I once has someone say to me “Understand… that the best way to make something new and fresh is to look inside you. The answers are in there, not out there.”
Today I decided to take this to heart. I looked inside myself for a new way of seeing a photograph I captured nearly 25 years ago at the Mt. Baker Ski area. Skiing was my passion at the time, along with photography. I decided to combine the two. I hiked up above Chair 6, to collect this color image, after and overnight snowfall. It represents an unparalleled view of Mt. Shuksan from the top of what is now Chair 8, at the eastern terminal end of the Mt. Baker highway. Go East 542…….
Having grown up here, it was easy to take this view for granted. My love for skiing has taken me to beautiful places, like the Selkirks in British Columbia. I received a healthy dose of helicopter skiing/snowboarding there. Revelstoke is undeniably, a glorious destination for cat powder skiing. I spent the winter in Jackson Wyoming one season and indulged in places like Grand Targee, Jackson Hole, Sun Valley, Steamboat Springs, Snowmass, and Aspen. I even found myself high above lake Tahoe at Heavenly Valley, floating my way down through a world famous powder run. It was right underneath the chair lift. I could hear onlookers cheering me down the hill. It felt like I was dancing with the world. My tracks were creating art. Crisp powder snow swirled around my goggles, freezing in my mustache. Brief glimpses of the blue lake below and the yellow late afternoon sunlight flashed into my peripheral vision. It was simply rhythmic. I really love moments like this.
In Wyoming the Tetons are visually and incredibly delicious in their winter coat. My ski friends and I chose to go cross-country skiing underneath them on a full moon night. The temperature was hovering around 5 degrees. A slight breeze was blowing up the flat frozen snow-covered surface of Teton lake. Angelic ice crystals glittered delicately the in the moonlight. We were experiencing a phosphorescent fireworks display. I felt like I was in a “Disney Fantasy” world. I wished I could have captured this on film.
I could go on, but my aim was to find something different from within. I knew it was in there. Staying aware of the incredible experiences mentioned above, I began by visualizing and focusing on all the knowledge I have acquired regarding light, color and simplicity of form. Without light, there would be no form. Without light, there would be no color. Without light, there would be no visual experience. I am sure that without light our sensory input would be very foreign to every individual.
With scenic art photography, one basic need in an image is the “subject matter.” After my travels I can honestly report, without a doubt, that this view rises to the top of my most loved subject matters. The challenge lies in how to illustrate it. In my recent thoughts about photography I find that a straight forward or realistic approach is nice but somewhat boring. Ultimately, my experience with this subject matter is soooooooooo unboring. My “inside instinct” spoke to me in a most profound way. It was like I heard my inner voice say “create something spectacular and visually distinct for this special place.”
I put all my acquired knowledge and creative skills to work on this image. I found myself having an internal conversation as I worked my way toward the final version. A year ago I took a retouching workshop from an Irish lad named Guy Gowan. He taught me some things about image “sculpting.” I was marginally aware of this concept, but until recently, I have not really intensely applied the thoughts and processes. Originally “Shuksan Arm 2011” was captured on a negative color film traditionally used for portraiture. This was good. It captured all the subtle details and textures this place so richly deserved. This was one of my panoramic style images, created from three overlapping negatives. My intention at the time was to make one of my signature “triptychs.” 25 years ago I printed this image on Fuji color paper. It was disappointingly flat and lifeless. I was never really thrilled with the way it looked. It was set aside until technology caught up with my needs. For all this time it sat quietly stored in my image archives. In a subtle way it haunted me. It kept knocking on my creative door.
Recently, I had the three negative films scanned on a high res scanner that preserved the best detail right down to the grain of the film. The resulting scans where “raw” and required a conversion, using the scanners proprietary “Flextight Software.” The magic of Photoshop allowed me to easily “stitch” the three images together.
Now the real decision making process came into play. Image #1 is a rough “sketch” of how this panorama looked after the stitching process. Yes, I know it is not very spectacular so more work was necessary. I wanted this image to really “sing to me.” I wanted to say “there is no place like the eastern terminal end of highway 542.” I wanted it to say it is “heaven” for skiers and snow-boarders alike. I needed a more dynamic feel like you see in image #2. The look was still not enough for me.
More choices needed to be made. My instincts turned toward a dynamic contrast shift with a nearly black and white look like you see in image #3.
I was close. Traditionally, I set an image aside for a few days to let it “brew.” Upon my return, a few more dials were turned and buttons pushed. I came up with the final version you see in # 4. This really said WOOOOOOOW to me!!!!!! The previous versions were nice but not like this one. Magically, from within, I was once again thrilled to be there………. Imagine this printed this printed on a 30 x 70 canvas and on display at the new Raven Lodge at the Mt. Baker Ski area. It just might happen……
Enjoy and Happy New Year.
You can review these images and their differences in this gallery below.