Familiarity and Innocence

When I lived in California, I used to photograph a lot of trees. Oaks, cottonwoods, bays, redwoods, I had a lot to choose from.

The forests near where I live now in Boulder Colorado are mostly pine. Pine trees are beautiful, but I never found them interesting to photograph. They were just too regular—not enough interesting shapes and variations.

I think one of the best things that can happen to us as artists as well as human beings is to be humbled by becoming aware of our closed-down attitudes.

I had the occasion for such a humbling just a couple of weeks ago when I decided to hike on this trail I had largely ignored for the last few years. It’s the Mesa trail in Boulder and it runs south from Chautauqua through these lovely pine forests and grasses.

The humbling was immediate and painless as I was taken in by this magical walk under these exquisite trees. There was nothing regular and boring about them. Everywhere I turned was simplicity, quiet and beauty.

Making photographs is a interesting artistic pursuit. It requires some degree of mechanical skill and some knowledge of lighting and composition and even knowledge of one’s subject matter. But it also requires a lot of not-knowing.

To experience the forest like I did, I had to see it as if I were seeing it for the first time. I had to drop my concept of the way pine trees looked and the way pine trees have been photographed and just see them as beautiful alive colors and shapes. The interesting thing in this experience was that my familiarity with the trail and the area contributed with my being able to look past initial impressions and see deeper into things.

A combination of familiarity and innocence.

~ by danbaumbach on March 14, 2016.

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