount importance. Seeing involves simple visual appreciation. There is no emotion or meaning at first. It is simply a seeing of the forms and colors in these walls. Once one can see, then one can create art… and with art comes meaning.
For those of us who are not trained in art in our early years, simply seeing is a slow and difficult process. One has to see the landscape in terms of compositional aesthetic, eg. line, form or shape, color, contrast, texture, etc.
I have learned that when I go on a photo op, I have to be by myself or at least isolated from a group of other photographers. At the start of my wanderings I have to remind myself of the rules of composition, eg. line, form, color, contrast, rule of third, golden rule, etc. Natalie Briot taught me that exaggeration is a first step into art. Often I will exaggerate the foreground or perhaps the sky. I will look at what is in the foreground and see if it is of sufficient interest to capture in relationship to the background. This exercise gets me into the mode of simply seeing what is there and reconstructing it artistically. Often the images in the later half of a photo op are of superior artistic quality than at the first, because I have moved to a place of simply seeing.
I often wander on my photo ops, looking for lines and forms and colors. Then I see if a particular scene can be constructed artistically based on the usual composition rules. If so, I then apply the rule of thirds or the golden rule to the scene to see if the image will “work”. Then I take the picture.
I will take perhaps dozens to hundreds of pictures on a wandering photo op. I try to bring back the most artistically pleasing images for consideration when I sit down to develop them. It is in the development that the art occurs, but one has to start with good composition to proceed to good art in photography.
In the end I have to remember that it is in the quiet moments that I see most clearly.
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