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Finding the Picture with Brooks Jensen

Finding the Surprise

This image is from Hell's Half Acre in Wyoming and, I think, does a fair job of expressing the dry conditions in early morning light. As such, it's a factual statement of what was there at the moment I clicked the shutter. Art? Maybe not.

I'd spent almost a week photographing here and had lots and lots of these factual images. I was starting to tire of them and had begun to look for something more lyrical, metaphorical, unreal, even startling. I remembered that this is the location where off-world scenes of another planet were shot in the Hollywood film Starship Troopers. I found myself thinking about spaceships, other planets, and (ahem) not Wyoming …

… which led to the image below, shot from an altitude of 35,000 feet above the surface, looking down on some vast canyons and tall mountains. (Hollywood is not the only source of a vivid imagination projected via illusion.) But just about the time we think this is an aerial point of view, there is that small scrubrush in the very upper left corner, shattering the illusion. It is the surprise element that, when discovered, causes a viewer to completely reassess their interpretation of the image. I love that. Someday I'l like to do an project titled Now You See It, Now You Don't. This image will be included.

One thing that fascinates me about this image is how I seem to be able to flip back and forth — aerial view, close view — depending on whether that scrubrush is in my visual attention. When it is, CLOSE VIEW. Scan back to the center of the image, AERIAL VIEW. Tricky business, eyesight plus brain.

Tech data:

Panasonic Sony DSC-R1 using the integrated lens at 27.5mm. ISO 150. f/11 at 1/250th sec.