Why Do We Like an Image?

Gone the Sun

Gone the Sun – Ontonagon, Michigan

Since the beginning …

Since the beginning of my “pro” digital photography life (back in 2009) ,  I wanted to get some outside confirmation that my photography was any good.  So I chose to compete in the local camera club competitions.

The camera club only allowed nature photographs.  The club defined a nature photograph as a photograph of nature that did not have evidence of hand of man, as defined below. So, I have looked mostly to create nature images, eliminating such hand of man images from my own artistic consideration.

“Nature photography is restricted to the use of the photographic process to depict observations from all branches of natural history, except anthropology and archaeology, in such a fashion that a well informed person will be able to identify the subject material and to certify as to its honest presentation. The story telling value of a photograph must be weighed more than the pictorial quality. Human elements shall not be present, except on the rare occasion where those human elements enhance the nature story. The presence of scientific bands on wild animals is acceptable. Photographs of artificially produced hybrid plants or animals, mounted specimens, or obviously set arrangements, are ineligible, as is any form of manipulation, manual or digital, that alters the truth of the photographic statement.”

— The Hand of Man as defined by the Photographic Society of America

Until now!

What changed my mind? In the voting for my top photographs of 2017, the image above was in the top four, and, there were two people (that I know of) who liked this image the best.  Is there a problem?  Yes, the fire on the beach is definitely hand of man!

I have essentially been keeping most of my hand of man images unpublished.

So now, I am going to go through my hard drive inventory of nature type images that contain hand of man, and I will share that collection with you.

Thank you for you support over the years, and for the voting for a campfire that has given me a new thought.

I hope you will enjoy whatever comes next!   🙂

Denali National Park

Vast and High

“Vast and High” – Denali National Park

Having returned from a trip to photograph the majesty of Denali National Park, I sat down to write a piece to go along with the posting of a photograph.

Yes, I have photographed Denali, but how can I possibly write about it?

I could take the angle of humor.

About how my wife imagined that our ride into and out of the park for 12 hours and 185 miles round trip was going to be on a luxury tour bus with huge windows and a glass rooftop and on-board restroom and a gourmet lunch and hors d’oeuvres, when it was actually only a repainted school bus.

About how the bus driver, who was also the tour commentator, kept repeating himself and constantly telling us to buckle our seat belts.

About the 15 or so stops where someone on the bus would shout “STOP!” when they thought they saw a bear, actually showed up as a slightly moving brown dot some ¾ mile from the road.

About how when we got to Reflection Lake, the water was rippled and the top half of the mountain was hidden by clouds, and the bus driver said, ”This is called Reflection Lake, but today it is just ‘Lake’”.

But instead of humor, I want to write about the beauty, and yet how can mere words do it justice?

My puny photographs try to do it some justice in this pitifully limited thing we do with our cameras and software.

I try by taking several images and merging them together into a wide panorama, with the only way of indicating the scale of the scene is by including a small bit of road in the corner of the frame.

Nearing Denali

“Nearing Denali” – Denali National Park

I am perplexed knowing that my making a photograph takes what I love and have seen in person, and shrinks it.  I have made the beauty smaller.

But also, I have made it possible for me to see it again, here on my phone or my computer or in a print on my wall.

By creating a photograph, I have made it possible to be reminded of that day and that sight by my image of it.  And, I have made it possible, in some small way, to let the viewers of my art in on something they may never see in person.

Come on Up and See Me Sometime

“Come on Up and See Me Sometime” – Denali National Park

And not seeing it in person is a fact of life.

We cannot go and see everything because of the limits of time, money, health, access.

Someday, there will be fully developed VE (virtual experience) technology that enables one to visit almost anywhere in the world, by simply driving over to a VE Realitorium and buying a ticket.  VE will allow us to “feel” like we are climbing around the hills beneath the mountains of Denali, “feel” the gentle breezes of walking through low-lying clouds, “smell” the scent of pine trees.

All without having to ride a school bus on a one lane road 92 miles in, 6 hours in and 6 hours out, driving 2 hours from Fairbanks to the Denali Park entrance, flying 12 hours from Chicago to Seattle to Fairbanks, fiddling and searching the internet to make airline reservations and bus reservations and hotel reservations, and spending  the money to pay for all this.

So yes, God bless technology and the artists and creators of it.  If they can create a VE Denali Trip — the views and smells and sounds of this beautiful place – and I can have it by simply hopping over to our local VE Realitorium, I would definitely do it!

Until then, I will enjoy my humble photographs, and those of other photographers, bringing me the beauty of these wondrous places.

Denali Fall Color

“Denali Fall Color” – Denali National Park


Majesty Doubled

Majesty Doubled

Majesty Doubled, Sierra Nevada mountains near Bishop, california

This photograph could have been called “Persistence”.

Not the persistence of mountains, not the persistence of trees, not the persistence of water and clouds.

This location is not in any Guide Book or Google Map.  It’s not on anyone’s GPS tracking device.  This location — the place where I was standing to make this photograph — was discovered through Persistence.

And it was not discovered by MY persistence but by my friend Steve Ornberg‘s persistence!

After a long day of mostly cloudy skies, the sun came out and we wanted to drive around and see what we could find.  I hiked into a field for an hour and had a really mediocre composition of a cotton wood tree from a really bad angle.  I was fed up and wanted to quit for the day.

Then good old Steve, as we were driving back to our hotel, said “Hey, I wonder what’s up this way.”

We followed a nondescript dirt road for about a hundred yards and came upon an irrigation pond that served as a perfectly positioned reflecting pond.  It doubled the majesty of the Eastern Sierra mountains in the west.

Majesty Doubled!

North Lake Sunrise

North Lake Sunrise

Sunrise on North Lake, Eastern Sierra, Near Bishop, California

“My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.”

– Michael J. Fox

I could have become very unhappy on this trip because of a certain expectation — that the aspen leaves would have been present on the trees, creating a bright yellow band on the distant shoreline.

Instead, the leaves were gone, wiped away by a winter storm the day before.

Instead, an even more glorious show of yellow beyond my expectations appeared, reflected in the icy covering on North Lake.

Instead, I experienced and accepted this marvelous morning with great gratitude and happiness.

Isle Au Haut

Isle Au Haut I

Isle Au Haut I, Acadia National Park

Isle Au Haut takes some work and planning to get to. It is an island off the coast of Maine, one of the southernmost parts of Acadia National Park. It is visited by taking a ferry from the town of Stonington, ME. Not everyone will have the time or the resources to visit here in their lifetime, yet it is an unspoiled reminder of what this continent looked like to the first settlers arriving from Europe.

The effort in getting to Isle Au Haut brought to mind a comment my niece Paula Potocki wrote about my published Zion National Park photograph titled “Canyon Spring”:

Breathtaking!!! Thank you for sharing your talent once again, it is an honor. Most people will never get a chance to experience the wonders that are in our world. You are able to capture and share them so that others may explore the possibilities that are all around them. You are opening their eyes with your gift

It is a blessing to me to be able to share this beauty with those who, for whatever reason, cannot or will not get to and experience these places in person. If you know someone whose day would be brighter by viewing these images, or by having something beautiful from nature portrayed on their wall, please pass this along. It is an easy way to help people have hope, take in beauty, and perhaps be inspired to travel to these sights in their imagination, or in their physical future.

Thank you for viewing my work, for helping share this work with others, and for the many kind words of appreciation you have shared back to me.