to photograph the forest cathedral

in the forest cathedral

As a photographer, I have two goals: 1) to show what I see; and 2) to show what I feel. These goals are sometimes opposites.

To show a scene accurately would mean to show it as if our cameras were our eyes, which can see into every shadow and brightly lit area and where everything has colour and sharp detail. That task can be a challenge in itself, because our cameras do not see in the same way as our eyes, so we have to learn how to expose correctly (and make adjustments on the computer if necessary) and use settings that create as sharp an image as possible. All of these tasks are explained in detail elsewhere, but what I wanted to point out is that photography is about making choices.

Because if you take a photo which is technically correct and visually accurate to the scene, it still may be a boring image. What you choose to capture on your camera is as important as how. And what follows why — why am I interested in this scene? what is it that captures my attention, that draws my eye? Once you have discovered the what and why of your image, then all the how of taking photos will fall into place. For example, with my photo of the trees above, here is an approximation of my inner dialogue:

Why: Wow, those trees are really lovely.
What: I like the way the branches make tall windows of light, like stained glass, all shimmering.
How: If I use a short depth of field (wide aperture) and focus on these branches on the foreground, then the tree branches will blur to show the shape of the windows and the shimmering light.

1) Does the photo show exactly what I saw? No, my eyes only blur like that when I take off my glasses. 2) Does the photo show what I felt? Yes. If I have to choose, getting Number 2 right is the best choice.

Photo taken on November 14, 2010


8 thoughts on “to photograph the forest cathedral

  1. Beautiful photo. And I agree completely with your point that capturing the essence of the scene is most important. Does it just show the subject or scene, or does it say something about them? I prefer to say something more than just showing something.

    • Thanks for dropping by, Cipher! I have to admit that sometimes I take pictures first and ask questions later, because something grabs my eye and I don’t always know what that “something” is right away. It’s all part of the adventure, I guess!

  2. These are certainly words to live by!

    I don’t know … I mostly like to shoot birds and animals. Sometimes I try to do other things, but I’m rarely happy with the outcome.

    I like this forest cathedral very much.

    • Thanks, Rebekah. It’s funny, I rarely take photos of birds and animals, maybe because I feel my lens is never long enough, and I don’t want to carry anything that heavy! Or maybe I’m just not that good with action shots… forests are always so obliging, standing very still while I create my composition.

  3. Beautiful photo, as mentioned almost like stain glass.

    I agree with your point, a camera cannot capture exactly what you see so it should capture what you feel the same as what a painter puts on his canvas.

    Fifty people can take a picture of the same thing and over half of them will be different. Some take pictures as a souvenir or memory of a place or moment in time. Others take pictures of the beauty they see or I should say feel.

    A person should always ask the questions of what am I photographing, why this specific shot and how should this photo present itself to me.

    PS: Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting on my snapshots 🙂

    • You’re right about people all seeing the same scene in different ways, Don. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy looking at other people’s photos so much — including yours — because I will invariably think, “oh wow, I’d never think of that angle or that mood or that close-up”. There’s always so much to learn!

  4. I totally agree with you about photographing feelings. To me, art that captures my attention is art that allows me to feel what the artist is presenting and to interpret it for myself.

    This photo totally makes me think of the song ‘Blue Sky Cathedral’ and the line ‘White pine steeple’ (I think it’s by Alan Jackson but might be mistaken).

    When people share feeling art, I think they also allow the audience to draw their own cross-references to other pieces (like my cross-reference to the song). And that in turn makes both pieces have more meaning in the viewer’s life.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Herby. You’ve put your finger on the crux of the matter, because art that “allows me to feel what the artist is presenting” is not as easy as it sounds. I suppose that’s why pictorial art is so popular, because it’s easy to show others what I (the photographer) see: it’s a tree, or a baby or a sunset. But to show something more abstract or more personal or more obscure, how will people see what you saw, and why you chose to show it? I guess that’s where personal interpretation comes in!

      I don’t know the song “Blue Sky Cathedral” but it sounds lovely. I’ll check it out!

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