(Published May 2009 in Murray Bolesta's "The Borderlands Photographer" in Tubac Villager.)
The beauty and drama of the borderlands region can move a photographer to distraction. He or she can venture beyond the literal scenes and open a new world of abstraction.
An aerial view of the Santa Cruz River in
Mexico illustrates the potential of sharp angles.
There’s nothing prosaic about a photo of an historic mission or a monsoon sunset or a pair of deer on grassland or a cactus flower with a bee on it. These are wonderful images which simply are a bit more common.
Viewing the scene in front of you with an unorthodox, abstract vision can require you to isolate a small section of it, by zooming or leaning or, later, cropping the frame. It can mean eliminating the surroundings or context of the subject, removing the milieu.
Disconnecting a subject from its context is one of the hallmarks of the abstract image. The things that surround a subject often define it, so these things should be removed, to some degree. Deciding what to keep defines composition and can result in a striking abstract photograph. A saguaro cactus standing on a slope with other cacti is just that, and really no more. But choosing a particular specimen and emphasizing one view of it can turn the plant into much more.
|A thunderhead over the Santa Ritas appears|
|A furled agave of Cochise Stronghold beckons |
A few months ago I wrote about photography of urban abstracts; personally I find the opportunities for abstract photography in urban settings to be more numerous and thus less challenging. Angles, straight lines, and man-made lights tend to multiply the options in the urban setting.
To create an abstract image in nature you will experiment with color, contrast, and form. Lose the constraints of a conventional view when creating such images. Try black-and- experiment with camera movement and slow shutter speeds and shadows and extremes of contrast.
And go ahead and make mistakes – it’s a snap for most of us to do this with a camera. Learn from the errors; skill is required when trying to replicate your mistakes.
The borderlands photographer can be set free by embracing the artfulness of abstract images and escaping the limitations of literal and reference photography.