Monday, October 3, 2011

Looking Further Up

I wrote earlier that I encountered interesting surprises as I began my preparations for the fall show in Boerne, Texas.  No matter how much I think I have prepared ahead of time for an upcoming show, things always seem to be somewhat of a moving target and the last few days I am usually found scrambling.  This show has been that and more.

I was pleased with some images of a working lavender farm that I had produced earlier in the year.  I had printed them in my "small" size (framed— about 12" by 42") on archival matte paper.  These were very successful but I thought I would see what they looked like large and on canvas so I went ahead and printed them out.  This really made them sing: the colors were striking, the contrast wonderful, and the texture of the canvas really suited them.  So, I had it all figured out— I would mostly go with the lavender photographs, and maybe throw in a large canvas of an abstract sky photograph I had been working on for some time.
LAVENDER SHADOWS, Blanco TX, © Bill Brockmeier

I was just about to finish this whole process when something just didn't seem "quite right."  Something was nagging me in the back alleys of my mind, and I just couldn't put my finger on it.  I thought— "Hmmmm...maybe I'll just scan through a bunch of photographs I have complied into complete panoramas but just never found the time to catalog yet."  I started the process and quickly came across some images I had entirely forgotten about for about a year.  They were interesting, but not THAT interesting.  I kept going.

I eventually found myself immersed in a bunch of images I had taken of the San Antonio Missions quite some time ago, which I had also forgotten about.  I really didn't want to go back to "more Missions pictures" because I felt I had kind of closed the door on that era of my photography.  Early in my serious thrust back into photography, just after I had "discovered" panoramics, I fell in love with the Missions, and they loved me back and taught me much about myself and about photography.  They had also provided me with many of my early award-winning images.  But due to several confluent events in my life, it seemed that this era was closing.

Although I really didn't want to look through the images, something kept prodding me to look closer.  I came across an image I had taken on a sort-of overcast day (a high, thin cloud layer) that had been very challenging, technically.  In particular, the image was of an area just between the iconic Convento hall-of-arches-with-no-roof area and the entrance into the rear of the Sanctuary (it leads through the small Chapel just off the main Sanctuary).

This site is kind of an artificial "canyon" made of limestone, with the Convento forming one wall of the canyon and the rear of the Sanctuary forming the other wall.  I had taken a few vertical panoramas in there, but the sky was problematic, since even if it was not fully blown-out it would still look that way (a uniform white or very light gray) since the high cloud cover was so homogeneous.  I took them anyway.

When I got back to the studio, I went ahead and compiled them, but my fears seemed well founded.  Yep, sky looks blown-out (even though it wasn't).  Oh well, put them into storage anyway.  End of story...or so I thought.

© Bill Brockmeier
Looking at them now, many months later (was it really over a year?), I can't take my eyes off of one in particular.  "Well...the composition of the arches, the arches' shadows on the gravel, and the ornate carved portal to the Chapel are actually quite strong.  Maybe even powerful.  Wow, I don't know if I've ever taken a photograph quite this strong before.  But the sky isn't blue (except for tiny little areas at the periphery).  Is this really worth devoting a large amount of ink and canvas to?  Probably not, but hey, it's only time and money."

I set up the image to be printed, double-checked all of the settings, and then committed the ink and canvas by clicking on the "PRINT" button in the software.  There was no turning back now.  <<<TIME PASSES>>>  With the print now about three quarters of the way out of the printer, I am thinking to myself— "Wow!  Why didn't I print this out a year ago?"  (Where have I heard THAT before?)

With the print now spread out on my large studio table, I began to appreciate more of what the image is actually about.  For the first time, I began to see that the "blown-out" sky was not a flaw, but, indeed, added a more important (and abstract) overarching theme to the image.  I began to see that stepping out of the doorway was stepping from the dim interior of the building out into the broad daylight.  And in a parallel way, looking up, from the earth below (and earth-bound activity and thought), one was stepping through another "portal" into the invitation of the Creator above.

Had the sky been a striking, bright blue, the image would have been simply another pretty picture (albeit with wonderful composition and such).  But the fact that it was, instead, basically pure white made it easier for me to see what the image was really saying.  God exists "in unapproachable light" (wrote Paul to Timothy a couple of millennia ago) but nevertheless He invites us into real, personal fellowship (communion) with Himself.  He has placed— between heaven and earth— an Open Portal, waiting for us to step through it and into the broad "Daylight."

Once again, the unusual vertical panoramic format has caused me to stop, and look up— not just into the blue sky, but into heaven, and even unto the Face of God Himself.

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