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Dave Wyman | all galleries >> A Photograph On Occasion > Ghost Bus
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Ghost Bus

Ghost Bus

I suppose at first glance this appears to be a somewhat out-of-focus photograph of a two-toned bus.

For me, this is a photograph that calls into question the nature of photography itself, and perhaps the very nature of our understanding of reality. It's a photograph that touches upon certain tenents of science, yet it also expresses the near magical quality of discovery paradoxically based on empirical experience. And there's a question of whether it's still possible to have a free lunch, or at least a 'burger with both mustard and ketchup.

It is a fuzy picture of a bus. Or is it? I ask the question because, in the photograph, the top half of a derelict school bus (once owned by the Church of Scientology, and now taking up temporary residence in a junk yard in Barstow, California) was visible to me as a smeary-looking reflection. Put another way, the "bus" was no more than a ghostly, mirrored image of a real bus, which I photographed in a thin sheen of rain water on the hood of an old, orange jeep.

The "real" bus was visible, too, just beyond the jeep. By crouching down behind the jeep a bit, I was able to photograph the top half of the bus in reflection. At same time, I was able to include part of the lower portion of the "real" bus, including the yellow panels and headlights, in the viewfinder of my camera. I realized - from experince looking at reflections - that I could position myself so that what I saw in reflection - the top half of the orange "bus" - would be aligned in my viewfinder with the bottom of the "real" yellow school bus.

Then I flipped the photograph upside down, so that it appears to be right-side-up. That is, the upper, orange part of the bus was, in the original photograph, upside down (as are all images in reflection in water). Conversely, the lower part of this photograph, the yellow portion of the bus, is now also upside down, since, in the original photograph, it was right-side-up. However, because my photograph includes just the headlights and a small portion of the rest of the bottom portion of the "real" bus, the entire photograph seems to be right-side-up.

This is, then, a photograph of what looks like a two-toned bus, i.e. the yellow bus itself, mated to the reflection of the bus in the hood of the jeep.

Is the upper (lower?) part of the orange bus any less real than the "real" bus? Does this photograph depict one, almost whole bus? Is it a photograph of two parts of one bus? Or does the reflection take on a life of its own, making this a photograph of not one, but rather two buses?

Even the "real" bus is simply the reflection of light rays from the sun bouncing back into a lens, light rays which are then focused by the lens on the sensor of my camera. The reflected orange bus is a sort of cousin-bus, a reflection once-removed from the "real" bus.

Do I have both mustard and ketchup on my hamburger? Did I make one photograph, or two photographs for the price of one?

Nikon D80 ,Nikon 50mm f/1.4 lens
1/125s ISO 200 full exif

other sizes: small medium large original
jdant20209-Jun-2015 16:38
This is such an awesome picture. You're right, it really is quite thought provoking. The way it refracts through the rain is really interesting. Thanks for sharing this.
Guest 08-Feb-2008 20:30
I think this is great!! Brilliant work!
sunlightpix01-Feb-2008 21:44
This image has everything - burger: the bus, ketchup: the light rays, mustard: the reflection.
Then add the five realities that you wrote about to describe one of your Yosemite galleries.
Perhaps reality's dimensions are a function of point of view.
Cheryl Hawkins30-Jan-2008 23:47
Love how this turned out.
Phil Douglis30-Jan-2008 00:34
You render the reflected bus as an abstraction that draws the eye and suggests a dream of long lost school days. It is as if you are trying to get on, but you can't -- it keeps moving up and away from you. Such reflections as this can be said to resemble paintings that begin in the real world but always wind up rooted in the imagination. It remind me of a photo I made in China of building reflected in a lake. ( ). I too, turned it upside down to give it a basis in reality, yet the longer we look at it, the more it forces the imagination into high gear. Likewise, I find the same thing holds true with your school bus, Dave. The longer I look at it, the more it seems to want to escape me.
john boyd29-Jan-2008 23:02
Great image Dave. Without being there it's difficult to imagine the image as shown. Turning it upside down leads to the confusing, intriguing, mystification quality of the image.
Carol E Sandgren29-Jan-2008 19:37
Wow! I can't figure out if this is fun or creepy...was it a reflection in a distorted "funhouse" mirror?? Super "treatment"!
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