Friday, February 09, 2007

"You could not step twice into the same river..."

"... for other waters are ever flowing on to you. " - Heraclitus

To get back to talking about nature/wildlife images that break convention, here's an image by the photograpgers Verena and Georg Popp that I stumbled upon from the NPN's annual picks. There are two versions of the same basic idea, the NPN editors picked the first and then the photographers linked to the 'original'. I prefer the second and its what I have linked to.

Landscape images have by and large had three built in conventions. These are not necessarily always followed, but the winner of NPN's editors pick will attest to their 'mainstreamness'. One is that the image must be of a vista, and the other being that the image must be an f64, sharp from here to infinity and finally nothing must be moving.

All of these conventions have been broken before, in ways that have been considered effective. Michael Kenna whose work I came across through TOP uses the effect of time and motion in his work beautifully. Landscape images also sometimes deal with details within a landscape. Jim Brandenburg has this beautiful image of a not entirely frozen stream with flowing water blurred over time.

Can an image marry more than two elements?

This image does manage to combine three (!) elements of detail, motion and vista in a single frame. Each of these elements are in opposition to each other, its almost like a rock-paper-scissors set. One cannot cohabit the same image with another, yet here they are. And it manages to make these things come together and work in a simpler primal visual way; through the colour, the rush of motion and the click of discovery.

Someone's said before me that all good images have many layers to them, so does this one. The rushing colour holds and draws your attention and gives you no sense of scale, until you notice the little centre of stillness which you might guess is water. Then a few leaf like objects come to your notice. Then you look up into the picture for further clues and slowly the mountains and the pines that reflect in water come to your attention. Its this gradual unfolding of the image that makes it special; as you spend time with it, it rewards you with more and more.

And thats just the visual aspect, I'm sure everyones mind then wanders on to the juxtaposition of a fast moving stream with a seemingly immutable mountain. My mind wandered to Heraclitus, and then through Lyell and his version of a mutable earth, to the fact that the river of time flows over mountains as well, eroding and wearing them into spires. The image is taken in Triglav National Park in Slovenia, a little digging around suggests that the Triglav glacier might have had some hand in carving the mountain we see before us.

Water passing over rock with time and ceaseless motion can achieve a great deal.

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