Leaves are beginning to come out here now, but branches were quite bare a week ago when I payed a visit to the strip of woods along Sourdough Trail. I’ve gone there occasionally through the winter, but much less frequently than I used to while actively engaged in that project (I never closed the books on it, but I’ve done very little in the last year). I’m thinking seriously of re-activating it. In any case, the new season seemed to call for a little experimentation.


One of my ongoing concerns in this series has been dealing with complexity. Not only is there a lot of detail in the woods, but the strong light/dark contrast–especially on sunny days–brings out and emphasizes that detail. I have mostly thought of the complexity as a visual issue. I tend to like all-over pictures à la Jackson Pollock, especially as it tends to subvert the common advice to have a single clear subject. (I’m not saying the advice is necessarily bad.) Regardless, it seems that some level of organization or order, however hard it might be to articulate, is necessary for a picture to hold our interest.


For there to be a subject or figure, there must be separation from the (back)ground (and/or foreground, if the subject itself isn’t there). There are many ways to achieve this, even for photographers. But from a given position, if one can’t alter the llighting, about the only recourse is to control depth of field, i.e. the range of distance over which objects appear in focus. I find it hard to judge on the spot what will work best, hence my little experiment on these nearly touching saplings. In the successive images through this post I have used increasing depth of field (diminishing aperture).


While “working up” the results this morning, I realized that there may be a more general and more meaningful aspect to the complexity issue. These images are literally views of the world, albeit a humble corner of it. How simple or complex do we think our world is, or want it to be?


Which version appeals most to you? Do you think it bears any relation to your personal vision of the world, or is that just philosophical blather?