This week, I have worked at three different venues – Sligachan, where a waterfall in spate provided opportunities to capture the shape of water, Lochain Dubha, a series of small, and very peaceful, lochs and finally I return to Loch Cill Chriosd, as spring and the reeds emerge.
At Sligachan, I focused on the shape of water with a hint of the environment around it. I had received feedback that the previous images of this type had potential. Interestingly, my supervisor had suggested that I might crop more tightly. I worked with double exposure images produced in camera to give depth, luminosity and also a sense of there being something behind or under the water – a glimpse of the lifeblood of an Island.
Here are some of the more successful images at Sligachan:
For me, there is a sense of mystery in these shots. What is behind the veil of water, what is under the water and how do the shapes of the fall and rocks below influence the path and shape of the water? The first image in the double exposure image is blurred by the natural fast-flowing water and the second is a much faster shutter speed to capture the shape of the falling cascade. I experimented with taking my camera off the tripod, and the last image above has a more ethereal sense to it. This outcome is similar to some of the tree images I took with intentional camera movement in March for the Among Trees Collection.
For my second day of practice I headed to a Lochain Dubha, a conservation area of undisturbed ‘blanket bog’. It features a series of small lochs that give a mysterious sense, mainly because of the intensely dark colour of the water. They tend to be very peaceful and tranquil. As a result, my mood is also contemplative and reflective taking in the experience of the natural world. However, the breath of wind skimming across the surface of the water and the shifts from light to dark skies overhead, made for some very interesting patterns.
I believe that these images give a real sense of the calm and contemplation I felt as I worked on the edge of the loch. The ripples on the water were deeply meditative. I was hardly aware of my fingers changing the shutter speed and aperture as I produced these double exposure images. I also received feedback from a group of fellow PhD students that they felt a sense of calm and peace in this work.
And finally, buoyed by the previous day’s work, I decided to return to Loch Cill Chriosd. The leaden skies above led to some enchanting patterns and shapes. The reeds had become very dense in the spring sunshine and my early shots felt cluttered and not really emphasising the interesting shapes on the water’s surface:
But as I worked my way along the shore, the reeds thinned out and gave me more opportunities.
During the post-processing phase, I had been tempted to convert these images to black and white, with some of them almost monochrome out of the camera, including the last one in the series above, however, I felt that the colour, albeit limited, added something the the depth and context of the work.
I am very excited to continue my work on the shape of water next week. I feel that my work is improving and that there is much more experimentation to embark on, particularly in exploring the infinite opportunities of multiple exposures and intentional movement. I now feel that my practice in producing these images is becoming intuitive and thus not disturbing the sub-conscious state I am aiming for in searching out the unconcealment of the essence of Skye.
Having said that, there is a nagging concern in my mind. If I return to my research methodology above, of reflecting on being, reflecting on action and reflecting on being and action, I feel that I am very good at reflecting on action. I am able to evaluate and review my work in a rational way. Essence however, is not accessible to the analytical mind, it is recognised through awareness of being and being in the moment – it is not a prefrontal cortex activity So, I am falling short in being able to reflect on being. Although I believe that I can recognise being in the field, and indeed press the shutter at the appropriate moment to capture the essence, when I return to process my images I lose the moment and feeling I had at the time. I return to rational Alison, and potentially edit out the being in the image, or fail to recognise the being at all. I think the best way to describe what I feel is happening here is that my photography and my ability to capture the moment I am seeking is racing ahead of my ability to subsequently recognise it as such on the computer screen. When working with film, the essence and the image emerges out of the fixing, revealing itself as the image comes into being. With digital, Lightroom and Photoshop are quintessentially pre-frontal activities and I have to learn strategies for dealing with that.