Photo-artist in (Pandemic) Isolation
Updated: Jun 15
In most ways I have it very easy. I am grateful.
It's a very first-world problem, especially in times like these, to have the luxury to concern myself with feeding my inner artist.
But feed him I must, and if I go 36 hours without, it begins to gnaw away, and I find myself heading out with my photographic gear. I don't have anything to decide, any more than I have to decide to get hungry or sleepy. I just go.
Allow me to start near where I left off last time. I showed the following photograph's partner then; this is the more dramatic version, and they both appeal to slightly different parts of me.
As usual, this wasn't what I went out to photograph, but on my way home from another photographic scene, I saw this sunrise, in a little cloud-gaposis on the horizon, over the St. Lawrence River, just downstream from Brockville, Ontario, overlooking upper New York State.
Again and again, I find myself back at the river - the mighty St. Lawrence River, to be precise. There is a lot of World to photograph besides the river, and I have been pondering the tension between exploring new venues (which I love, when I can) vs. learning to pull more out of old ones.
So, the more persistent readers of this blog will recognize some "old" material, perhaps typical of me: river, dawn, fog, reflection. I will leave it to you to adjudicate whether it merited a return to this old haunt.
I feel that the following, made in the same session as the one above, is going out on more of an artistic limb. It may challenge the preconceptions of some viewers about what a photograph should look like.
I have also discussed with some of my valued art-critics (and an artist needs good critics, and has to be strong enough to be open enough to what they think), and I can see that, although I think I like it on several levels, I would not show it if not for the navigation-beacon light, faint and tiny in the scene though it is. It has significance for me because I have boated by there so many times (although never in conditions requiring the light), and it is incumbent upon me to admit that most viewers won't have that association. Whether the visual punctuation is sufficient to carry this image, in the absence of such a personal connection, I will again leave to you.
Next, still on the same photographic excursion, the other end of that island:
Individual perception naturally and quite rightly varies enormously, but what attracted my eye was the pattern of the foreground branches. (Does it matter that it was early Spring, so the sprouting leaves give a sense of life's renewal? Maybe.) The reeds and island provide a natural frame, and the fog an evocative (for me) background.
Time passes, the inner artist grows restless, and I slept late (relatively!) and/or the light, earlier in the day, was "wrong". I returned to the scene at dusk, a few days later:
Isn't it amazing what a change of light does?
As I was having, over several weeks, such a good time, I went back, just a hop further upstream, to the same island as the previous with beacon, although from a different vantage (and in a different light):
What's hard to know, unless I tell you, is how very little light there was. I hung around, sometimes doing nothing for ten minutes, in a bit too much anticipation (while perversely a little bored) to call it meditation, waiting for the light to evolve. By this time, after 9 p.m., it was close to inky-black dark, with just the faintest vestige of sunlight barely glowing in the western sky behind me. This was a four-second exposure (on a tripod of course), and as I remind non-photographers from time to time, we don't need much light. We just need some light.
While I was there that evening, several ships trundled by, albeit at quite some distance, on the far side of the river, over 3 km distant. I photographed them all, and as the light faded I raised the ISO setting on the camera more and more in order to manage motion-blur. Eventually, I realized, I had another option, and this has become my favourite from that collection:
Again, this required a four-second exposure.
More river at dawn:
You tell me if I should be looking for new venues.
This brings me to this morning. For reasons known only to the Fates, I was up betimes, and feeling productive, so again found myself at the river, at dawn. I had an idea of where I wanted to go, and ... this was not it:
But this leapt out at me, and for a while I worked the scene. Island, twilight hours, fog, reflections ... I have a feeling that I'm not done with those yet.
That is not an island which I have photographed before. I have no idea if I will feel drawn to photograph it again. I only know that it drew me this morning.
The fog was only on the river, wafting across the road in spots, but essentially absent on land.
And then, not many minutes later, the sun arose:
Amazingly, apart from adjusting the exposure-time, nothing else changed with my camera settings between those two images. Mother Nature simply did what She will do.
There must be more to life, and to photography, than islands in the Thousand Islands at sunrise or sunset, on the St. Lawrence River, in fog, with reflections.
But for my present purposes, there doesn't need to be.
Thank you all so much for reading.
Charles T. Low