Winter snow crept in overnight and laid down a downy, white blanket. It left no path, no clear-cut way for me to remove it’s covering from my car so I could go to work. The one-lane road was equally covered. Trapped, I turned back inside, heated up some hot chocolate, and settled down with a good book. Tomorrow, I said.
Early one morning I drove down Washington Street in downtown Indianapolis on my way to work. It was at a time when the morning light filtered its way through the forest of buildings and selectively lit one building over another. Until that morning, I had never paid attention to this building. It was on a side-street but the way the light illuminated the area, I couldn’t help but glance at this beautiful Mondrian-inspired building. I didn’t stop to photograph it in the moment because I was on a tight schedule to get to work. But I referenced the building for a later photo shoot.
It was at this time, also, that I was searching for ideas for a print ad design. One of the parameters was that it be black and white. The publication was for a campus event. My past experience with this publication taught me that it was run by students who didn’t know really what they were doing and the other advertisers (read: campus schools and departments) didn’t understand how color converts to black and white and therefore sent in color ads that were printed in black and white…not very flattering. Although it wasn’t a high quality publication, it would reach a lot of people. I wanted my ad to POP off the page. The best way to do this would be to use high contrast, and what better high contrast than black and white with no shades of gray? So keeping that in mind, I remembered the windows and realized that I could also be inspired by Piet Mondrian. They used my ad on the inside back cover, which is a cherry position.
Inspiration comes from different sources. I keep learning to open my eyes and observe and wonder.
I looked at the forest, barren and repetitive, and raised the camera to my eye. Stark brown trunks rose to the sky, contrasting beautifully against the clouds. I captured a number of shots, each one unfolding a surreal blue landscape, not the repetitive brown landscape I saw. Where did the blue come from? Why did my camera present me with weirdly-colored trees in a landscape that I saw as bleak brown?
This frustrated and perturbed me. The Canon EOS 30D was new to me. My previous cameras were point-and-shoots (Canon PowerShots of various kinds) so this was my introduction to the DSLR world. What was happening?
I don’t know how long after this photo shoot it took me to figure it out, but I remember thinking about a photography class I had taken at the Indianapolis Art Center a couple of years prior. I had just received a Canon PowerShot S2 IS with manual controls for Christmas. I wanted to learn as much as I could on how to use the controls so I signed up for a beginning photography class. I was the only one with a point-and-shoot but I soaked it all in. I learned about white balance and Kelvin color space and many other things. My point-and-shoot had white balance presets so I played around a little with the various settings and got a fairly decent understanding of white balance. Eventually, though, I left it on auto white balance (AWB) and then promptly forgot about it. AWB served me well. But I never really got that whole Kelvin thing.
With a more advanced camera, though, there I was, looking at a blue forest and wondering what I was doing wrong. Later, I remembered the whole white balance lesson. I looked at my camera and noticed it was set to “K”. Haha! So I changed that setting to AWB and that made everything return to normal. Much later, when I was reading about my camera, I noticed my color space setting was set to 2800. That accounted for the blueness when the white balance was set to “K”. So, mystery solved!
Now, five years later, I look at this unnatural world I captured using a cold setting. No longer frustrated, I am intrigued by the mystery. What would it be like to wander through a blue forest in a blue world during the blue hour of twilight?
I loved looking out the bedroom window of my charming Irvington antique home, especially in the winter when the inside of the window frosted up just as wildly as the outside and made the whole world beautifully abstract.
May your life be equally as beautiful and as wild and as abstract! Happy 2012.