I am always seeking ways to intensify a viewer’s emotional encounter with the landscape image, so I'm currently exploring the use of older technologies to bring the viewer new experiences using the still photograph.
Time-lapse photography has been around for over a hundred years. It compresses time. So a flower that blooms slowly can be accelerated and thus observed as a brief but smooth flow of motion. I’m using time-lapse to explore the wildly dynamic relationship between sky and the sea over a period of several weeks.
Widescreen panoramas are a tried and true way to envelop the viewer, and many photographers create them. While I still shoot some film in medium format, digital images can be stitched together with software to create very large images that surround the viewer when displayed in a gallery.
Finally, there is the lightbox. It is hardly new. The Canadian photographer Jeff Wall’s beautiful lightboxes have graced museums for years. I’m pushing lightboxes in a different direction, drawing on my practical experience with LED streetlighting to create dynamic backlight for landscape images that change in color temperature (warm white/cool white) and intensity, thereby recreating the natural diurnal cycle.
TIME-LAPSE: The Sky Above, Lagoon Below
A recent dramatic and convincing use of time-lapse was Jeff Orlowski’s award winning Chasing Ice, a film that documents James Balog’s still photography of melting glaciers in remote, bitterly cold corners of the earth. For anyone interested in climate change, the film is essential viewing.
During my Marshall Islands survey in the summer of 2015, I recorded the sky and lagoon on a beach at Kebjeltak Island, Arno Atoll at 15-second intervals. I snapped the first image at 8 AM and continued to record further images at fifteen second intervals. Placing the camera in the same spot on the beach, I repeated these same shots over a period of two weeks starting again at 8 AM each day. The result is a chronicle of change between sky, lagoon, and island that invites contemplation. The colors and textures of sky and lagoon are never the same from day to day or even minute to minute. Sadly, these places are likely to vanish due to climate change and sea level rise. Time-lapse images can better help us appreciate the beauty that will be lost.
Panoramas: The Four Seasons
I was just a kid when Cinerama and Cinemascope films started showing at the local Calvert Theater in Washington DC. The film that most stuck with me was How the West Was Won. Emotionally I joined the settlers in their raft escaping the villains down the rapids. I’ve never forgotten it—or the widescreen format.
When I started the HIDDEN WATERWAYS survey in 2003, I rented a Fuji GX627 panorama camera and photographed a number of culverts and ravine landscapes among Toronto’s five watersheds. Eventually I acquired a Novoflex panorama rig that enables me to stich together multiple images from a digital camera into quite a large image.
Recently, I have been using the rig to document the aging infrastructure along Toronto’s industrial waterfront—over the four seasons—starting with the Hearn Generating Plant. The power plant was decommissioned by the provincial electric utility, Ontario Hydro, some years ago. Today, this industrial facility is being repurposed for the performing arts. Toronto's Luminato Festival has taken over the power plant and now uses it to present its annual multi-media program, including the National Theatre of Scotland's James I, II, III three-play cycle in 2016.
Eventually, I will select and print one image of the Hearn in each season in an arranged group of four as a kind of large collage. I'm conducting the project over several years so I can assemble the most striking image from each season to explore how our perception of an old industrial facility can be affected by natural cycles over time.
Diurnal Light Box
The very recent marriage of two relatively new technologies—LEDs and adaptive controls—enables a lightbox to change its color temperature and intensity according to a predetermined schedule. Thus I can illuminate landscape images dynamically, simulating the diurnal cycle of the rising and setting sun. To achieve this effect, adaptive controls dynamically automate the intensity and the colour emanating from the LED backlight array.
I’ve created a lightbox that mimics the diurnal cycle with low intensity warm white light at sunrise and cooler light towards noon and in the afternoon. The intensity of illumination also changes throughout the cycle according to the time of day. The complete cycle can be set for any length of time, from 4 minutes to 8 hours.
This diurnal lightbox brings Nature indoors. I’m keen to pilot test it in hospitals and extended care facilities to see if it might enhance patients’ moods and recovery. I’m actively seeking partners and funding. Please contact me if interested.