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Finding the Picture with Brooks Jensen

Finding the Unexpected Relationship

A fine day with a clear view seems like a no-brainer for making a photograph. But when I had captured this scene, I suspected it was too sterile to be of much interest. I did find the lava field in the forground interesting, but I'm not sure that comes off in the photograph. The shadows on Mt. Jefferson are interesting, but too far away and inconsequential to make the photograph worth viewing. After a number of failed compositions, it (finally) dawned on me that the really interesting items in this scene were the trees growing in isolation right out of the barren lava field. With this in mind, I started searching for the tree I could use to illustrate the unexpected relationship between the distant mountain and the unlikely location for a tree.

Fortunately, I didn't have to look very far. This pine was just around the corner on the trail and was growing out of the top of this small mound of lava. I loved the way the tree could look larger than the mountain in a curious reversal of scale. I also loved the way the tree leans ever-so-slightly toward the mountain and the mountain seems to lean just a bit toward the tree. This is not an optical distortion, but rather a bit of luck. Of course a few dramatic clouds don't hurt to round out the composition and make the sky come alive.

This type of composition that challenges our sense of scale has always been a favorite of mine. Kinda reminds me of those Chinese scenes where the poet at the bottom of the scroll (always drinking wine) is about the same size as the mountain at the top of the scroll, illustrating the Chinese sense of distance and perspective based on where the object is placed on the paper rather than positioned on the lines of optical perspective.

Tech data:

Sony DSC-R1 with the zoom set to 50mm. ISO 160. f/11 at 1/250th sec.