Waldorf Chandelier, The House of John, Estate of John and Mabel Ringling, Sarasota, Florida, 2013
The House of John (Ca’ d’Zan) was built in 1925 as the Florida home of John Ringling, founder of the Ringling Brothers Circus, and his wife, Mabel Ringling. Among the most impressive features in this Venetian Gothic mansion is the massive chandelier that formerly hung in New York City’s original Waldorf Astoria Hotel. After that hotel was demolished to make room for the Empire State Building, the Ringlings acquired this chandelier and installed it high over the mansions Central Court. In this image, I photograph not only the intricacy and beauty of the historic Waldorf Chandelier, but also one of the priceless massive tapestries that hangs behind it upon the wall in the background. The lavish coffered ceiling and the Venetian imagery painted above it add additional context to the chandelier. Taken together, they express the wealth, power, and grandeur of the Ringling story. Ringling left this 36,000 square foot mansion, along with the Ringling Art and Circus Museums, to the state of Florida, which in turn has transferred stewardship to the Florida State University.
Camels at dusk, Wadi Rum, Jordan, 2011
A distant line of camels bearing tourists plods through the Wadi Rum desert at dusk. The last light of day warms the rocky face of mountain that fills the background, while horizontal rows of scrub provide a desert context. The richly colored desert light provides a mood that is both mysterious and nostalgic. I made this image from a great distance, using a 300mm telephoto focal length, creating an incongruous scale relationship between the diminutive line of camels and the vast backdrop. It is this relationship that gives this image its sense of grandeur
At the Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt, 2011
Thousands of Egyptians pay a holiday visit to the Pyramids and Sphinx just outside Cairo. I made this image in the late afternoon, yet throngs of still-arriving visitors still jam them narrow road that runs between the Pyramids and the Sphinx. These iconic landmarks, which were already 2,000 years old when Cleopatra toured them with Julius Caesar in 47 BC, are still relevant to Egyptians. They confer identity, pride, and heritage on an impoverished nation. In this image, I take advantage of the late light to abstract much of the scene through the interplay of light and shadow. Diagonal bands of overhead clouds bond the two pyramids in this image. This wideangle view is expansive, making the masses of visitors appear incongruously small in comparison. The golden light, the scale of the vista, and the antiquity of the scene combine to create an image that is rich in grandeur.
Marathon, Barcelona, Spain, 2011
Thousands of marathoners surge up Barcelona’s Passeig de Colom, running towards the city’s monument to Christopher Columbus. I waited until there was a break in what was a nearly continuous flow of runners – and when it came, it left the foreground empty, allowing me to emphasize the body language of those upfront. Although there are hundreds of people in this picture, the eye naturally moves to the man who salutes the crowd as he makes the turn at the monument. The Avenue, lined with palms and lights, frames the runners as their faces diminish into the background. The huge mass of people flowing through this setting expresses the grandeur of the event itself.
Theatro Santa Isabel, Recife, Brazil, 2010
Prior to a performance of Brazilian carnival music and dance, I photographed part of the audience assembled in the balconies of this 135 year old opera house. Using a 24mm wideangle focal length, I was able to stretch the scene from the oval ceiling down to the main floor. A man stands, hands on hips, to survey the scene from the center of the second balcony, offering a focal point to the image, and providing a scale contrast expressing the grandeur of the scene.
Golden God’s Rays, Mission Beach, San Diego, California, 2010
The clouds are stacked in layers here, and the sun is trying to break through them all at once. The imager reveals a sky filled with banks of clouds, their edges touched with gold. A pyramid of rays filter through them, known as "God’s Rays." The sea becomes a textured gilded carpet, a scene of grandeur that offers a home to a sole surfer who waits to ride a wave of liquid gold.
Clearing storm, Monument Valley, Arizona, 2009
Parts of this image lie in shadow, while others gleam in the sun. A sky laden with threats is breaking up, scattering the low hanging clouds that float above the scene. I layer the scene with first a green and then a brown desert foreground. A tiny, twisting road lies within that desert, carrying an even smaller white truck that tells us just how vast this scene really is. Three layers of rock formations comprise the middleground here, while a dark blue/gray sky provides the backdrop. Grandeur depends largely on scale relationships, and this image offers an array of them.
Snowy buttes, Moab, Utah, 2009
An evening snowfall still clings to the sides of the massive buttes that fill much of my frame here. The foreground, however, is richly colored in reds, greens, and browns. The most important element of this image, however, is the road to the left of center that carries our eye deep into the frame. When it hits the foothills at the base of the buttes, it mysteriously vanishes, urging us to take this journey of grandeur in our own imaginations.
Suleymaniye Mosque from the Golden Horn, Istanbul, Turkey, 2009
To express the grandeur of Istanbul, for sixteen centuries the Imperial capital of the Byzantine empire and the Ottoman sultans, one needs to stand in the middle of the Golden Horn -- a flooded river valley spanned by the Galata Bridge. I made this image of Istanbul’s most significant mosque from that bridge at sunset. Four factors converge to express grandeur here – the swirling pattern of the clouds, the soaring gull lifting its wings precisely over the minarets of the mosque, the golden colors of the setting sun, and the exotic symbol of mosque architecture. I made dozens of images in order to get this one – the light and color was changing as I shot, as was the pattern of the clouds. And most importantly, the sea gulls that fly over this natural harbor were continually entering and leaving my frame. I had to get one in precisely the right spot and in the most effective expression of flight. Some photographers would simply clone a seagull from another shot into the image, but such electronic manipulation would cheapen the photographic experience and dilute the validity of the image. We stood on that bridge for fifteen or twenty minutes and made many images, but in the end, I was able to find the combination of factors I was looking for to express the grandeur of Istanbul.
Glacial path, Jasper National Park, Canada, 2009
This image comprises three separate subjects – a snow capped glacier, a well-worn mountain, with a twisting road at its base. Together they express a monumental sense of grandeur, a view of nature in its most impressive scale. The road is a path in itself, while the mountain has provided a path for glacial flow for millions of years.
Columbia Ice Field, Jasper National Park, Canada, 2009
While in Jasper, I traveled in a “snow coach” into this vast glacial ice field. In this image, I express the sheer grandeur of scale by comparing the huge glacier to two tiny snow coaches at lower left, and a group of other coaches parked at lower center. Passengers get a chance to walk on the ice field for a half hour or so – if you study this image closely, you can make out a row of tiny figures just to the right of the coaches. I made this image from the base of the mountain using a 400mm telephoto lens. When we compare the size of those miniscule figures to the enormous amount of snow and ice above and below them, we can better appreciate the role of scale here in creating a sense of grandeur.
Infinity, Ontario, Canada, 2009
I made this image with a 24mm wideangle lens from a window at the back of a moving train. The tracks converge in the far distance – at a place far beyond our ability to see. With the huge cloud filled sky overhead, and massive forests lining the tracks as they flow without limit, we get a sense of utter infinity – a point in space that seems infinitely distant. It is that sense of endlessness that creates grandeur here. It is an image without bounds.