This piece features another image from the project I introduced in my July 21, 2013 article titled "To Build". Here we see a fellow finishing (washing) the corrugated concrete walls of an intricate ramped walkway. This is one of those scenes I dream of encountering, especially in the context of this project. Here we have this man floating in this wild field of angular geometry with gashes of natural color slicing around him. It's as close to a natural surreal fantasy as I've seen.
Referring back to my July 21 article, this scene also has all three basic composition factors working well: elements, relationships and gesture. The elements, of course, are the corrugated walls and the colored equipment, as well as the man. Their relationships in the frame are just about as good as I could imagine, leaning into each other and leading your eye up the frame. And, as with my "To Build" image, the man here provides the interesting gesture that really makes the frame sing.
Several of the nearly 20 images I captured of this scene had strong potential to be winners. Each of the two images below, for example, has very good bones and is engaging. The man's body position in the image on the left has a strong relationship to the angles that surround him. Squatting in the image on the right delays his initial discovery by sublimating his figure among the other elements in the frame, particularly because he's wearing a white hard hat.
Which brings me to a closing point. The true qualities of pictures -- photos, paintings, drawings -- can take a while to discover. In fact in my experience they're rarely immediately apparent. As with people, superficial prettiness is immediately apparent but deeper and more substantial qualities emerge slowly. That's why I generally take two measures before passing judgement on most* of my own images. First, after a cursory review I walk away from them for at least six months, preferably a year. The immediate memory of capturing an image can often sway my objectivity.
Second, usually following that dark period, I print images that most interest me and tack them on the walls of my office. That's where I will spend time just living with them for weeks or months, sometimes studying them deeply, more routinely glancing at them in passing. I've found this to be the only sure-fire way to make objective judgements about my images and decisions regarding their finishing treatments. Try it for yourself. I think you'll also find it to be an effective methodology.
(* Excepting those which have freshness or use-by limitations.)
- Ken Tanaka -
Camera: Canon 1Ds Mark III