I received a gift of an engagement calendar for Christmas, a collection of Eliot Porter’s photography. My good friend knows that he was an inspiration to me many many years ago. As I snuck advance peeks at his pictures in future months, I started thinking about how a person that we’ve never met can be such a strong influence. Yet he was. I remember seeing an original print of his back in 1972, from the Smokies in Autumn, and it spoke to me. I think I have been photographing the trees and the forest ever since, maybe even before that. His work continued to inspire me as I was developing my own vision, and I’m sure many others, such as Robert Glenn Ketchum in this article in Outdoor Photographer.
I have always loved trees, and forests, for the solitude they provide me, for the shelter they provide animals and birds. (I grew up with ‘woods’ (as they’re called back east) surrounding part of our house, and many a day was spent playing in them, or sitting, writing poetry on a big rock at the edge of them.) And as far back as I can remember, I have been drawn to the shapes of trees, the textures, etc. I love entering into a grove of trees or a forest/woods, to try to capture the feeling of it.
Porter often photographed ‘for the thing itself’ – just simply recording what he felt about what he saw, without a purpose in mind for how the picture might be used. I think that’s a great way to approach a photograph. The only true goal should be to express what you see/feel about the subject as best as you can. After all, the real subject is your feelings and vision of what’s in front of you at any given moment.
I made this picture last year at Point Reyes National Seashore after a workshop was finished. It was during a slight drizzle. I remember thinking only about the texture that I saw, and the soft light that brought it out. There wasn’t any thought of making this a fine art print, or a stock photo, or using it for teaching; I was simply photographing it because it was there, speaking to me. While it does need to be viewed larger to really feel the texture, hopefully it shows enough here to get the point across.