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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Gallery Fifty: Using silhouettes as abstract symbols and metaphors > Fire in the sky, El Malpais, near Gallup, New Mexico, 2007
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Fire in the sky, El Malpais, near Gallup, New Mexico, 2007
07-NOV-2007

Fire in the sky, El Malpais, near Gallup, New Mexico, 2007

Alone on a precipice, this photographer seems overwhelmed by the natural spectacle before him. For once, the adjective "awesome" seemed utterly fitting. The emphasis here is on the sunset itself, while the silhouetted figure of the photographer gives it both context and a sense of scale incongruity. He becomes a symbol of manís continuing efforts to somehow grasp the essence of nature, while in fact, we can only stand back and admire what it can do. This is just such a moment Ė for the tiny photographer out there on the edge, and for all of us.

Leica V-Lux 1
1/500s f/8.0 at 15.6mm iso100 full exif

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Phil Douglis24-May-2008 18:33
Thanks, Azlin. That is the ultimate purpose of expressive photography -- to make the viewer share an experience, think about it, feel it, wonder, imagine, and perhaps even take action.
Azlin Ahmad24-May-2008 00:54
The figure seems to be so insignificant among the elements, which emphasises the stunning sunset, the clouds overhead and the precipice he's standing on. Looking at it, I feel overwhelmed by the raw beauty of nature. This is stunning, and it's true, I can almost feel that I was sharing the moment with him.
Phil Douglis19-Apr-2008 03:52
One of the greatest gifts that photography gives us is the ability to experience aspects of life through others. In this case, that sun has long since set, but it can still generate a "you are there" experience. It's the little man up there on the crest that does this for us. We identify with him, we become him, and the sunset becomes us as well.
Iris Maybloom (irislm)16-Apr-2008 01:30
Awesome, yes; a very grand moment in time. The sunset is magnificent. The silhouetted figure elevates this image to a spiritual moment in time. It makes me wish I were on that on that "edge" reaching out to grasp the spiritual meaning. Actually, Phil, your image does take me to that "edge" and I have become that figure! A powerful image, indeed.
Phil Douglis20-Nov-2007 04:37
You evoke the lesson I try to teach with this example, Patricia. To make an image of a beautiful sunset such as this one is a no-brainer. Yet we can go beyond the expected here, creating tension, scale incongruity, and meaning by simply contrasting a tiny human being to the awesome grandeur of nature itself. We are, in effect, telling a story based on a simple human value -- awe -- instead of just recording a lovely sky.
Patricia Lay-Dorsey20-Nov-2007 04:27
You are showing here the principle that we need the human touch even when focusing on one of nature's most spectacular visions. Too many photographers seem to keep their camera trained on the awesome and forget the particular. It is the juxtaposition of both that creates the tension that makes a great photograph.
Phil Douglis18-Nov-2007 22:02
And we can, Alina. That is what expressive photography is all about. Catching and keeping moments of meaning.
Alina18-Nov-2007 21:17
Lovely sunset Phil, something that we would like to catch and keep longer.
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