Icons and Perspective

Let’s Go Shoot An Icon!

A photographer friend was in town, so we headed out to Bonsai Rock at Lake Tahoe to shoot some sunset action.
Bonsai Rock is a bit of an icon. Google it and you’ll see what I mean.

We’re having an incredibly dry winter in the Sierra Nevada mountains… which means no snow where there should be MANY feet of it! It also means that Bonsai Rock and other locations around Tahoe are unusually accessible right now in winter. Which further means… we had LOTS of photographer company one Thursday night in January at Bonsai Rock. They were a quiet, tense, kind of cranky and definitely territorial bunch. Hey, I wished we’d had the place to ourselves too… but what the heck. Roll with it! There’s plenty for everyone. Sigh.

But Don’t JUST Shoot An Icon

My friend Lisa Donchak and I tried to lighten up the mood. Said hello as we moved about making multiple compositions amidst the “butt campers” as I like to call them. ¬†I refer to the practice of finding a spot, setting up camp and possessing it like you own the very air molecules surrounding it. But I figure, why go to all the trouble of getting there only to walk away with one shot? Oh well, I’m sure they have their reasons.

This was one of my non-Bonsai blue hour images. I love the way Tahoe light and color is so blocky and clean at that time. And the moon! Cool.

Sierra RocksLake Tahoe, NevadaThe big rock shining above the little ones below.It was a rocky night... but oh-so-gorgeous!

Mind you, I’m not one to criticize how someone imagines their photo shoot. I just find it interesting to observe how people DO do it. I’d imagine if you have an idea in your head of an iconic spot and want to add that to your collection… you’d want to find that spot, park in it and GIT it! Be the mission. I get that.

The Power of Perspective

It’s just that personally, I don’t see why the mission has to preclude other perspectives too. Why not have it all? I’ll cover the icon, yes. Get that sucker in all its glorious splendor. Those photographs are recognizable, have a definitive stamp of place – and are often what folks want to purchase.

But once that’s done, then I like to go for art shots, some alternative compositions, some “other thans” that are also viable and beautiful – and speak of the place and experience.

That’s what this photograph is. The “other than” Bonsai Rock. Oh, I got my Bonsai… in between “you’re in my shot” comments from some of the other camped photographers, even though they weren’t actually shooting at that moment. I understand their concern… they never move, so they assumed I would set up in front of them and do the same.

But I’m not that rude… nor do I have any intention of sitting on my butt in one place during a glorious sunset/blue hour experience only looking at something one way. I like to feel more fluid, keep my eyes and senses open. ¬†Because often you’ll discover an alternate perspective that is surprising and beautiful. I love beautiful surprises!

What is it my friend Keoki Flagg says about perspective and art?
It’s this: “If the end result… is similarity to what somebody next to you would have done… then it might be a great photograph, taken at the right scene at the right time… but it’s not art.”

Well, I’m not the one to say this is photo is art or not… but I can say that it was NOT what the other 10 photographers there that night were looking at.
It definitely contains my perspective – in both the composition and processing.
Because that’s really all I – or you – ever really have.

And it’s best when used often and liberally.