Friday, 08 March 2019 15:43

About to Sprung

For each of the previous three weeks there is one characteristic that the Images of the Week have featured in common: each has had an abundance of warm tonalities, especially reds and oranges. So today I thought I would change up and share something that borders on the monochromatic. How significant is a plethora of warm tones in the human reaction to a visual stimulus. What is it about this new Image that either evokes or suppresses a response of any kind - positive or negative?

Bonnie and I have been watching as one winter storm after another has tracked across the country, and last week we took a day to play in my favorite place, GSMNP. When we got to Newfound Gap, in late afternoon, the clouds were riding the ridge of Thomas Divide. Very little color to report, but the new growth tips on the hardwoods showed a blush of incipient spring. Holding our umbrellas, as we had all day, we watched as the clouds covered-then-revealed the various knobs of the ridge as it declined away from us on its journey to lower reaches of the Smokies and into Qualla Boundary.

A focal length of 135mm (somewhere on the cusp of short-to-medium telephoto) gave me the angle-of-view I wanted and some magnification-compression to boot. An aperture of f/22 assured depth-of-field from the camera-to-subject distance, and ISO 200 allowed for a shutter speed of 2.0 seconds.

No matter how many times you see a scene like this, you quickly come to realize that each one is very unique; and with some patience, each reveals its own special beauty.

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  • Comment Link Donald McGowan Saturday, 16 March 2019 22:51 posted by Donald McGowan

    Good evening Everyone. Thank you all very much for being with me for this discussion. How delightful to have such interaction and participation in the creative process centered around our own understanding of how we see and respond emotionally to tonality. For as we understand how we respond, we teach ourselves about how we create to share with others.
    Hi John. It's always good to hear from you. Thank you for those kind words. As we connect with "place" we learn to evaluate conditions as they exist and to respond with our knowledge by seeking locations that will allow for our best expressions of those conditions. In dynamically changing situations we may not always "get it right," but the deeper our connection, the better are our chances. I've been playing in the Smokies long enough to have a fair idea of where to be and when. The light was a gift of patience. Hope you are well.
    Hey Ray. Your thoughtful comments and observations are always appreciated. You have certainly offered us some excellent ideas to ponder regarding the hardwiring of our cognitive processes with respect to interpreting and responding to tonalities. I can relate to your thoughts about closeness and separation, security versus threat, as regards warm and cool tones. We do know that those reactions are very organic and cellular, and are, thus, basic in terms of whether they leave us feeling secure or feeling threatened. I think most folks can relate with identity to your expression of how you respond. I have to confess that the lack of tonality here was more a result of conditions than of anything I did other than to decide on the parameters of the frame. The mere hint of spring green - which was really more the presence of reindeer lichen than actual new growth - is what accounted for the color. With no foliage and a lot of white cloudform, the monochromatic outcome was practically assured. And same to you as we approach Equinox.
    Hey Ted, spring is, indeed, eternal; and I wish that it will hold for you much creative delight and joy. Thanks for your good words.
    Hey Chuck. Thanks for being with us and for pointing out the separation in the moving clouds made evident by the knobs along the ridge of Thomas Divide. Making sure to draw focus so as to ensure foreground depth-of-field is what allowed the foreground detail to be in evidence; and being solidly affixed to my tripod didn't hurt either.
    Hi Phyllis. Thanks for being with us and for offering your thoughtful words. I'm going to have to offer another almost monochromatic Image so we can discuss how being nearly Black & White evokes the intrigue you have expressed. That is an interesting idea.
    Hey Donald. Great to hear from you, as always. You have answered your own question. It is the near absence of tonality that creates the outcome where "texture" becomes such a prominent element; and complete B&W conversion would just create more of the same. And as you suggest, the cloud smoothness and tree roughness becomes a contrast of texture to be enjoyed. I have received three of your prints and am waiting on the fourth.
    Hey Nancy T. I knew I could depend on you to create a story filled with metaphor with which to explain your reaction to this Image. Your lines of ridges and symmetries of curves are straightforward enough; however, the "monochrome little girls" and "strength in numbers" takes us into overtime. Wonderful! I hope you are doing well and we can talk soon.
    Hi Deborah. It's great to have you with us and to have your excellent comments and responses. You have given us a richness to consider, especially in your description of how the near absence of color encourages you to examine more closely the other elements; and I appreciate your explanation of the contents of that examination as you have found them. I, too, also find it to be more compelling that I look carefully into the absence of color to see what else may be living there. And I am often rewarded by the things you have suggested - things like mood, mystery and texture. I appreciate your pointing out the contrast between the straight ridges and the softer, curving ones as the ridge line moves away from us, and how the visual weight of the image is balanced by the various parts of the ridge and the clouds moving through them. Thank you for all of this. Bonnie and I are doing well, and hope you are also.
    Hey Nancy Y. Thank you for being with us and for that delightful description. Isn't it wonderful that our initial reaction to an image can be rather non-committal, but that our prolonged "sitting with it" can produce a delayed intensity that we can savor. I have found that my first response is not always my only response, and so I try to encourage myself to always look deeper. Perhaps that has something to do with the tonalities I have selected when when I create the image.
    Hey Chuck. We are missing you in this part of the mountains. Hope you and Lois are well and really enjoying life in the Mid-Atlantic. And isn't intrigue a wonderful response? I have been intrigued by many images, and I always find that reaction to ultimately be quite satisfying. I'm glad this one intrigued you. I identify intrigue with mood and mystery, both good qualities as far as I am concerned. I appreciate your willingness to go deeper and to being open to whatever you might discover.
    Hi Linda. Thank you so much for sharing your own dilemma with tonality. It sounds to me like you resolved it in a very effective and mindful way. We're looking forward to seeing you in a short while; and I hope you're looking forward to a beautiful spring.
    Hey Mike, thank you very much for reminding us of what is obvious, or should be: this Image is completely different from the last three, especially in its treatment of tonality. Its power derives from a source other than color. To identify that power we must look to elements or combinations of elements that are other than color.
    Hey Kev. It's always great to have you join us! For me the joy is in being able to find images whose appeal comes from other than color. We are blessed, indeed, to live in a colorful world, and yet so much that is beautiful comes to us from a place where color is not present and yet is not black & white. Monochromatic scenes have their own unique power and are much fun to create.
    Wow! What a great sharing over such a simple image. Thank you all, again. I wish you all could have been with us this weekend. It has been a wonderful experience, being involved with the 42nd Appalachian Studies Conference at UNC-Asheville. We have enjoyed the time we have spent with so many folks dedicated to appreciating, understanding and preserving the culture - natural and human - of these mountains we call home.

  • Comment Link Kevin Desrosiers Monday, 11 March 2019 15:02 posted by Kevin Desrosiers

    What makes this picture work for me is the choice to render it as what looks like B&W at first glance, but really isn't. The muted colors in the trees make the picture for me, and B&W would not have had the same impact. My eyes were drawn to the white at first, but the channeling of the clouds funneled me to the trees. Great composition. Lovely image!

  • Comment Link Mike Sunday, 10 March 2019 19:53 posted by Mike

    Don although totally different it still has beauty and shows raw power.

  • Comment Link Linda Taylor Sunday, 10 March 2019 18:39 posted by Linda Taylor

    This is just lovely. Oddly enough, I am dealing with the same issue. A barred owl has been visiting out yard today. He has some warmth in his brown streaks but it is a dim snowy day and aside from snowflakes the woods behind him is drab gray. To warm the picture would be to ruin the sense of pace and time and I think be artificial. So after some experimentation his world is staying cool gray.

  • Comment Link Chuck Coburn Sunday, 10 March 2019 16:37 posted by Chuck Coburn

    Don, when I opened this image it struck me like a cold blast of Artic air, but I could not let go or turn away. It was a if an impressionist had picked up his brush and gone to work in a canvas. The image never really warmed to me, it intrigued me. The more I looked the more I many of the good elements of composition you have instilled in us. Thank you for such a fine image, and posing the question to us to make us think.

  • Comment Link Nancy Yoder Sunday, 10 March 2019 14:09 posted by Nancy Yoder

    This is wonderful. That's my head talking. I don't "warm" to this image as I did to last week's, which hit me immediately in the gut. But when I give myself a breath-space to analyze and reconstruct it, I appreciate how terrific it is. I would love living with both.

  • Comment Link Deborah Rockford Sunday, 10 March 2019 13:15 posted by Deborah Rockford

    First time responding, but I have enjoyed continuing to learn from you, Don, through your weekly image since our workshop with you and Bonnie in October 2017.

    I love images like this that at first seem black and white and then reveal color. It draws me in to look more closely and spend a bit more time with it. I enjoy the mystical, mysterious feel of this photo. Noticing the hard straight line of the first ridge, contrasting with the softer rounder ridges (softness enhanced by the clouds/mist) behind it. I don’t think I noticed the texture before reading comments, so not seeing that is interesting. What I do notice is how the image is heavily weighted in the lower right corner. But then the line of ridges behind it heading toward the upper left corner with an implied zag back toward the right lost in the mist at the top balances it.

    Thank you, Don. I hope you and Bonnie are doing well.

  • Comment Link Nancy Tripp Sunday, 10 March 2019 13:13 posted by Nancy Tripp

    I like this because with out the distraction of splashes of color we can see the real personality of the mountains. The clouds between the ridges create a contrast which helps see the lines, soft curves, and how symmetric they are. Th same diagonal line in the foreground is repeated all the way through and you can imagine the tip of the mountain top of the front is the same soft curve as all the others. I think the image is making a statement about strength in numbers and they are all on the same team. I guess I like this image for the same reason I like monochrome images of little girls. Thanks for sharing this special place.

  • Comment Link Donald Newsom Sunday, 10 March 2019 11:23 posted by Donald Newsom

    To me, even with a bit of muted color in it, the image is about texture, the roughness of the brushy treetops vs. the softness of the clouds. The color says to me that, yes, this is what the scene actually looked like, it hasn't been manipulated by the photographer to purposely evoke some different reaction, though a b/w conversion would still be mainly about texture.

  • Comment Link Phyllis B Kelly Sunday, 10 March 2019 10:49 posted by Phyllis B Kelly

    I certainly agree. Being on the "edge of a B/W photograph" is what is so intriguing about this capture. Thanks!

  • Comment Link Chuck Dildine Sunday, 10 March 2019 10:27 posted by Chuck Dildine

    I like the way you captured the 3- dimension with the clouds and each successive peak. I really like the way you captured the beginning of spring in the foreground. Very distinct, sharp details and the warm color variations of the tree diversity that is so evident in the smokies.

  • Comment Link Ted Sunday, 10 March 2019 09:49 posted by Ted

    Ahhhhhhh...Spring is eternal...

  • Comment Link Ray Foote Sunday, 10 March 2019 09:23 posted by Ray Foote

    Don, thanks for a delightful image and your question to us. I do believe we are somehow 'wired' to interpret warm and cool tones differently. I don't know if that goes back to instinctive, deeply rooted senses of security (warm environments, physical closeness?) or threat (freezing, separation from others). But your question got me thinking about my own individual reaction, and I believe cooler tones incline me toward perceiving or seeking out patterns and maybe even abstraction. They feel more 'surface' to me, whereas warmer tones might feel more 'depthy' and connective. Maybe warmer tones invite feelings of belonging?

    In this particular image, I really like how you are right on the edge of a B/W photograph, but offer up the merest hint of color in lower R. It certainly has 'painterly' qualities that I like. And the interplay between distant ridgelines and foggy spaces between them is wonderful. Thanks for continuing to share your craft and thought process with all of us so freely. Have a great week.

  • Comment Link John D. Roach Sunday, 10 March 2019 08:52 posted by John D. Roach

    Lovely image....wonderful point of view and light

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