Pretty Picture or Art

September 9, 2008

A Pink Rose #3
A Pink Rose

What is the difference between a pretty picture and a piece of art, and how can you make a piece of art from a really pretty or famous scene?

Some people, and yes, we're still friends, have said that they like my work, but they feel like they could also go outside in their yard or to a public garden and get a picture of a beautiful rose, or down to the Tidal Basin to get a picture of the cherry blossoms and Jefferson Memorial. They will admit they don't have the perseverance to make repeated trips to get the light just right, when the cherry trees are in bloom and the clouds cooperate:

Moon set & Jefferson Memorial
Moonset Over the Jefferson Memorial

I would say I use quite a bit more than perseverance, though that can help, in getting the images I share on this site and sell as works of art, and I'm going to write a bit more on this subject.

As I wrote in Is It Real, I strive to find and show the essence of a subject and what I find is important and want to share with others. To do that, I look closely at the subject to find the patterns and details I want to emphasize. Instead of shooting a picture of a pretty rose bush or peony covered in blooms, I try to focus in on just one or two flowers, as in the rose above. Instead of just shooting a New Hampshire mountain covered in autumn colors, I will look for a reflection where the colors are echoed or rendered in an impressionistic fashion by flowing water as shown below.

Reflections in the Swift River
Swift River Refelections #10
White Mountain National Forrest, New Hampshire

Photographs are a two dimensional record of a moment in time from the photographer's and the camera's physical perspective. It is my perspective that controls what I capture on film or the digital sensor and what I chose to share with you on this site or through my prints. I believe that much of the magic comes from both having preconceived ideas and being open to the scene as I experience it. When I go out to seriously take pictures, I have a definite idea about what sort of pictures I want to take, and my experiences help me to see images that most people might miss. Hopefully, after someone sees my work they will be better able to appreciate the beauty around them they might have otherwise overlooked.

For example in the picture below, I went down to the National Mall early on an autumn Sunday morning with several images in mind to capture at the World War II Memorial. While I got some okay pictures, I wasn't thrilled, so I went over to the Tidal Basin where I expected the cherry trees would have a little color. Once I saw how far along the trees were, I remembered a spot near the outlet where some of the older trees had limbs hanging down close to the water. While I was setting up to get this picture, several people walked by, and some muttered under their breath about how my tripod with its splayed legs and I lying on the ground to capture the picture were, "in the way". One jogger who ran by with her friend, looked back over her shoulder and said, "Oh my!" as she saw the image I was capturing.

Cherry Trees and Wahington Monument with Reflections in the Tidal Basin
Washington Monument and Cherry Trees Reflected in the Tidal Basin on an Autumn Morning
Washington, D.C.