There are plenty of reasons not to practice landscape photography. One of them is that there are others that are no doubt more practiced. Another might be the sometimes arduous task of sifting through various photos and looking for the right one, the ‘magical’ shot as it were, a shot that is not always there. But these and other reasons like them are ‘head’ oriented reasons, and in anything artistic or crafty, the head shouldn’t be trusted. Anyone who feels like trying out such an endeavor should.
I was walking in a series of fields over a series of weeks with my dogs and I kept looking at the sky. I noticed it was always different even when it looked from a cursory glance the same. The cumulus was there sometimes and at other times absent. The speed at which they traversed and let the sun to touch outwards and down was changing. Blackbirds came around, and sometimes a few hawks circled looking for prey. If it was night the firmament turned itself on and told various stories. And at dusk, both the day worlds and the night worlds meshed. Sometimes a pale blue turned what seemed, against reason, a dark green. More interesting than any of these, was when a storm was approaching. The upwards vision then had textures and labyrinthine carved clouds tumbling upon one another.
I often thought that someone should take a few photographs.
One day I took it upon myself to try and capture the sky and the surrounding area.
I smiled inwardly as I took the shots. Though it was something prosaic on paper, I mean, taking a picture of the sky is not so inventive. Or a tree? Or a pond? But that is the head, and I was was intent on just having fun. I loved it. And I wondered, could practicing the craft of photography remain so buoyant, and dare it be said, against coolness, so whimsical and fun? It has remained so. Each time I see the sky it just has to be taken down and noted in a picture. In this sense, the sky is falling. In another sense it is falling also, because I feel the shot must be taken quickly because the sky is changing so rapidly. This and that and the other ‘sky’ moment will never, ever, happen again.
I have taken hundreds and hundreds of pictures of the sky. I feel that unlike other crafts, where the description of steps taken can be concrete, landscape or ‘sky’ photography is different. Perhaps in writing there is an outline, and then drafts, and editing. Or in watercolors there is a thumbnail followed by a more involved series of work at the table or easel. For me, the craft of the landscape shot does not look like a craft at all.
It’s more mystical and playful.
Instead of work, I walk around the fields and sort of notice whatever catches the eye (like those clouds or the hungry pensive hawks musing on the idea of small game). I look with soft eyes, seeing everything at once, and then feel my way into what part of the sky wants to be seen in a photograph. Sometimes I even hold the frame and then decide against it. I had jumped the gun and needed to wait longer.
Finally the moment arrives when the angle and contour, the margins and subject and shade and mood seems just right.
I have captured the sky when the clouds and trees and lights are just so.
I have zoned in on these things before they change again, which they will in the next moment or so.
I have captured the sky before it has fallen.
Brian Michael Barbeito is a resident of Ontario, Canada. Chalk Lines, a book of short fictions, appears at Fowlpox Press 2013 (cover art and design by Virgil Kay).