About the "Along the Blue Ridge" Portfolio
When I first began to work at being a serious photographer, I wanted to photograph the landscape. I lived near Lake Michigan at the time and many of my photographs were influenced by their proximity to the Great Lakes. I made some landscapes that were satisfying, but then I began to concentrate on my Entropy project, and over time paid less attention to the photographs that nature offers.
In 2011 I relocated to Roanoke, Virginia. There are many derelict buildings, vehicles, and especially old railroad rolling stock here, and I planned to continue photographing nature as she went about reclaiming man's abandoned creations. But I soon realized what an incredible solo act that nature can be here in the Blue Ridge, no man-made props required. And as I began to aquaint myself with these ancient mountains and the road that bears their name, I found myself being drawn back to the landscape.
There is such a rich diversity of pictures to be made in the Blue Ridge. There are magnificent vistas of and from the mountains, as well as smaller, more intimate views. Numerous streams rise in the highlands and collect water on their way to the James or Roanoke or New Rivers, sometimes flowing over escarpments as spectatular waterfalls, and other times as gentle cascades around and through rocks. Many man-made structures seem to have become part of the environment and belong where they are. Eventually I concluded that it would just be wrong for a photographer to live in this environment and not photograph it.
At about the same time that my senses were being recalibrated to the natural environment, I began experimenting with infrared film. Its sensitivity to light extends much further into the infrared spectrum than normal film, and when a filter is used to remove the visible light, IR film is exposed almost entirely by infrared light, producing dramatic effects. Blue skies reflect almost no IR light so are rendered nearly black in the print, contrasting vividly with white clouds that render normally. Grass, leaves, and other foliage reflect disproporionate amounts of light, especially in spring and early summer when their chlorophyll levels are highest, and so appear to glow in the print. These effects combine to produce very rich black and white photographs when used with the right subjects.
I have also recently begun cropping certain compositions into panoramas, realizing that sometimes a horizontal or vertical slice of the image is what drew my attention and made me want to photograph the subject. Some of the mountaintop vistas are stronger when the sky and the foreground are eliminated, focusing attention on distant, receding ridgelines. Similarly, a portrait of a tall waterfall is can be strengthened when the inconsequential sides of the image area are removed, leaving only the water contained within the narrow borders of the picture.
I think that an artist must respond to the influences that his environment are exerting if he wants to grow and improve. I still enjoy finding examples of entropy to make photographs of, but as long as I feel inspired by the natural landscape I will look for these pictures as well.