Brick buildings along narrow streets, Bear Gardens, Southwark, London
Yes, another London photograph. We had a bit of time between appointments and we ended up wandering around this area for a while in the evening. Here there are very old brick buildings along narrow streets that twist this way and that. This wall lined up almost perfectly with the setting sun, which glanced across its surface, highlighting the texture and catching an edge of the bricks straight on.
I didn’t share this photograph for a long time. I continued to go back and forth between a black and white rendition — which may allow the forms to seem a bit more abstract — and this version with its warmer colors and more subtle gradations of tones. (On an unrelated topic, why do I keep wanting to write “beer gardens” rather than “bear gardens?” ;-)
Evening light on the playa of Death Valley, with lower slopes of the Panamint Mountains rising beyond
Since I’ve been traveling to and around Death Valley National Park for more than 15 years now, I’ve seen a lot of the park — but I most certainly have not see all of it, nor have I completely learned how to see everything in it. This is a huge place, varying greatly by location, terrain, season, weather and more. Frankly, the experience of coming to know such a place over time is one of the things I value most about such locations. While I love to “discover” a place that is completely new to me (and Death Valley was that place in the late 1990s for me), the longer process of learning the place and its rhythms more deeply is also, I think, more rewarding. It is wonderful to see a desert gully in evening light for the first time, but it may be even more beautiful to come back to it and recognize an old and familiar friend.
Along these lines, a few years ago, as I continued to push out my own boundaries of experience and knowledge in Death Valley, I began to think more about how to make photographs of things that I might have not thought worthy of a photograph before. I realized that many of these things that don’t scream “photograph me!” are otherwise a core part of the experience of this place: a vast and quiet “empty” landscape, midday sun, haze obscuring great distances, the edge between the last vegetation and a barren playa, a beam of light slanting across an alluvial fan. And if they are central to the sense of the place, it seems that there must be a way to photograph them. And that is a new challenge for me in my Death Valley photography.
Pedestrians along a walkway leading toward Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London
St. Paul’s Cathedral is an obvious landmark at any time, but at night it is even more so, especially if you approach it from across the River Thames by way of the Millennium Bridge. We visited the bank opposite the cathedral on several evenings, so I can no longer remember precisely what we had been there for on this evening — The Old Globe Theater, meeting up with relatives for dinner, a visit to the Tate Modern? I’m not certain.
In any case, we ended up crossing the river in this direction after dark on a warm summer evening when many people were out strolling around. This was one of the first times when I realized that my little mirrorless camera was good enough in low light that I could actually do handheld night photography.
In England on the Fourth of July (a bit ironic for an American, no?) we were out along the banks of the River Thames as the summer evening came on. We had wonderful weather during this visit — if anything it was too warm. A low deck of broken clouds covered the sky, but to the west the sky was clearer and the light streamed through the hazy air.
I think this photograph is probably more about the light than anything else. For some reason, when I found the image in my archive and began to work on it I barely thought about the subject at all — the light seemed to be enough. When I did look at it more closely I realized that the content of the image is really fairly ordinary — a dock in the foreground, a bit of the river bank. a tall building on the right and urban buildings across the river on the left, a bridge (a central subject in my view), the clouds, and the warm color of the evening light.
The east face of the Panamint Range is reflected in the surface of a desert pool
This is a photograph of one of those surprising features of Death Valley — water in the middle of a place that is astonishingly arid. This location is one of the lowest, hottest, and driest places in the Valley, and beyond this pool is a terrain that is particularly inhospitable, the famous salt flats. It is not pleasant to venture out there on a hot and sunny day, when not only is the heat oppressive but the light is so intense on the white playa surface that it is almost impossible to look.
I went here quite early one morning, in time for the sunrise light across the Valley on the mountains of the Panamint Range. In many ways this was not a hugely promising morning. I would have preferred some interesting clouds, though the thing high clouds are not completely uninteresting. It might have been nice to have white salt flats, but the playa had apparently gone so long without rain and had experience enough wind that the sometimes-white salt was quite gray. This little pool, at the edge of the Valley and the base of the tall and rugged hills, mirrored the early morning sky and a bit of the dawn color on the mountains.
Low dunes and the base of Tucki Mountain in evening light
This is a different interpretation of a photograph that I have previously posted. Here I have simply tried a different crop, one that eliminates some areas of from the top and bottom of the earlier photograph in order to focus more on the horizontal sweep of the shallow dunes and the more distant wash sloping up to the base of gigantic Tucki Mountain, here in nearly the last light of the evening.
I think that when we are in this place, one of the most iconic in Death Valley National Park, our attention is more likely to be drawn to the tallest dunes, which are located more or less behind me at this camera position. But there is much else to see here, ranging from the intimate landscape of ripple sand and small plants to the rugged slopes of Tucki Mountain just to the south, and including the many long views across the huge spaces of the valley. Here I had been mostly photographing an expanse of dunes leading off toward the northeast, when I turned around to see this view of the edge of the sand, with low dunes curving toward the sparse plant life at their edge.
A ramp at the end of the Millennium Bridge, London
The Millennium Bridge is a new and popular footbridge across the River Thames, between the area of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern Museum. We passed over it more than once, including on this evening when, if I remember correctly, we managed to squeeze a short visit to the Tate before doing other things.
I think this photograph indulges my obsession with shape and form. There is a kind of symmetry to the scene, but things are quite complicated and there is perhaps a lot more in the scene than a quick glance would suggest. At this end of the bridge it divide into two branches as it descends toward the land, and then the two branches reconvene for the short section in the center of the photograph, where there are several people (including a woman who appears to veer off course, distracted by her phone) and a photo-bombing pigeon. Almost symmetrically placed, there are individuals on either side on the two branches of the bridge. Beyond the bridge leads toward St. Paul’s and the short arches suspending the bridge appear to either side. There are other little oddities in the scene including reflections in the material on either side of the walkways.