Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Calendar Explained: February

Taken November 15th, 2011. Camera; Nikon CoolPix P100.
f/5.6, exposure time 1/278 sec., ISO 160, exposure bias -1, focal length 76mm, aperture 3


I posted this image online shortly after I took it, and even after cropping and adjusting for its rougher qualities, I still like it. Sunset comes early in November, and despite the pink sky and sunlight glinting in the waves, there was tension flowing through the day. The tide was high and the breakers at sunset thundered against the rocks. Terrible Tilly hovered above a heaving sea, with seagulls and light filling the space between. I remember actually feeling and hearing waves break against the rocks and reverberate through the ground. It felt like any minute the sea would reach in and sweep away the few people on the beach, myself included. As a hiker I love days like this, when nature presents such an impressive and unending emotive and thought-provoking display. The juxtaposition of sea and stone, light and space, and tension and release made for a memorable day, and that hopefully shows in this photograph.


I’ve always loved that Dizzy Gillespie said “I don’t care much about music. What I like is sounds.” His words hold true when translated to any artistic medium, including photography.

Like writing, photography is a method of re-creating experience. A good photograph will do that better than a snapshot, and the way to get a good photograph is to be in the right place at the right time, and to be looking the right way.

This photograph, I remember, didn’t take much effort at all. That’s not actually an arrogant statement. I drove to the coast and walked down the beach. I made myself comfortable and stayed on the beach for hours. I slowed down and grew attuned to what was going on around me. In other words, I did the work and was looking the right way. I only needed to see the photograph before I took it.

I’m sometimes guilty of letting the camera dictate what I see. Before I took this photograph, I spent a long time taking photographs of waves crashing against rocks and splashing high in the air. That time might have been better spent just watching.

Truth be told, I took 250 photographs before this one, and my camera battery was almost dead. When I finally stopped taking so many pictures, my experiences became richer. It took the absence of photography to get this photograph. And after taking it, I only took nine more.

That entire day, I didn’t get a single photograph I liked as much as this one. 

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