PAINTED FOREST Maui, Hawaii 2013
A number of years ago, I decided I wanted to make a successful image or two of the Rainbow Eucalyptus trees. I am aware of a few small groves of these trees here on Maui, and I had my sights on one of them in particular. These trees are extraordinary. Beautiful. Perhaps the most stunning tree on the planet! Well, no matter – one of the most stunning anyways. Really, they look as if they were hand-painted by Salvador Dali himself!
As a subject to a successful landscape photograph, this can be very easy to bugger up. How? The most common mistake would be to include too much in the scene, allowing these other elements to take away from the trees. Another aspect that I was hyper-aware of is that these trees have been photographed once or twice before. Okay, many times before. I didn’t want to just go out and do the norm, the expected. I wanted to do something special, something different. So, I waited. I resisted doing the norm and getting the standard shot to include into my portfolio, desiring something more expressive and personal.
A couple of years ago, the vision became clear in my mind’s eye. I visualized a way to capture these trees in a way that was different, personal and of-my-own-style, while bringing the viewers attention solely to the beauty of the trees. I’d shoot them at night! – while introducing my own light source. Now, with the image clearer in my mind, it was just a matter of doing the work.
On a few separate occasions, I recruited a friend to journey to the other side of the island, in the dark of night, to assist me in my attempts to bring vision to expression. On each of those occasions, I came close to my vision. Sometimes very close, making it difficult to decide whether the images were worthy of releasing into my portfolio and to the world, or if I should work harder and try again. Each time, after living with the images for some weeks, I ultimately determined that they did not live up to the vision I had. The work was not done.
My energy waned some, and nearly a year passed before I returned to give it another go, but the idea and vision stayed with me, and I trusted that it was simply a matter of time before it would happen. Early 2013, while driving home from a shoot, I get to thinking about the trees. It’s nighttime. I’m in the neighborhood. I’m feeling motivated. But, I’m alone. The thinking-mind tries to start talking me out of it: It’s totally dark. The shoot will be too tough with no assistance. What if zombies get me. And on it went. As I approached the trees, I was still 50/50 whether to stop or B-line it home: I am kinda hungry. I still have an-hour drive home. A glass of wine would be awesome right now. As the trees neared, the will to shoot won and I pulled the truck over, geared up, and headed out to shoot the trees in the dark of night.
For the next 90 minutes, I worked through the process of making the images, with a goal of making two successful photographs. From my earlier experiences, I already had a good idea of the look that I was after, and how to achieve it with my painting-with-light techniques. Nearby cows roaming about in the surrounding fields sure did sound like zombies coming to get me, but I stayed focused and remained mindful to the myriad aspects that would make this work, or not. Once I felt that I had successfully captured good strong foundations in-camera, I headed home, anxious to see if they would translate to print.
I am happy to say that they do translate well to print, and do represent my initial vision very well!
RAINBOW TREES Maui, Hawaii 2013
I often speak with my Maui photo workshop students about how to make personal-expressive work, and working through “the process”. It is important – recognize the path as a process and do the work. Allowing yourself to have a vision in your mind, and then working backwards from there is an exciting way to work! Vision to expression. Working this way, the process of making photographs is very rewarding and the path is a joyful one.
As the world of photography and image making is proliferating, so is the behavior of seeing-and-repeating. In recognizing and bringing awareness to this, continually look to create work that is more personal, more expressive, and more communicative. Pass on the obvious photographs and delve deeper. Ask continually: What am I feeling? What am I wanting to communicate? What do I want to express? It has been very exciting working with workshop students in regards to this, and bringing it to the forefront of our attention. Activating the right-brain and bringing balance to the overactive thinking-mind. It is important to remember – artwork is feeling based, and it resonates (or not) with people on a feeling level. The more you can approach the work from a personal feeling based place, the more likely you are to communicate that. The more you are able to communicate that, the more compelling your photography is bound to be.
I look forward to delving even deeper into this with workshop participants in a La Jolla photo workshop I have just announced for August!