Art Deco District, Miami Beach, Florida, 2013
I superimpose the silhouetted woman walking her dog, along with a shadow of a palm tree, upon one of the many historic Art Deco structures in Miami Beach. There are almost a thousand historic buildings here, earning it a designation as a US Historic District. I abstract this image twice over in order to convey its mood and atmosphere. I only describe a small part of the building in the background – including just enough of it to define its design by stressing the shape of its windows and how they conform to the building’s curving corner. The yellow and green colors are very important to the scene as well – they symbolize the seemingly carefree atmosphere of this touristic destination. The silhouette and the shadow are important abstractions, in that they indicate the relaxed, tropical feel of the place, but do not describe the subjects themselves. I leave much to the imagination here, and that what abstraction is really all about.
Brandt’s Cormorants, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Carmel, California, 2012
I silhouette a quartet of Brandt’s Cormorants standing along the edge of the rockbound shoreline of Point Lobos. They have been feeding on fish by diving headfirst into the ocean. The first cormorant in line here is drying its wings. If I had photographed these birds against the rocks or the green waters of the ocean, they would have been much more difficult to see. By silhouetting them against the white surf, they dominate the image, even though they are very small in relationship to the entire scene here.
Palace of the Grand Master, Rhodes, Greece, 2011
Rather than make a postcard view of this picturesque castle, I moved my vantage point in order to place the sun behind its crenelated tower and exposing on its glowing edge to create an abstracted silhouette. I used a 24mm wideangle lens to include the spidery overhead tree branches and take advantage of the thin clouds. The resulting image allows the viewer’s own imagination to fill in the details. The Knights of Rhodes originally built the Palace in the 14th century. After this Greek island fell to the Ottomans it was used as a fortress. The Italians occupied Rhodes in 1912, and rebuilt the palace into its present grandiose medieval style as a summer residence for King Victor Emmanuel III and later for Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
Waiting for the taxi, Cuenca, Ecuador, 2011
I stood behind this man as he waited for a taxi along a busy Cuenca street, silhouetting him by exposing for the bright light reflecting off the cobblestone roadway. A taxi approaches, but he must sense that it is already taken. I framed him squarely between two oncoming motorbikes, just as a woman with a child passes him on the sidewalk. The silhouette makes him anonymous, a symbol of anyone facing a frustrating wait.
Last light, Scottsdale Civic Center, Scottsdale, Arizona, 2011
This visitor seems to be patiently waiting for the day to end. I moved my vantage point in order to place his head between the leaves of an overhead tree, and backlight him with the reflected sunlight bouncing off the building in the background. The backlighting throws him into a silhouette, creating anonymity, and transforming him into a symbol of all who must wait.
Arcade, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2010
It is early morning, and a worker at one of the stores that line this shopping arcade in Santa Fe is sweeping the sidewalk in front of a store. I shoot him in silhouette as he leaves the arcade to deposit his sweepings. Using spot metering, I expose on the bright street just behind him, which holds detail in the street, reduces detail within the arcade, puts him into an abstract silhouette that stresses the way he walks and holds his tools, rather than describing his appearance. I leave just enough color in the shadows of the arcade to give him context.
Phone call, Library, Scottsdale, Arizona, 2009
I use back lighting to silhouette a woman on her way into the Scottsdale Library, gesturing forcefully as she carries on a cell phone conversation. I place the silhouetted figure against a setting of bold geometrical forms – the woman’s silhouetted fingers extend just below a concrete wall, and are echoed by the rectangular facing rising on the wall behind it, as well as the bowl-like shade on the lighting standard at the left edge of the frame. A black triangular shadow extends behind her, echoed in turn by another triangular shadow in the upper right hand corner. These triangular shadows reinforce the abstract thrust of the woman’s silhouette and carry its effect throughout the image.
Treading lightly, Arches National Park, Utah, 2009
It was not a day for landscape photography, yet there we were, shooting in one of the most spectacular National Parks of them all. I committed early on to shooting abstracted impressions of the park’s features, since the only light was utterly flat due to leaden skies. I watched as visitors scrambled in and out of the huge arches that give the park its identity. If I exposed on such people, they became silhouettes, such as this lone figure, which seems to take one step forward while at the same time falling backwards. He or she gives new meaning to the phrase “treading lightly.” Using a 14mm wideangle focal length, I move in as close as I can on the figure while still including the entire massive sweep of the arch soaring overhead.
Gate, Mogosoaia Palace, outside Bucharest, Romania, 2009
As we departed from this Mogosoaia, seat of Wallachia’s government in the late 17th century, I turned around and looked back down the long entrance path towards the palace’s two story gate. There were two tourists on top of it it, one of them framed in an arch, having a conversation. I made a number of images as they talked, and prefer this one for its gesture. A bowed head and outstretched hand suggests deference, reasoning, and humility. The figures become symbolic because I abstracted them with backlighting, making them into silhouettes. The leaves from surrounding trees also become silhouetted, and blend into the scene. Meanwhile, the sun has gone down, leaving a pale peach colored glow in the sky as a background.
Contemplation, Shipwreck, Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon, 2009
I used a long lens to backlight the three figures on the fringes of the skeletal remains of the Peter Iredale, which ran aground on Columbia beach in 1906. By silhouetting the people and the wreck, I also turn the sky dark, stressing only the highlights on the ocean just below the horizon. The deliberate underexposure creates a somber mood, one that encourages reflection on the dangers that lurk here at the mouth of the Columbia River, an area known as the Graveyard of Ships.
Evening, Oatman, Arizona, 2009
The tourists have gone home. Oatman is left to its few residents. One of them sits on the steps of its shuttered hotel, smoking a cigarette. I use my vantage point to abstract him, reducing him to a hand, leg, and foot. The hand falls into silhouette against the tattered yellow wall. On the window behind him are pictures of the town’s semi-wild burros, which wander the streets looking for handouts. A small poster warns against feeding carrots to baby burros – some have choked to death on them. Shortly after I made this image, the man tossed aside his cigarette and vanished, leaving the hotel to the famous ghosts reputed to stalk its halls.
Restaurant staff, Grand Central Station, New York City, New York, 2009
The restaurant will not open until later in the day, but while we were in the station, we noticed a small staff meeting going on just beyond the ropes closing it off to the public. The three figures were thrown into silhouettes by the bright lights on the façade of the restaurant, which sits just above the station’s main concourse. I made a number of images of this conference from the opposite end of the station, watching the man on the right dominate the conversation. In this image, he raises one arm to his head, while the other is bent at the elbow and anchored to his waist in an authoritative display of body language. The other men are quiet – they betray no emotional response. An arch curves over the group, creating shadows that echo the dark entrance to the restaurant. A final silhouette adds context: the coat rack on the right displays only empty hangers, telling us that the establishment is not yet open for business.