a multi-disciplinary dialog
Posted by Colin Jago on January 9th, 2007
Filed in photography
Very nice shot. The alignment of the bow to the horizon is super and looks like a combination between an accidental shot and a shot with enormous planning. Leaves you wondering what it is and this contributes to the beauty of the shot..
I like the bold violation of the “rule” of avoiding accidental tangencies between subject elements, like the prow with the horizon line and the light triangle with the thwart. I don’t mind the blurred thwart, but I would crop out the light blur along the bottom edge. It may not be Colin’s style, but I would also eliminate the light vertical spike near the left edge, because it interferes with another thing I do especially like, the interaction of the symmetrical boat with the asymmetrical skyline.
I have taken the liberty and done what Steve suggested:
1) Pasting black over the spike to the left has a big impact on the picture. At first, I thought that I liked it better because the black on the left rim of the boat now made a stronger impact on me. But then, I realized that the spike helps to make for a more complex motion of the boat towards the darkness ahead.
2) Removing the light blur along the bottom edge, made me focus more on the blur of the first bench. It also unpleasantly accentuated the black in upper third of the picture. Furthermore, the picture lost some of its 3-D motion.
In summary, I prefer the picture the way it is.
I am intrigued by the complexity of the motion of the boat.
The alignment is part accident (this was a rangefinder camera, so you can never be sure) and planning (I took several exposures to ensure that one was what I wanted).
I nearly cloned out the spike, but instead opted to tone it down considerably. I’d be interested in the views of others on this point.
The blur along the bottom edge was deliberate. There is a version without this, and, as you say, it could have been cropped. My feel was that it contributed a sense of movement to an otherwise static shot. Again, I would be interested in thoughts of others.
We posted at the same moment….I’m interested in how you expressed very similar views to my thoughts.
The overlap in timing was fun.
I love your photo!
I love it…it’s a beautiful and strong image.
I’m not a fan of cloning, so I think the spike should stay—it’s there, and it works. I find the blur along the bottom only slightly distracting. I’m not sure it adds to the sense of movement—perhaps maybe if it wasn’t so bright. I’d be interested in seeing the version without the blur added.
Otherwise, excellent photograph!
Colin, another of your wonderful photos w/ multiple readings!
Although I of course know it’s a boat, it evokes other associations for me. One of them is train tracks, the classic one-point perspective image, and I’m sure I see the train at the horizon. Another is that of the inside of a cantelope, or perhaps the ribcage of an animal embedded in the land.
Personally I find the blur of light at the bottom edge distracting. Not the blurriness so much as the washed-out feeling from the light. For me it doesn’t create a feeling of movement, and in fact it’s the tension of the static image that I think makes it so powerful in the first place. My eyes move very quickly to the horizon anyway, and if I feel any movement at all it’s from that train coming at me :)
The blur isn’t added, except in the sense that when I chose the focus point and aperture I assumed the blur would happen.
I’ve just commented on Steve’s pears that I’m not very good at dealing with out of focus foregrounds, so this was a bit experimental.
The neg without the blur didn’t get scanned, so it isn’t easy for me to show you the difference that it makes.
Ah, trains. I hadn’t thought of that. But now that you mention it they are a powerful idea which inverts the whole direction of the picture.
What a wild picture. This is full of contradictions. The difference in focus of the horizontal planks suggests motion, but the bucket seems completely stationary. The boat seems to pull up out of a stormy sea, which is not sea but land. Amidst this violent motion/stillness, the tip of the boat exactly touches the point between water (land) and sky.
Rex, I think Colin may have you with this one. This is a “hey look at this” image rather than a “let me communicate this . . . ” image.
Looking at the comments I notice the issue of the out of focus foreground which I must have “felt” more than “seen”. I think this is an important part of the image.
THe foreground feels totally natural to me, as in how I might see such a scene. THe blurry and washed out area operates as movement to me, as Birgit observed, so it feels like this boat is going forward. Without it, I think this would be more straight forward and not as intersting.
hey look at this
I nearly used that as the post title :-)
The foreground feels totally natural to me, as in how I might see such a scene
That’s one of the things that I often try to achieve. The rigid laws of optics sometimes get in the way.
I like the boat itself, and the use of selective focus. OOF foreground elements don’t always work, but in this case I think the sense of movement from the gun whales is past that element so it works.
I’m not sure where else the sense of movement is leading me though. I keep looking into the distance, expecting to see where the boat is going, but I can’t seem to resolve where it is headed.
The photo gives me a strong sensation that I am in a boat going quite fast with the prow (?) lifting. The next thing I see is the bucket, and my eye keeps drifting back to it. Maybe it introduces a narrative element — is the bucket for bailing out? — why all those empty planks? This is my reaction for what it’s worth.
I’m not sure where else the sense of movement is leading me though.
Well if it moved forwards, it would be in somebody’s garden (the white spike is actually the gable end of a house).
The lack of a destination is either the picture’s strongest feature or its weakest one depending on my mood.
I’d guess that the bucket is for worms, but it does add to the imaginative possibilities in this presentation
Thanks for the comments everybody.
I’m in agreement with “hey, look at this.”
There’s a sense of emptiness as well as movement in the image — like an abandoned boat in our nightmares, where we are the ghost that observes but can’t change the course. The photo makes me uneasy (in a good way), and I think Karl has sorted out some of the reasons. It’s a kind of frightening vision for me.
I really like the difference between “Hey look at this” and “Let me communicate…” Thanks, Karl, for the concept.
You may appreciate the quotation from David Vestal at the bottom of this page.
“Hey look at this” and “Let me communicate…” are two different interpretations of what art should be that we have been debating with passion and vigor. Rex and Colin have been the principle protagonists. I was simply summarizing their positions and noting that Colin seems to have scored the latest goal.
Emotionally, I think what captures me in this image isn’t the fact that it’s a boat or that it is heading toward a stark landscape of barren hills, the bucket or the blur. It is the loneliness of the place. Focusing on the empty bench elaborates this. It captures the moment rather than a destination. Not even a sad moment, but a content void.
earlier on A&P, Colin’s pictures scared me. An example was his fish picture.
Now I feel the opposite. I see ‘wry’ humor in his pictures. The boat, seen here, fills me with hope. Let us all go on it. I am sure that we can get over that dark hill into the open sea.
Thanks for the David Vestal reference. I am thinking hard about his remarks, which strike me as honest and funny — they capture that joy in art-making that we all must feel in our discoveries.
Karl, I’m going to mull the Colin/Rex “look/communicate” conundrum. Undoubtedly it will appear again.
Rationally I feel myself coming down on the “communicate” side with Rex, but inside, I fear I’m really just that kid, saying “hey guys, look at this.” Thanks for clueing me in.
Birgit, I’ll try not to be apprehensive in viewing Colin’s photos in the future. However, I find there’s something to that little frisson of fear — a taste of mortality that adds spice to the present. However, I’m not sure I want to cross the bar, at least not at this moment.
And I’m also thinking this AM about the specificity of focus as a fundamental of photography. You folks have all perhaps discussed this to its conclusion, but for me, it’s striking in its obvious truth. Moreover, in textile art I’m hard pressed to find anyone dealing with the question of focus — or even nodding to it in passing. In drawing, I can see it in the use of variable line width/as well as absence of line, and in painting, I see it most in something like distance perspective, the blurring that space causes. But the photographic focus feels like a powerful and specific tool which provides a specific experience for the spectator.
Sorry if I’m unclear or muddled — this is a new idea to me and I’m just poking around at it.
I also have been thinking a lot about focus since I have been looking at Colin’s boat picture. Earlier, I thought that the focusing issue was a handicap in photography. But I has just dawned on me that blurring is a powerful method. In painting, it is not just used in distance perspective. Angela Ferreira in Fado blurred the left foreground to make it appear that the street is sliding away.
How would you implement that in textile art?
Focus and blur are essential tools in photography (you’ll recognise those photos from an earlier thread).
Because not everything can be in focus, then often it is best to work with the medium and use blur to advantage. However, some images need no blur – still life and landscape are two areas where people commonly strive for back to front sharpness. This is where somebody drawing or painting has an advantage.
I find it odd that people find (some of) my photos scary or anxious making as they are invariably taken with a light heart. I know this because when I’m not in a light mood I’m rarely taking photos.
It is seriously possible to over intellectualise art making and the resulting art works. A lot of photography is about saying “hey, that’s neat, click”. Slower media may not be quite the same, but surely there still can be a large element of fun and spontaneity. At least I hope so.
I think you can take your photos in any state of mind you wish (as if I could give you such permission!) But, you might want, at some time, to evoke some specific mood and now you’ve collected bits of information that might help you if you want “scary.” Or not.
But, beyond that , I like intellectualizing — not so much when I’m making art, but after I’ve made it and certainly when I’m looking at it. I find it just plain fun — exhilarating when I’m close to truth and even more exhilarating when I miss the mark completely. I don’t take any intellectualizing very seriously — I’ve been around too much BS to get all hot and bothered by words — but I still love to do it, particularly as a “large element of fun and spontaneity.” So you’ll just have to consider the source of the comments.
Was it you who said that A&P was most fun, not necessarily for the content of the posts, but for the on-going conversation? That’s what I mean by “intellectualizing.”
I wonder what effect moving the horizon so it wasn’t line up with the prow of the boat would have. Lower and higher would both give a completely different feel to the picture. I wonder if that alignment is what bothers me. Maybe that is what creates the tension and indecision for me.
But, beyond that , I like intellectualizing
But, you might want, at some time, to evoke some specific mood……
That goes to the nub of the “communication” debate. Ask me again in a decade, but at the moment I forsee no occasion when I would put that much intent into a picture.
Was it you who said that A&P…
No, not me. David, I would guess.
This image is depending on me knowing what a boat looks like. I think I would see it very differently if I didn’t know about boats.
Then again, all image perception is depending on the viewer knowing something…
I agree with your general point – making any image which can cross all time and cultural boundaries is difficult – but I feel that this image is not particularly dependent upon an understanding of boats.
Most of the viewers I’ve discussed this with have seen it as a boat and have let “boat” lead their imagination.
But try hard and forget “boat” and see if there is still an image worth looking at. “Boat” wasn’t particularly at the top of my mind when I took the photo.