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I Can't Explain Why Some Photos Resonate With Me

June 11, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Sometimes I'm at a loss to explain why some photos resonate with me. The lead photo in this blog post is a good example. This is an early spring scene, or at least early spring by Minnesota standards, from the Wood-Rill Scientific and Natural Area (SNA). This photograph is part of the longer-term project I have undertaken to photograph in the Big Woods SNAs throughout the year. So what do I like about this image? Well, there are the repeating lines of the trees, the hint of green with the leaves just budding out and then of course the reflection of the trees in the pool of water. What anchors this image for me though is the greenish colored dead tree laying horizontal in the pool of water. There is something about that dead tree that just draws me in. That I cannot explain.

Here is another example that at first glance might have folks scratching their heads. When I saw this tree that had been split in two, I knew I had to photograph it. I worked all the angles, but settled on this as my favorite image. First I must say that a tree split asunder is dramatic. You can only imagine the force that caused that to happen. Surrounding that tree is new life and what look like twin teenaged trees just behind it. Then of course there is the amazing late day light filtering through the forest canopy with a warm glow. One amazing fact is that there are only 17 days difference between the first image in this post and the second. The speed of transformation in the forest is stunning. While these are not photos of the same scene, they are in the same woods. What struck me when I saw this scene was that something dramatic had played out here. Now all was at peace.

This last image is one of my favorites of all time. When I showed it to Sam Abell, the famed National Geographic photographer, during a personal portfolio review, he said it worked, but he couldn't explain why it worked. That got me thinking about why it worked for me. Certainly the beautiful golden colors are a key part of its appeal, but it's more than that. The dark strokes formed by the trees create the structure that this photograph hangs on. Finally, the layers going deeper into the image give it depth. In many ways, this photograph reminds me of beautiful Chinese paintings. I can't tell you what "rules of composition" this photograph uses, but somehow it has the right amount of tension and balance to work.

I keep asking myself this question of why something works for me because I think in the answering of it I will have hit upon something deeper, that is, why I photograph and what my vision is for my photography. Maybe it really doesn't matter in the long run and when I find the answer I may smack myself upside the head and say, "well duh!" But until then, I'm going to keep probing this question. Frankly, this doesn't just apply to my photographs. I ask myself the same question when I look at photographs of others. What is it that resonates with me and what doesn't. Perhaps out of all of this, I'm developing a vision and style for my photography that may be invisible to me but clearly visible to others. Who knows? Meanwhile I'm just going to keep shooting and questioning. After all, that is my nature.


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