I am fascinated by the ocean, it’s ever changing moods and the possibilities that it offers. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy Hiroshi Sugamoto’s Seascape images so much.
I’ve been thinking about composition and how to use the psychology of how we see to make stronger images. This is something that I first came across in Vincent Versace’s Books (also see here).
Vincent teaches us that:
‘The unconscious eye “sees” in a predictable manner. It first recognizes light areas and then moves to dark ones, sees high before low contrast, records high before low sharpness, notices focus before blur, and focuses on high color saturation before low.’
I feel like the seascape images ignore the ‘rules’ of composition but still manages to hold a space for us to look deeply and remain engaged with the image. In the Sea of Japan image above I find that my eye is drawn immediately to the horizon line and then explores that dark shapes in the ocean surface before being drawn back to the horizon line. Then the whole process repeats.
I do wonder whether these images work better as stand alone images or as part of a series where you get to experience the ever changing moods of the sea.
How about you? How do you see this image? Do you prefer a stand-alone or the series?
I continue to think about and torture my friends by asking them about making Art and making photographs specifically. What is it for? Who is it for?
There are so many ways that we can use our time why make art if it’s not putting food on the table? Why make art if there’s no waiting audience for it?
The answer that I keep coming back to is that for me, and I suspect many others, creating things is an internal drive. I just have to do it. The world gets out of balance without the ability to create things. Nice if there’s and audience for what we’re making but it’s not the reason for making it.
Where things get a bit wobbly is when you have expectations for what you are creating. Whether it’s the standard that you set for yourself for quality? Whether it’s the ‘likes’ on Instagram or the number of pieces sold. Focusing on these things as measures of how good the work is will inhibit your progress as an artist.
Instead it’s much better to focus on the process of creating. Thinking about how many days did I get out to photograph this week, this month, this year or how many photographs did I ‘finish’ – take through the edit process and print? Seems to me a much better way to measure our creative output.
It’s amazing to me how quickly the days go by and how little I remember of them. A little bit like the conversation with teenagers at the dinner table – what did you do today? Nuthin… it’s so easy to let the day go by and not hang on to any of it.
This has been especially so in the last year where every day has felt like the same. To combat this I have gotten into the routine of logging my days. Nothing spectacular just a few notes at the end of the day to capture what I did. It’s a little bit Austin Kleon and a little bit bullet journal.
I also like to capture my energy level and focus and also what was the highlight for the day. I have a template that I made for Evernote that makes setting all this up pretty easy.
I find that on the days where I have taken a photograph I can reconstruct what I was doing, what mood I was in, what the weather was like and on and on effortlessly. The photographs immediately take me back. I can’t help but think that this is because I am usually very ‘present’ when I’m photographing while I’m thinking about what’s next, racing ahead through my day, when I’m not.
How do you slow time down to relish and remember your days?
I must have been living under a rock to only recently have found Rachael Talibart’s seascape work. She is perhaps best know for her Sirens photos, a series of storm waves named after mythological beings. A book of the same name was published by Triplekite Books in 2018. As an aside I can’t believe I missed this book since I thought I had all of the books that Triplekite had published. I found her work through the recently published book, Tides and Tempests, that further explores her interest in storm waves but also the coast in general.
It sounds like Rachael has had a lifelong relationship with the sea having grown up on the South Coast of England, spending time as a child on the family sailboat. She describes herself as a poor swimmer and a poor sailor who is happier and safer viewing the ocean from the shore. Reading between the lines in the introductory essay to Tides and Tempests it sounds like she had lots of ‘fun’ on the sailboat as a child. These episodes really do shape your life both as an adult and as a child, either pushing you away or drawing you in. Personally I’m glad that she is drawn towards the ocean and chooses to capture the majesty, power and potential that the ocean offers. Check out more of Rachael’s work on her website here.
Also check out the videos that Rachel put together below. Scroll all the way to the bottom to hear Rachel talk about her work and her process.
Check out the mini-documentary/interview with Rachel that Sean Tucker put together below. Sean is worth a ‘Friday Inspiration’ slot of his own. Until then check out his YouTube channel here.
When I first came across Tokihiro’s photographs I was fascinated. A representative image is above – points of light or strings of light in the landscape. He calls these photographs ‘breath-graphs’ or photo-respiration with the points of light or lines representing his movement through the landscape.
From a technical perspective how did he do it? He uses a large format film camera to make long exposures – while the shutter is open Tokihiro uses a small mirror to shine a point of light on the lens and then moves and repeats the process. The videos below give some additional insight to the technique that Tokihiro uses.
It’s starting to feel as though Winter is finally receeding in my neck of the woods. I still have snow in the garden but it’s less and less every day. How about you?
I feel as though I ought to have been out to photograph while we had all the snow and certainly now that the weather is getting better I should be getting out but I’m not. It’s all too easy to stay in bed for an extra hour or to have dinner with the family rather than making the extra effort to get out with the camera. Getting back into the routine of taking time one morning a week to get out with the camera when I’m at home is taking some doing. I’m trying though.
I’ve had my eye on this little stream for a while now with the idea that I would photograph it when there was more water in it. With the recent snow melt the water flow has gone from a trickle to a torrent in a very short space of time. Increasingly I felt that if I didn’t photograph it now I would have a long wait and so I got out with the camera at the end of last week and had a fun hour or two poking around.
Originally I had thought that I would like the reds in the weeds at the top of the image but when I got the image into lightroom didn’t really love it (the color version is below) and so made the switch to black and white. This is still a work in progress, the first stopping point before I reevaluate and decide where to take it next.
As always, thoughts and comments more than welcome.
With all the snow that we’ve been having here in New England you would think that I would have had time to finish working on my images from Japan wouldn’t you? A reasonable expectation but I’m swamped here at the moment. More about what’s going on in a few weeks.
I’ve mentioned here before that I generally take a lot of frames when I’m out shooting, particularly when I’m photographing water. With flowing water each frame will be different and potentially offer something unique. Also worth exploring is a range of shutter speeds – I generally try to keep some sense of motion in the water rather than blur the water completely with a very long exposure.
I’m still working on the image above – I’m happy with this version but will now live with this for a while to learn what I like and what I like to change.
Over the last week or so I’ve been making a list of my top 12 influences, visual artists and their work that influence and inspire me. Consistently over the years Hiroshi Sugimoto has made this list. Born in Japan, Sugimoto moved to the US to study in the mid-70’s eventually settling in New York. While he’s returned to a number of subjects repeatedly over the years, including ‘American Theatres’ in which he photographs old movie theaters and drive ins using long exposures in an attempt to show time in his photographs; ‘Dioramas’ which are beautifully executed photographs of exhibitions in natural history museums and more recently of wax-work figures; ‘Architecture’ in which he photographs structures slightly out of focus which gives a sense of the form that the architect had in mind without you getting lost in the details and my personal favorite ‘Seascapes’. His seascapes, such as the one above, give a real sense of the vastness of the ocean that particularly appeals to me.
Check out the documentary below for more about Sugimoto’s life and work.
Often I find that I am crunched for time, which means that I need to quickly process my images and get on to the next thing. Having a little bit of extra time to work on learning new techniques, how to use new equipment and then to integrate that into my everyday workflow is a real luxury.
Over the last six months or so I’ve been dabbling a little with both of these – learning about new masking techniques and how those can be used to composite images together to make large files that will be used to make large prints.
The image above is one that I had struggled with earlier in the year. I posted an earlier version of this image here. With a little bit of extra time over the Christmas break I was able to play a little, make some composites and finally get close to the image I had felt when I was there.
I was photographing along the California coast last week, something that I’d wanted to do for a while but had never managed to connect the dots and make happen. Unfortunately I didn’t pick a good week for the trip, given that Northern California was experiencing the worst storm they’d had in 5 years. I was hoping to tick off one of my photographic goals and get some good photographs at Bowling Ball beach. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. I did learn a lot and got a few images that I thought were okay given the circumstances.
One of the things that threw me a little was the unpredictability of the waves on the coast. Normally I like to get close to the foreground element with a wide angle lens which often puts me in the water. Not a big deal, I’ve been around the ocean my entire life I know how the game works and respect the ocean like I would a wild animal. You have to pay attention at all times otherwise you may get bit! Here on the East Coast the waves seem to be generally predictable this was also true on the California coast in that every 5 th of 6 th wave would be huge and where there was rocks or beach for the previous few waves there would be a foot or more of water. It was quite unsettling and I eventually retreated to the relative safety of the cliffs and a long lens.
I thought that this was something related to the storm and an unusual storm surge until I spotted I sign that described ‘Sleepers’ – waves that were much larger that the previous ones which could easily knock you off your feet and cause you to be swept out to sea. Reading the sign you could easily think that it was a little alarmist but have experienced the waves up close and personal there’s definitely cause for concern when photographing at the beach in this area.