And I’m far far away with my head up in the clouds
And I’m far far away with my feet down in the crowds
Slade, Far Far Away, 1974
Lately I noticed that more of my work drifts towards the romantic side of interpretations of nature. I wonder, is this a reason to worry? Romanticism is one of the most abused concepts in the history of ideas – and the ambiguity of the word “romantic” in the first sentence already hints at how much a term can be cursed by its transformative uses (beautiful and romantic share that fate).
What worries me even more is: am I getting trendy?
Focus is an important topic in photography. The camera allows to either reduce focus, the zone of sharpness, to a pinprick or to extend it through most of a photograph. Lenses are often discussed based on the quality of the out-of-focus areas they are able to produce (the so-called “bokeh”) and reviewers can get quite lyrical about creamy or buttery bokeh. Many portrait photographers use this bokeh to highlight their subject by a steep falloff of sharpness from the subject to the background.
In contrast, the f/64 group of photographers, to which Ansel Adams belonged, chose their name from the smallest aperture a lens could produce, an aperture that would bring about no background blur, only relative sharpness throughout the picture. For them this was an expression of a radical realism in opposition to the intended softness advocated by pictorialism.
It was about 4.5 billion years ago. On a hot, and one can say sunny, day – and all days were hot back then – the young planet Gaia almost met its fate. Another planet, we now call it Theia, crashed into Gaia. Through the impact, enormous amounts of rock and gas exploded into space. There, we now believe, they coalesced into a satellite. Planet Earth and its Moon were born. If we would have been around to watch back then, all this cataclysmic events when Gaia became Earth would for us have occurred in utter and total silence. There was no atmosphere that could have transported any sound…
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories
At times, when I come home with a picture like this, I again realize how insufficient the division of photography into genres is. Sure, the waterfall is part of a landscape – which is not shown here. And sure, the photo shows something in nature – but is that what it is about? Of course, part of the problem lies in the rather artificial boundary we draw between nature and ourselves. We don’t call street photography wildlife art even though there usually appear a lot of animal creatures (of the species Homo sapiens and Canis familiaris) in it. In a way, I think nature photography is a genre in which “things merge into one” as Maclean writes. Let me explain.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
From “Invictus” by William Ernest Henly, 1875
When I took this picture I was sitting out on the cliffs in dense fog. The morning was chilly and the silence complete. The fog was isolating miniatures out of the larger landscape, like this life buoy sitting atop a sea of frozen waves of rock.