I’m back with more linear panoramas! The 200mm lens is still working quite well for me, it allows for a foreground and background relationship that feels just about right in relation to all the image/world relationships discussed in previous posts. I am even starting to feel good enough about these images that Aaron and I are entering some of them with our work to calls for proposals.
The image I have identified with the most forward potential here is figure one; it has a compositional spacing that works in a unique way that I think I can build upon. Specifically, there is a front-to-back and side-to-side rhythm which is complementary, and that is not reduced in any way by a “too full” frame. In fact, there are many vines and thorns that were swept away by Photoshop during the focus stacking and panorama-melding processes that would be welcome here.
To bring those parts of the world into the image, I plan to return to the site with a more deterministic photographic set up. I will take two tripods, and span a board between them, moving the camera left to right by a set distance. This will give me far more accuracy than I currently have, trying to move a tripod over uneven ground, and framing the next image by memory of the preceding one. I should also be able to achieve better focus stacking with this new process as well, because I will be able to concentrate more on the focus steps than all the other factors going into the shot.
The major downside to this is the added equipment, complexity, and planning that will go into each image. It is much easier to walk through the world with a camera on a tripod and happen upon a place than to cart around a large set up that takes a good amount of time, and will no doubt attract attention from any passers-by.
The trick to the work will be to get the technical aspects polished while keeping as much of the spontaneous compositions that happen from an easy walk through the woods in the images.
The other necessary next step is to take one of these images to a print-level state, and to make test prints. The files are very large, and can accommodate printing at almost any scale. It is tempting to use the largest paper I have and see what happens, but I think I will stick to a testing mode and make smaller (24” high by whatever length) prints at first. With any luck, these next few steps will come together in the next few weeks.
Today is the winter solstice - the shortest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere – and there is palpable pleasure in knowing the daylight hours will now be steadily lengthening. The solstice this year was also marked by the “great conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn, when, to viewers on Earth, they appeared closer together in the sky than they have in nearly 800 years. Not surprisingly, the co-incidence of the solstice and the conjunction have spawned all sorts of eschatological prophecies and pronouncements, which can be revealed by even a cursory Internet search and make for disturbingly fascinating reading.
In this dim light, Eric and I have been discussing how we might combine ecological thinking and photography-as-art to promote an aesthetic that is ecologically informed yet not anthropocentric (with an eye towards contributing a paper/exhibition to next year’s annual summer conference of the International Institute of Applied Aesthetics). We are grappling with two significant challenges in defining a non-anthropocentric aesthetic of environmental stasis and change.
First, aesthetics is the philosophy of the beautiful or of art; a system for its appreciation; or the distinctive underlying principles of works of art, artists, culture, etc. Because aesthetics requires perception, appreciation, and high-minded critique of art and beauty, it is decidedly human-centered (anthropocentric), so the proposition of a non-anthropocentric aesthetic is prima facie, a non sequitur.
Second, ecology has evolved into a decidedly anthropocentric discipline. Our departure from the Holocene and subsequent arrival into the Anthropocene has been marked by the replacement of biomes by anthromes, declarations by various organizations and governments of a “climate emergency”, and pronouncements that humans are destroying the planet lends strong credence to Montaigne’s assertion (ca. 1580) that [a]insi fera la morte de toutes choses notre mort (our death will bring about the death of all things), which Morselli unpacked in his novella Dissipatio H.G. (1977) (which presaged by decades the more familiar The World Without Us and Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils):
One of the pranks played by anthropocentrism is to suggest that the end of our species will bring about the death of animal and vegetable nature, the end of earth itself. The fall of heavens. There is no eschatology that doesn’t assume man’s permanence is necessary to the permanence of anything else. It’s accepted that things might have been before us; unthinkable that they could ever end after us.
Ecologists can describe - and document with photographs - what is and what has been and apply various models to forecast what might be. We may even be able to test the forecasts with emerging and photo-documented data - but this begs the question of what will be without us around to observe, measure, and record it.
Photography can record what is and what was, but how might we photograph what could be? This question is also at the heart of a debate that has been ongoing since the invention of photography: whether photography is only objective (i.e., scientific), soulless and constricting of human imagination, whereas artists see with their souls and create what they dream.