Church, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2010
My 14mm superwideangle focal length distorts the façade of the church, making it bend inwards and thrust upwards, which stresses the implied power and influence of religious institutions on this historic city over the centuries. The distortion also makes the clouds seem to explode out of the church, a reference to its spiritual presence here. The early morning light causes deep shadows, which add a touch of mystery, as well.
Agathia Peak, Kayenta, Arizona, 2009
We stopped to photograph a famous peak marking the outskirts of Monument Valley. When I walked over to the fence, I saw that the story here rests not only in the peak itself, but even more so in the context supporting it. Using a 18mm super wideangle focal length, I compare the powerlines flying diagonally across the sky to a barbed wire fence that sweeps diagonally across the ground. The fence leads to Agathia Peak, by way of an abandoned tire. The image says more about the nature of life on the Navajo reservation than it does about the famous Agathia Peak.
Eternal Flame, World War II Monument, Kiev, Ukraine, 2009
Half of Kiev’s population was killed during the Second World War. The three-year Nazi occupation was brutal. The Red Army liberated the city at the end of 1943. Today this tragic period is recalled in a park just south of downtown Kiev, along the Dnieper River. The Soviet Union has vanished and the Ukraine is now an independent nation. A heroic statue erected by Soviet chairman Leonid Brezhnev honors what was then Ukraine’s “Motherland,” the USSR. Before it stands a cauldron meant to hold an eternal flame in honor of those who perished. I used a superwide angle 14mm focal length here to relate the cauldron to both the statue and the overhead clouds. I positioned the largest flow of clouds to symbolize smoke over the cauldron at left, and turn the dagger of the statue into a torch held just below a smaller flow of clouds at right. Since I am much closer to the cauldron then the statue, it dominates the scene, anchoring the image upon a funereal black mound and bowl. The slight tilt of the statue adds a surrealistic edge to the photograph.
Tombs, Mogosoaia Palace, outside Bucharest, Romania, 2009
A superwideangle focal length of 14mm allows me to stand very close to these slabs in order to stress the detail upon and the delicate play of the sunset on the stone. Yet the slabs are quite large in scale, and only a superwideangle perspective can allow us to move in tightly yet still include the surrounding trees and distant green grass for context. The extreme wideangle lens also has tremendous depth of focus – everything remains sharp, from just below the lens all the way to the horizon. The tombs hold the bodies of those who once lived in this massive 17th century castle.
Former Union Station, Tacoma, Washington, 2009
I wanted to build this image around the enormous arch over the doors to this former station, as well as the reflection of Old Tacoma in its huge window. With any other lens, I would have to back up in order to fit the arch into my frame. However, the super widengle lens at 16mm allows me to move in on that arch and fill the frame with it. The closer I get to it, the simpler the image becomes, and the more visible the detail becomes for context. Among that detail is a life-sized statue of a 19th century traveler. It is only a few feet from my lens, yet appears quite small in comparison to the large arch. This image demonstrates scale relationships achievable only with super wideangle optics.
World War II bunker, Fort Canby, Ilwaco, Washington, 2009
This is an example of how a super wideangle lens can help us interpret subject matter in very tight quarters. This bunker was very small in size. I wanted to include the light coming in from both the doorway and the window and also embrace the sixty five year old regimental badge on the wall. I backed up as far as I could go and was able to make include all of this at 14mm. The image shows no distortion because I held the lens at right angles to the walls. If I had tilted it up or down, the wall at the side would have leaned in to the frame. This image takes us back to another time – these are the colors of World War II. They may now be worn and weathered, but they still offer a haunting reminder of that conflict.
Nostalgia for sale, Miranda, California, 2009
This vintage Oldsmobile Rocket 88, restored by a passionate mechanic in the tiny town of Miranda, on the Avenue of the Giants in California’s Redwood Country, was being offered for $3,800 the day I visited. I saw an entire era embodied in this old car, an era of where cars were designed and marketed as if they traveled as fast as rocket ships. I moved in on the famous hood ornament of the Rocket 88 with a 14mm super wideangle lens, bringing the glass to within a few inches of the thrusting chrome rocket. Yet the huge vertical field of view embraced by this wide a focal length allowed me to include an area from the grille badge at the bottom of the frame to the sale sign in the window as well as three other cars parked on this lot at the top of the frame.
Red Snapper, Fort Bragg, California, 2009
Once again, I move in very closely with a 14mm super wideangle lens, this time making a grotesque portrait of a pile of red snapper being unloaded from the freezers of a fishing trawler in Fort Bragg’s harbor. The slight tilt of the lens allows me to deliberately distort the size of the heads closest to the lens at the bottom of the frame. The unseeing eyes bulging from the fiery red bodies are enormous, offering us a vision of hell itself. The focal point of the image, however, is the expression on the head partly obscured by a tail. The eye is glazed over, and the gaping mouth seems to scream at us. The ultimate incongruity: as hellish as this scene may seem, these fish have been harvested to bring profits to an industry, and pleasure to those who delight in eating red snapper.
The wreck of the Peter Iredale (1), Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon, 2009
This is the first in a series of three super wideangle images featuring the wreckage of a commercial ship that ran aground on Columbia Beach one hundred and three years ago. In this image, I create a relationship in space between the skeleton of the ship’s bow, the clouds exploding out of it, and a distant jogger who runs along the surf. The bow, exposed by the low tide, is only a few feet away, yet the 14mm focal length of my lens pushes it away as it if were yards, rather than feet, away. The runner is not that far from the lens either, but appears very small because of the 14mm optic’s way of interpreting distance. A sky full of clouds makes the image work. If the sky was empty, the image would lack the energy to express its ideas.
The wreck of the Peter Iredale (2), Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon, 2009
To make this image, I moved behind the wreck, and used two remnants of its hull to lead the eye through the frame to the wreckage. The closest piece of hull is only a few feet from my lens. I backlight a tourist who walked into my frame and began making pictures. In this case, the abstracted figure and the glow on the wet sand energize the picture, negating the need for explosive clouds in the sky. She seems to be at peace as she explores the past with her camera. All four expressive elements in this image stood within a few feet of each other, yet the 14mm lens spreads them out. The degree of abstraction caused by the backlighting here makes this image work as expression.
The wreck of the Peter Iredale (3), Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon, 2009
This is my most abstract super wideangle view of the wreckage. I made it at a 14mm focal length, shooting directly into the sun. I was only a few feet from the wreckage. I found a position where the old bow points to the sun, and waited for the two figures, which were not that far away, to enter my frame. Their silhouettes offer scale incongruity and further abstraction. The image is well underexposed, turning a bright day into an evening shot. I expected to get distracting reflections of the sun’s flare in my lens, but found them minimal. The lens did, however, ring the sun with a mild starburst effect, which enhances the message. The distant figures seem to be eyeing the glowing wet sand for hidden treasures.
The Column, Astoria, Oregon, 2009
Soaring 125 feet into the sky, the Astoria Column was built in 1926 to commemorate the triumphs, conflicts, and turning points of America’s northwestern frontier. The sky provides much of the drama here, and the 14mm superwideangle lens extends the thrusting clouds perfectly. I moved close enough to the huge column to portray the intricate historical illustrations on its surface, yet I can still fit all 126 feet of the column into my horizontal frame. I could have even moved even closer by using a vertical format, but then I would have lost the sweep of the clouds behind the column. The final element of expression here is the tourists. I waited for the first silhouette in this group of six to reach the area between the column and the railing, and made this shot as he turned to go down the steps in front of me. The 14mm super wideangle lens makes him look as if he is thirty feet away from my camera, but he is actually only about five or six yards away.