This morning I was greeted by a beautiful day on Skye, so I decided to drive down to visit the lone silver birch tree and continue my multiple exposure work. I am trying to complete the second section of the handmade book which is based on trees, and I wanted to produce some more images. Before I left for Dundee, I produced some work that I thought had potential – see below.
I also have a set of images that I produced last autumn that I wish to include in the book.
So, I was in search of square images that would work well as a portfolio with those I have already taken. I decide to continue with double-exposure images where the first layer provides a sense of the environment in which the tree is situated – for example, the moss and lichen that co-exist on the bark of the tree, the black basalt rock on which the tree is perched or the patterns and colours of the bark itself. The second layer is an image of the tree’s canopy. I experiment with different exposure combinations such as over-exposing the first image by two-thirds of a stop and slightly underexposing the second image. I enjoy playing with my camera and quickly begin to use it intuitively and adjust the settings without conscious intervention. In contrast to the previous practice day, the light is good, and the sky is blue. As I work, I am joined by a group of sheep that have heard the shepherdess drive past in her buggy. She feeds the sheep in the same sequence each day and so when they hear her speed by, they know that she will return to feed them soon. They gather to wait for her to arrive and in the meantime scrutinise what I am doing. Some come closer to gain a better look at this bizarre human behaviour!
As I drive home, I am hopeful that I have some good images but when I download them, I am very disappointed.
The problem, in my view, is that the deep green of the moss, the oranges of the tree bark and the deep blue sky have all conspired to produce some rather garish images. However, after a few moments of thought, I decided to convert them to black and white thus reducing the dominant effect of colour.
It is interesting to then reflect on the first image above where the light was flat and limited. The combination in those conditions was rather more successful than those taken in the bright winter sun today. I console myself by remembering that we learn the most when we fail, pick ourselves up and go out with renewed enthusiasm on another day! I shall be doing just that next week.
I know the failure you speak of very well. As Lee Friedlander said, “It’s a generous medium, photography.” That generosity often includes failure. We learn only by failing; success teaches us nothing. But goodness, when we do succeed.
Many thanks for the quotation and sentiment.