Culture Magazine

Notes on 2 Recent Photos

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
I took this photo last Saturday, Nov. 6, while walking it Liberty State Park in Jersey City. It is one of over 300 shots I took on that walk and is my current favorite, though I’ve not yet reviewed them all.
Why do I like it? Color, composition, textures, subject, all of it.
The southern end of the park has a small nature preserve that runs along the west bank of the Hudson River and includes a small salt marsh. I took this photo while walking a paved path in that preserve. The path was a bit inland from the river with no convenient access to the river–you’d have to get off the path and walk through the tall grass and bushes.
Some of the shots I took were framed with some care, many others I took quickly. In many cases I’d take two, three, or more shots of the same subject, zooming the lens between shots or shifting the focal plane. This is one of the quick shots. I have no specific recollection of having taken it. It just showed up when I was reviewing the day’s shoot and appears to be one of two, maybe three, I took of the same scene.
Notice that the focal plane is not the front-most layer of subject matter – yes, the language is awkward, but useful. That of course is deliberate. Reality is always in focus because we scan the scene with our eyes and adjust the focus with each scan. Cameras are different and ‘deep focus’ is possible, but is of no interest to me. By shifting the focal plane away from the frontal plane and into the interior of the scene I indicate that this IS a photograph, but without being particularly ‘meta’ about it.
I count five layers of material. The two closest layers are bunched to the left. The closest layer consists of green leaves, grass, and tassels that are a bit out of focus. Then we have the tree branches and twigs visible as blurred lines at the upper left. The third layer is in focus and extends from the green leaves (of the second layer) across the photo to the right. This layer consists of tall grass and tassels and seems to be in shadow, which I like very much. Then, fourth layer, we have some very blurred red leaves. Finally, and off in the distance, we have buildings in a city, most likely the southern end of Manhattan or the adjacent area of Brooklyn.
I particularly like THAT, the city in the distance. And a very large and well-known city at that. But we’re seeing it from an unfamiliar angle. I like the idea of showing a city in what otherwise looks like untamed wilderness. Well, I suppose “untamed wilderness” is a bit of a stretch, but we’re not looking a well manicured lawns. If I hadn’t told you I was standing in Liberty State Park, where would you think I was? How would you know?
I’m rethinking the city.
Here’s the other photo:
If you look closely you’ll see the State of Liberty in the center. You can run down the layers of foliage yourself.
I took that at 12:40:03 PM on Saturday Nov. 6, 2016. I took the previous photo at 12:40:35 PM. From that I conclude that the buildings in the previous photo are in Brooklyn. Why? Because, from this vantage point you see Brooklyn beyond the Statue of Liberty, not Manhattan. But I didn’t consciously register that when I was shooting. When I was shooting it was all about the scene itself.
As it should be.
As it HAS to be.

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