Some contemporary primitive had left his or her mark with daubs and constructions in paint that had taken on a patina and a wistful quasi-antiquity that commanded my searching eye. It seems that almost anything that endures in time acquires some qualities of the natural. Bleak shapes grow into a kind of magic that, once seen, cannot easily be ignored.
There is often a mournful quality about fall in Yosemite: the Merced River is very low, and the waterfalls are gone for the year. Autumn color is never brilliant there, but the dark gold and russets of the oaks and willows have a particular quiet beauty.
California has a number of simple churches of the Georgian style in the coastal and Sierra foothill areas. They have a plain, stark beauty which, to me, is vastly superior to the contemporary shopping-center-style horrors in which I think God might be embarrassed.
My work is realistic only in reference to the image of the lens; values are modified as required for the visualized image.
The photographer learns to seek the essential qualities of his environment, wherever he might be. By this I mean that he should be tuned to respond to every situation. It is not enough to like or dislike; he must make an effort to understand what he is experiencing.
The photographer should not allow himself to be trapped by something that excites him only as subject; if he does not see the image decisively in his mind’s eye, the result is likely to be disappointing.
In thinking of the myriad Pictorial photographs I have seen, one positive, dominant element was that of the impression of light, suggested by the diffused image produced by the requisite soft-focus lens. This quality is not a matter of delineation of line or texture, but of luminosity: light emanating as a glow from the surfaces of the subjects.
We observe few objects really closely. As we walk on the earth, we observe the external events at two or three arms’ lengths. If we ride a horse or drive in an automobile, we are further separated from the immediate surround. We see and photograph “scenery”; our vast world is inadequately described as the “landscape.” The most intimate object perceived daily is usually the printed page. The small and commonplace are rarely explored.
The longer I worked in Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada, the more convinced I became that the inclusive landscapes — striking as many undoubtedly are — may not interpret the direct excitement and beauty of the mountain world as incisively as sections, fragments, and close details, which are available in infinite number if the photographer will carefully observe. The danger, of course, lies in becoming repetitive; the photographer must be highly selective.
With all art expression, when something is seen, it is a vivid experience, sudden, compelling, and inevitable.