Reflections On Water: Slow Seeing With Quick Eyes
Reflections On Water is the current chapter of my series Quiet Intensities. Quiet contemplation allows my awareness to sink into the being of a place, to attend to the light, the form and the detail. Light carries the energy, the liveliness. Form organizes our attention. Detail offers us ways to engage. We can soften our perception, for the emergence of connections to our internal being and to the vast web of existence. If there’s a secret here, it’s in slow seeing. In slow seeing with quick eyes.
Water is the foundation for our biological life, and for our spirit it provides metaphors for teachings of wisdom and treats our eyes to colorful scenes reflected and refracted, modulated by ever restless surfaces. Images involving water are naturally layered, confounding two, three, or even four subject aspects, delighting the eye and challenging the mind.
For twenty-five years I did tripod and meditation photography, studying and taking responsibility for every detail in my compositions before releasing the shutter. Arrangements of reflections on moving water are so fleeting that even during one quick thought the design shifts. No matter how quickly I see, my finger reflex and the shutter release action take too long for certitude. I’ve learned which moving patterns are promising, to give myself a good percentage of success. It’s an interesting problem, made more affordable by digital capture.
Color is experiential. Our impression of color in a scene depends on the mix of colors present, on the brilliance or dynamic range, and on any motion, such as of flowing or wind-blown water. A fine print can express much of our perception of the million to one brightness range of a sunlit scene, through adept translations of brightnesses and contrasts to the fifty to one range of a print.
I print my images for colors to express my experience, which you could have shared standing with me at the scene. Colors are lightened or darkened, contrasts increased or decreased, to convey my experienced impression. It’s the same approach as used in traditional darkroom printing, which I did for twenty-five years, but now done on a computer — my own custom color lab. The colors in my prints were present in the scenes, and I have used printing craft to express them effectively, often with emphasis to convey the excitement we experience viewing a scene.
Can printed color be factually objective? Rarely so. Especially not when a scene is bathed in a variety of lights and shadows. An informative test is to select a fully satisfying print, and set it next to its actual subject, in good light.
Why photograph? To share comfort and joy in the world, to explore and learn, to share committing to it, and caring for it. We make photographs in many ways: usually persistent, thoughtful work; occasionally a quick and joyful catch. Seeing and appreciating beauty and subtlety nurtures our spirit amidst the challenges of life.