Dragon Boat Landing, Hue, Vietnam, 2000
I waited a few minutes for someone to walk down these steps to board the boat at rivers edge. I shot as this man entered the frame, creating maximum tension in the spacing between him, and where he is going. The tension is enhanced by double diagonal thrusts: the steps slant down to boat, and the boat angles back into upper left hand corner, marked by Vietnam's fluttering flag. I provide a series of three focal points along the way -- the man, the boat, and the flag, which lead the eye through the entire picture.
Abandoned Power Plant, Kennecott Mine, Kennecott, Alaska, 2003
The geometric patterns created by sunlight striking the rooftops of Kennecott's vast but empty power plant recall the glory days of early 20th Century heavy industry. These patterns are also known as rhythmic repetition -- another method I use in organizing my photographs. In this case I use three different forms of rhythm: repeating roof lines carry the eye through the picture from front to back, repeating diagonals create a series of implied dynamic visual thrusts from corner to corner, and finally, a series of vertical smoke stacks marches across the top of the frame in varying sizes. By creating these rhythms within my frame, I tried to evoke the ghost of a great industrial cathedral slowly decaying deep in the mountains of Alaska. Its time ran out when the last copper train left Kennecott in 1938.
Drying Salmon, Mainapilgino, Siberia, Russia, 2002
Mainapilgino is a small Chukchi fishing camp. When I crouched before its racks of drying Salmon, the horizontal poles and vertical fish created horizontal and vertical rhythms reminding me of musical manuscripts. A heavy fog made a perfect backdrop, except for the inevitable wandering tourists. I simply waited for them out to get this picture, which is rhythmic in more ways than one.
Remembering Dmitry, Uglich, Russia, 2003
Uglich on the Volga was the site of one of Russia's most celebrated murders in the 16th Century, when Czar Ivan the Terrible's heir and son Dmitry was killed by Boris Godunuv in an attempt to seize the crown of Russia. On the spot where the murder took place, the city built this beautiful little church. I use still another form of rhythmic repetition to organize this image. The structure features a cluster of bulbous domes. As I approached, I noticed a towering cumulous cloud moving across the sky in the background. I waited until it appeared directly behind the domes of the church and made this image. The Church seems to explode in smoke, almost as if someone was firing a salute to honor the slain son of an ancient Czar.
Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue, Vietnam, 2000
The streets around this historic pagoda were jammed with cars and tourists. I was able to eliminate everyone, save for these two little boys, by walking down a flight of stairs across the street from the pagoda, then turning and shooting back at it from below. From this position, I was also able to frame both the children and the pagoda between the posts guarding the top of the steps. As I shot, I realized that rhythmic repitition was also working in this photograph. A series of horizontal steps lead the eye to the street level, where another series of horizontal rhythms takes over. The vertical posts at the top of the steps, the two children, and the pagoda itself, carry the beat right across the image. A sense of depth is also created as the foreground steps, middleground kids and posts, and background pagoda all work together to turn two dimensions into three.
Kennecott River Valley, McCarthy, Alaska, 2002
From the footbridge across the dried out bed of the Kennecott River, just outside McCarthy, I made this 28mm wideangle image of the sweeping Kennecott Valley. In the far distance at the center of this picture, is the ghost mining town of Kennecott. My objective in making this picture was to offer a sense of Alaska's sweeping grandeur and the remoteness of the distant ghost town. This is a landscape photograph. To make this landscape work, I relate three layers of information to give the viewer a sense of perspective. I used a wideangle lens to stress the dry river bed in the foreground, relating it to the forests and distant mining town in the middle ground, as well as to the mountain range spread beneath the cloud-streaked deep blue sky in the background.
Harbor, Nha Trang, Vietnam, 2000
Standing on the deck of a cruise ship, and using a 200mm telephoto lens, I was able to make this group of boats large enough to fill the foreground of the frame. This shot works because the darker boat -- the one with the figure sitting on its bow -- stands out from the rest. It gives this picture its focal point, and provides a visual anchor in the foreground of this landscape. In the middle ground, the boats get smaller, and the misty hills in the background add context. Once again, three layers of meaning create a sense of perspective.
Road to Angkor Wat, Cambodia, 2000
This ancient temple complex deep in the Cambodian jungle stands at the end of a long causeway. I waited for some Buddhist monks, wearing vividly colored robes, to move into the picture, and used the telephoto end of the zoom lens to foreshorten the distance between them and the temple. To me, these marching monks are the subjects and focal points of this picture, and the great temple of Angkor Wat, its context. Three layers of meaning work together in this image as well -- the colorful monks dominate the foreground, the crowd of tourists walking before them fill the middleground, and the temple of Angkor Wat itself rises under tropical skies in the background.
Sunflower, Anchorage, Alaska, 2002
In Alaska, land of the "Midnight Sun", summer flowers flourish. I found these enormous sunflowers growing around the base of an old log cabin that serves as Anchorage's Vistors Center. Close-up photography is all about detail, but that detail must also be organized for meaning. Depth of focus is always very shallow in closeups, which simplifies the image and emphasizes the point at hand. In this case, it's the delicacy of the tiny detail in the center of the sunflower that makes the point, as well as the vivid contrasts in color, a study in yellow, red, and green.
Colors, Waterlooplein Market, Amsterdam, Holland, 2003
Fabrics of the Far East fill a stall at Waterlooplein Market with contrasting colors and textures. Such contrasts are the very point of this picture. I organize my image around as much contrast in color and texture as possible. I also contrast the size, shape and textures of the pillows on the left to the tablecloths on the right. Color itself can make a strong subject for a picture. But you usually must evoke mood and meaning through strong contrasts to make it work.
Wet Leaves, Ipswich, Massachusetts, 2002
Wet leaves and flat gray skies. It doesn't sound like much of an opportunity for an expressive photograph. But it was. On closer inspection, I realized that these leaves were all on the same bush and came in no less than five different colos and hues: three shades of purple and red, plus two shades of green. Glistening drops of water add surface texture, as well. The flat, shadowless light enriches color saturation. I built this image around three vertical sections of contrasting color -- purple, red, and then purple once again. These contrasts in color, plus the bonus rain drops, and rich saturation, offer a vivid and memorable insight into the ways of mother nature on this wet New England June morning.
Vishnu, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, 2000
I took this shot without flash, using the light from a distant doorway. The bright orange Buddhist robe reflected that light into my camera, while the ancient statue, stained by twelve centuries of incense, fades into the background. This image, too, is organized around contrast in color to express meaning . The brilliant orange robe is a gift from today's worshipers. The ancient, soot blackened statue of Vishnu seems eternal.