This is a variant of a photograph published on this blog in 2016, but I came across it recently and wanted to take a second run in post-production; there were some color aberrations and soft-focus issues I thought I could improve upon. This was taken in January of last year while I was driving around south of Kansas City. As a general rule, photographers are trained not to photograph into the sun, but there are definitely times when it makes sense to break the rules. Getting this lovely silhouette of a single tree with a mercurial cloud-scape behind it took several tries before getting it right, but I am incredibly pleased with the final result.
Living in the southwest, people always ask me what Kansas was like – or, more accurately, they assume that Kansas is as bland as it’s Wizard of Oz depiction. Living in a valley surrounded by four great mountain ranges here in Tucson, the assumption is that Kansas is flat and boring, which isn’t entirely an inaccurate assessment – the plains states possess an incredibly subtle beauty and you have to have the right eyes to appreciate it.
I’m hoping today’s image is an expression of that beauty that folks can appreciate, regardless of where they hang their hat and what state they call home.
I moved back to the desert for a reason. This is one of many.
There’s a quality to the light, to the landscape and skies, that amazed me when I first moved here sixteen years ago. I love the monsoon rains, the mountains, the clouds. They say that nature does all of the hard work, and all you have to do is be there to capture it. There’s some truth to that. But it’s so easy to take our experiences for granted. When we see the same landscape, the same sky, the same friends, the same lover – when we see it every day, we appreciate it less.
Being an artist is recognizing this tendency, and never taking anything for granted.
This is all temporary, and it’s all incredibly amazing. I love being here, and I am in love with life.
Landscape photography is about as old as photography itself – it has reached a level of cliche that’s hard to escape. At the same time, it isn’t the easiest art-form, either. We all have friends who have taken that ‘epic’ sunset photograph, replete with power lines and ugly houses in the foreground that completely distract from the colors, the clouds, and the experience.
I’m not a naysayer – I love that we all have cameras in our pockets, on our phones, that allow us to document majestic moments. But this doesn’t make us all artists. There’s something to be said about composition, intent, and execution. Cameras allow us all to be witnesses to nature’s majesty, but that doesn’t make us all artists. What I love about camera technology is that it hints at the possibility that we all CAN be artists – the tools to make exciting images are completely democratized, totally universal and, as I already mentioned, in each and every one of our pockets.
Get out there, guys. Keep your eyes open. Make something. Nature does all of the heavy lifting – all you have to do is recognize the beauty, pick up your camera, and give it a go.