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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Ferry Ride: Discussion

I'm certainly not going to claim "Ferry Ride" as a seminal work of profound art. It's a ride. On a ferry.

Still, I did construct it with some consideration, using pieces assembled over some time, and I think it worked out fairly well.

The first photo, high contrast, breadth, with the ferry pier in the foreground and a coal ship loading behind, is my hook. It's something one might see just as the ferry departs (although in truth we were arriving) so it is thematically a reasonable starting point. There's visual interest, a lot of contrast, some things to look at. Again, were I a reasonably popular forum member I dare say it would get its fair share of "great capture!" together with some quibbles about how "I would have done it differently" (presumably by adding fill flash, or HDR, or panoramic stitching, or something like that). Of the pictures in the sequence, it strikes me as the most visually arresting, although without being part of something larger it is just a snapshot of a pier and a ship, signifying nothing.

Next up there are a series of similar snaps of things one might see as the ferry moves outward. These are just records of things I saw near one ferry terminal or another. No dramatic framing, no clever use of leading lines of golden ratios, I simply center the object of interest and mash the button. Honestly, there isn't much more to do here.

This is essentially the problem with photographing these things. There simply isn't much to do. Sure, you can shove The Object around in the frame a bit, and sometimes you are blessed with two objects you can (by waiting) position relative to one another in various ways. But mostly you might as well more or less center the thing in the frame. Apart from things on the water, there is nothing much to photograph. The land is too far away to be more than a soft mess, and everything else you can see is either the ship you're on (which is visually rich, but a completely different photo essay), water, or sky. And yet, there is an experience here. One sees and feels and experiences things here and so, one supposes, there must be a way to photograph that. Looking through the pictures, though, it's just an endless sequence of centered nautical objects on a more or less featureless background.

This is my solution. Carrying onwards, though:

Now we get into the bits that are least interesting visually, and most interesting to me personally.

In the middle of the channel, some miles from land, there is often something to see. Usually that something is quite distant, a mote on the horizon. Sometimes you can make out what it is, other times not. The oblong white specks are invariably other ferries, nothing much else is white and boxy. I suppose one might see a cruise ship now and then, and mistake it for a ferry.

When I have time to look around, I find myself drawn to these objects stuck there between sea and sky, tiny, distant. If I have my camera, I will sometimes photograph it as precisely centered as I can, and then use the zoom function on the digital camera to get a closer look. My 50mm lens resolves somewhat, albeit not dramatically, better than my eyes do. Usually I learn something about the object in the distance.

For me, this process of peering at distant motes is if not the essence of these short journeys, at any rate one of the essential qualities of them. Thus, I give you the pictures (my view) and then a very very highly enlarged view of the mote in the distance. In the last one, I believe the mote to be essentially invisible in the full frame, but evidently a sailboat once you enlarge the critical region well past any sense.

And then, although the ferry journey itself completes, more or less by running through the same sequence in reverse, I leave it there. It felt right to leave it open, with the world almost but not quite lost in mist. Does the sequence continue to absolute oblivion? Or does it just reverse itself back into another ferry terminal, more or less indistinguishable from the one we just left? Your choice. Make of it what you will, I offer no opinion.

Anyways, the point here is that the first photo, visually punchy but intellectually weightless, acquires perhaps a tithe of intellectual weight by being placed in sequence. Similarly, perhaps, the last photograph, having no visual interest whatever being but one small step from a featureless grey rectangle, acquires its own tithe of visual interest by its position in sequence.

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