I was walking again by White Rock Lake in Dallas, always with an eye for a particularly interesting wave-formed piece of wood, always looking for a length of bamboo. I look out on the lake, and notice the sudden appearance of pelicans, drifting by at a steady pace. I also spy an interesting arrangement between cormorants and pelicans. What’s going on in my mind during my walk? Hardly anything at all. I am aware of my surroundings in a heightened sense- I hear and see all the life around me, and the occasional bicyclist or runner.
I feel the wind and watch how the surface of the lake reflects the sky in response to the movement. I watch the clouds form and disperse or meet up and cross over. I shoot a large number of files and hope I find something good tomorrow, while I pick up a couple of interesting chunks of wood, often right out of the water. I find some lengths of bamboo tossed and sculpted by the wave action and often the teeth of small animals. What do I keep and what do I leave behind? As soon as I could list a set of requirements I would cross out half and come up with some more. But in general, they have what I consider “wabi.” That’s another unquantified trait. It’s not my word. It’s not even a word used in my own native culture, but it is a word like ‘prajna’ -a word to describe something my native culture is just becoming old enough to acknowledge. And it’s the search for this Wabi nature that is becoming the definition itself. There is no one particular thing that determines it.
The next day early in the morning I think “Oh, there’s nothing.” I slide the SD card into the reader and look at the files again. Then I calm down a bit and just stare. Soon I begin to be aware that some of them have a somewhat interesting texture. Or some interesting contrasts. I find the waves have useful texture, and one of the pelicans gliding by has left a dark wake and the lake is quiet enough for a slight reflection. These elements, taken one at a time wouldn’t suggest anything. But slowly together I begin to develop a sense of something I missed.
So I load the most promising file into Adobe and begin to pare away all the extra bits and then develop the wave textures. Eventually I have something like polished, igneous, frothy stone with an aquatint pelican swimming through.
Lately, I have been including some printed copy in a rectangular block. I think it starts as a title, but sometimes the letters are ambiguous; another kind of expression. Something about the monochromatic quality of the finished piece begs for a touch of color, so I have been adding some vermillion stamps lately.
I won’t go through all the details of my Photoshop process, because it is very complex, and I never do quite the same thing twice anyway. I’ve been working with the filters in Photoshop so long (over 10 years) in so many combinations I don’t remember any particular combination or settings that will give an exact result. It all depends on what I have to start with, and that’s a huge variable, anyway.
For the CPCP photo, I knew right away that dark stain on the pillar of the bridge was a focal point I wanted to work with. With just the right space between them, with the patient wait for fish to swim by, the thing that got my attention was the alternation of cormorant and pelican. The black and white of it and the balance of small black figures against large white ones had instant appeal for me.