Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A sundress, camera and an idea

Sometimes I get an idea for a photograph that will be something I call Zen (for wont of a better word). Basically what I want from it is a moment in time that goes beyond the actual elements to something bigger, an idea, a concept. In the case of a photograph, the elements (including the people) are only tools for the idea.

In Tucson I had an idea for such a photo where the tools were the pool, a diving board, water, a wooden fence, a loose fitting black dress, and a woman. A black dress was beneficial because it didn't have meaning of its own. The pool represented the water of life. The diving board, besides presenting interesting angles, was about jumping into the water (or not), the fence, just a neutral backdrop. The concept, well more about the concept later.

So late one afternoon I asked Farm Boss to photograph my idea, but nothing went right. Perhaps such moments have to just happen and you cannot create them. The problems were many. The lighting was difficult with too much of it during the day and as the sun began to head down, a tree that filtered the light not always as I might have wished.  Professional photographers use umbrellas and reflectors to get the light they want. I just wanted it to be there. I didn't give up easily and we tried several different early evenings.

Each time I'd look at the photos and think, nope, that's not it. This wasn't about wanting a pretty picture but one that would illustrate something I feel about my own life now and have at various other times.

Too often, I am like a woman on the board, not prepared to jump off, contemplative but not necessarily happy or unhappy, not in position to dive, not ready to leave security. Thinking instead of acting. The photo should suggest wanting to do something, near to being able to do it, but not moving ahead.

One example of this from my own life would have been maybe 10 years ago when I thought I'd like to learn to ride a horse. It ended up much like sitting there on the board, dabbling my foot in the experience, and keeping one foot on the bank, I had a few trail rides, but I didn't jump in and get soaking wet.

Actually I do this a lot. I pull back from going all the way.  Maybe many of us do at different times in our lives. Risk. It's risky to jump off into something new, to dive into the unknown. It's easier to stay on the bank. One foot dangling and the other still on solid ground.

I thought I could capture the concept along with some interesting angles and curves by using our diving board. I tried it first with the dress full length and just feet showing but it ended up too much black. So legs but then legs that were supposed to be dipping into the water or poised to dip into the water but somehow or other I never found the right angle between board and body or when I came closest, the light was wrong.

Farm Boss was good-natured about it especially since this wasn't his idea, and he was trying to capture mine. In a way, it became funny to us both. One of the best was taken when the light was too dark and the photo became digitalized into a lot of grainy dots. Not exactly what I had in mind. Using a flash wiped out details.

Finally, in looking at the pictures when back at the farm, I decided black and white might help. With photo programs, you can turn a standard photo into black and white. I think it, the one at the top of this blog, came closest to what I had in mind. Will that woman ever let go?

Next time I am in Tucson, I will have to give it another try and maybe add one more of a woman jumping off the board or in the water with the dress flowing around her. Maybe but not sure what that would say-- or what it'd do to my sundress!
These photos were taken different days but always toward late afternoon or early evening. You can see a few of the problems and the results. Looking at them now, I think the woman should have been looking at the water, but I didn't think of that then. I was more obsessed with how the legs would tell the story and provide an interesting angle to the board except they never did.

The funniest part (to me) was how my toes looked short in the pictures. I thought for awhile I have short toes and that didn't make me happy; and then Parapluie said my toes are not short. Basically I guess it was the result of the foreshortening due to the angle. Not that short toes had anything to do with the concept but just telling you how my mind works-- or doesn't.


Paul said...

Lovely pics of a beautiful Lady !!

Parapluie said...

I think black and white is good in conceptual photographs because more information than necessary complicates communication.. Also editing a picture would be in order. The fence is not nutral and counts as every element in the photograph. I think a lot more body language would be comunicated through a pose of you getting ready to jump. The dramatic moment of pull away or push is what you need.

Rain said...

I didn't want this one to be about someone who was going to jump but rather someone who was where she could but was not doing it. One foot in the water. One out. If she was posed ready to jump, it'd be something else for meaning. Actually the fence is very apropos as it forms a barrier, a limitation also! I hadn't thought of that until you said it why I had thought it was one of the elements. Color wise, it's neutral but subject wise, it's apropos.

Parapluie said...

Ok, the fence could also mean security. One foot in the water is overt and sensual.

Parapluie said...

I like the last one with the grass in the sun light reaching up but never will it outgrow the protective fence.

Parapluie said...

I also like the last one because you are in shadow except for the right leg that is holding back from the water. Your leg is like the grass that is in the sun and at the same time protected by the fence.
How the idea is universal to women of our generation makes the image universal.
I grew up with trading cards with bathing beauties in this pose.

Parapluie said...

Looking at the last one again, I see the right leg had been in the water because the edge of the puddles under the foot. This changes the story completely and is different than the plant that never grew and never will grow as high as the fence. In the last picture you are withdrawing afer testing the water with the right foot.

Rain said...

It basically showed me that forcing a subject with that kind of meaning is not so easy as I had thought. Painting it might be easier ;)

Rain said...

I like your third thought on that one about the shadow and how the concept applies to women of our generation. That is what I had hoped to have it say but getting it there is harder than thinking it there ;)

Kay Dennison said...

Love the photos and your idea!!!!

20th Century Woman said...

I like the concept and the pictures. It is so difficult to realize the thing you have in your mind. When I taught printmaking I used to tell my students, "Printmaking is the art of liking what you get." Perhaps that's true of photography in some ways.

Anonymous said...

Consider having another woman be the "model" so that you could realize your idea as director, experimentor and photographer.