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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Seven: Making time count > In the Wake of the Marco Polo, Caribbean Sea, 2003
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In the Wake of the Marco Polo, Caribbean Sea, 2003

Days at sea on a cruise ship may be heaven for some, but frustrating for a photographer with nothing to shoot. Yet I quickly realized that expressive images could be found anywhere, even in the middle of an ocean. Gazing out to sea from the stern of the Marco Polo, I noticed that the waves made by ship’s own engines created rhythms and patterns of extraordinary beauty and turmoil. I spent over an hour shooting hundreds of digital images of those waves, trying to find the one instant in time when everything in the picture would coalesce into a marine tapestry of cohesive fury and exquisite beauty. And finally I did. After spending a half hour shooting with the camera held at horizon level, on impulse I tilted the frame, using the wake of the ship as a diagonal organizing force. Fascinated by the moving water cascading both above and below this line, I tried to time my shots to capture the most expressive water patterns both above and below this line. This is the instant in time that worked the best. At the top, streams of white water crackle in the green sea like static energy. At the lower part of the image, multiple mini-wakes rush below a series of feathery trails. A dark blue sea recedes in the distance, still white with froth, but no longer as agitated as the wake itself. This is one of those pictures where the photographer does not control much of what is captured. The movement of the sea, changing instant by instant, will determine the outcome. All I needed to do was to organize the overall structure of the image, and then just keep shooting the moving water until I found, completely by chance, the moment when everything came together.

Canon PowerShot G5
1/1250s f/4.0 at 7.2mm full exif

other sizes: small medium large original auto
Phil Douglis20-Jun-2006 18:39
Thanks, Ken, for your observations. You are right about abstractions reflecting as much about our own thinking as about the subject itself. They can become whatever we wish to make out of them. I see my abstracted images as a starting point, a trigger for the imagination. I admire your own use of abstraction, by the way -- you often show less and windup saying a lot more.
Ken McColl20-Jun-2006 13:56
I like the abstraction in this shot Phil. At first glance in the th/n it reminded me of a traditional Japanese painting of a tsunami...the reduced colour range...the suggestion of great power. But of course, when we really look more carefully,... take away the strong diagonal, we can see that the 'tsunami' is actually quite a peaceful event. This is why I enjoy abstractions so much... because it all comes back to our own construction of meaning. Thanx for sharing. KMc
Phil Douglis28-Sep-2005 17:35
If I can stimulate your imagination with my images, Ramma, I will be making expressive photographs. It is what happens in your mind that counts. If you saw the globe itself expressed in these waves, all the better. The oceans, after all, do cover most of it.
Ramma 28-Sep-2005 13:01
i thought it was part of a Huge Globe !
Phil Douglis09-Aug-2005 03:36
Thanks, Christine, for this observation. Although I use this image in this gallery to demonstrate the use of suspended time to express an idea, the flow of blue, green, black, and white give this image much of its beauty and power. The soothing colors become incongruous when churned into a frenzy as they are here. Because of your comment, I made a conversion in black and white to see how the lack of color changed meaning. As a monochromatic image, the eye sees only the movement of the water, and without the incongruity of beauty becoming a fury, it becomes a one dimensional image in terms of expression. You are so right, Christine. It is the color that provides the basis for stopping time in its tracks to do its job, and do it well.
Guest 09-Aug-2005 02:34
The shades of blue and green work well together here.
Phil Douglis27-Feb-2004 03:13
Thank, Tom, for stopping by to comment on this image, which, while made during a period of boredom (days at sea were not meant for me) turned out to be one of my favorites. A great advantage of still photography is, as you point out, the ability to both extend time, yet also freeze a moment forever. Time expanded, and time compressed. Yes, that is what this picture is really all about.
Tom Treuter 26-Feb-2004 23:48
Linda Liske's favorite American artist was Andrew Wyeth, who is credited as saying, "If you want to learn to see, paint in your own backyard." Your being on the ship without an event to photograph forced you to look inward in order to see what was around you. Something many of us don't do nearly enough.

You and I have often talked about time expanded and compressed and how it can change meaning in an image. This seems to have just about enough of each. Just sharp enough to allow for context (I know it's taking place in big water) and soft enough to emphasize the power lurking just below the surface. Nice job!
Phil Douglis07-Feb-2004 20:50
Glad you noticed this, Carol. My deliberate diagonal flow, created by tilting the camera, is indeed making this picture a bit more gutwrenching than it really was. It was actually quite calm that day on the Caribbean. The ship's engines are making all the commotion.
Carol E Sandgren07-Feb-2004 06:33
Your diagonal angle suggests that the seas were much rougher than they really were (how do I asume that? You didn't fall overboard while shooting this in churning decks at sea!) I myself get green just staring at this shot!)
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