Berg and Duck — Jokulsarlon, Iceland  © jj raia

Berg and Duck — Jokulsarlon, Iceland © jj raia

Many times when we create a photograph, we have some idea of how we want it to appear in its final version. We may have already determined that it will be combined with an identical image with a darker or lighter exposure, or combine several into an HDR. There may be a particular distraction that needs to be removed, or changes in light values done in Photoshop. And quite often, we already have a particular crop in mind.

So when I clicked the shutter for the image below (posted earlier this week), I was focused on only the center of the frame to be cropped to a square. I suppose I was fixated on the fact that there were several bergs in the photo, each with differing textures and translucence, and one with a couple of streaks of soot or dirt. In a way, trying to illustrate the variety of the bergs in the lagoon. It was also an attempt to create a simple abstract.

Since the bergs were behind one another, a smaller aperture was needed to keep it all in focus, which resulted in a slow shutter speed. So, if I wanted to include a duck, it would have to be done with a faster shutter speed to stop its motion as it paddled by. So it necessitated blending two frames. Unfortunately, even though there were quite a few ducks in the lagoon, they were not cooperating with my vision, and had to take a shot of this particular duck in the location of its choosing. I suppose, just like some actors, this duck wasn’t taking direction very well and proved to be very difficult to work with. S/he was subsequently dismissed for insolence.

But, after including the image in the previous post, a well-regarded photographer friend of mine, asked if I had thought of the possibility to crop the image as it appears at the top. I have to admit that I had not, and after seeing it, realized it was a much more in line with what I was attempting, and was a more powerful image without the added context of the additional bergs at the top of the frame. It is more abstract as well, with everything contained within the frame a textured design except for the singular duck.

Sometimes an abstract image works well simply for its design. Other times, if a large expanse of the frame is the abstract, and a tiny segment is completely recognizable, it creates a juxtaposition of differing elements. The image above is an example of that type. I made this discovery long ago, when I first began photography, studying the work of David Muench, and many times I would see some of his abstracts contained a tiny element to give the image some form of context as to what I was looking at. I admired that technique. 

By leaving out the recognizable bergs at the top, it may obscure the answer to the question of what it is we are seeing. The duck is recognizable, but in the image above, its surroundings may leave viewers scratching their head, creating more engagement. As it turned out, by reexamining the image, it was reprocessed to take care of a few newly discovered annoying spots, and a little work was done on the bird itself.

Sometimes, it just takes a pair of fresh eyes to see what we were really after when we tripped the shutter. I just didn’t know I had blinders on all the while. And for the suggestion to take those blinders off, I am truly grateful.

Ice Berg and Duck at Jokulsarlon  © jj raia

Ice Berg and Duck at Jokulsarlon © jj raia


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