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Finding the Picture with Brooks Jensen

Finding the Drama

Looking up from the bottom of Capitol Wash in Utah, I saw this tree precariously perched on the edge of this cliff. Click — picture captured. However, art was not made. I composed carefully, waited for some nice light, positioned the camera so the tree was positioned well in the gap in the rocks. But it's just not art. Why? No feeling, no emotion, no mood, no drama. Fortunately, we were working these canyons during an active weather week. In just a few minutes, the drama arrived.

By using the clouds, a dark sky, a darker exposure, and avoiding the illuminated rocks, the entire mood of the image has intensified. These are completely different pictures, and in my way of thinking only the bottom one has emotion. The first version may have the power of description, but the second one has the power to make us feel something.

As humans, our range of possible emotions is incredibly diverse. If a photograph doesn't create a sympatheic vibration with any of those possible emotions, it's just a record of what we pointed the camera at. Technologically, that's still an amazing accomplishment. But, to rise to the level of art, I think a photograph has to resonate with an emotion beyond mere description.

Tech data:

Panasonic G2 using a Panasonic Leica 45-200mm f/4-5.6 lens at 166mm. ISO 100. f/5.6 at 1/200th sec.