Photo: Japanese Winter

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Japanese Winter
Japanese Winter

It was one of those rare springtime snowstorms.  By the following morning, nature became a strange fusion of buds, ice, songbirds and snow.  It was a perfect occasion to try out my new camera.

We drove out to Oyster Bay, Long Island, and marched through the knee-deep snow at Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park.  The absence of footprints other than our own meant that we had arrived early enough to be among the very few on the grounds of this Gold Coast estate.  Our timing was a key factor in a creating a photograph that would generate a lot of interest and positive comments.

An Inspiring Landscape

The park encompasses more than 400 acres, so there was plenty of territory to explore and images to hunt.  The bright sun cast a sparkle on the ice-encased trees, which cut a dramatic silhouette against the clear blue sky.  Left-over leaves, still hanging from Autumn, made for a striking contrast to the snow as did the bright red Cardinals perched on spiny branches.  They were all moments worthy of capturing and many made their way through my lens.

But it was when we trudged to the rear of Coe Hall that the image came into view.  Coe Hall is a 65 room Tudor Revival style mansion.  On one side, there is an open field and, remarkably, no one had yet disturbed the pristine cover of snow.  And, there, off to the right stood a gnarly Japanese maple tree.

The Image That Composed Itself

I didn’t even have to look through the viewfinder.  With the naked eye, I could see the entire composition of the shot in front of me.  The Japanese maple was like a confident performer on a grand stage of snow, its branches like arms stretched outward acknowledging the audience of evergreens and budding trees in the distance.

In retrospect, I probably should have used a tripod.  In the open field, there was nothing to steady myself against.  But I rested the camera on my shoulder and gripped it tight.  The results were good enough so that I had very little postprocessing to do.  Just a bit of contrast and sharpening was all that was needed to heighten the sense of depth in the branches.  Other than that, the image was not touched up.  I didn’t even have to crop it.

Well, actually, I did convert the photo from color to black and white.  Not only did the conversion make the image more stark, it actually made it more real for me.  Not real in the physical sense – I obviously saw the image in color.  But the black and white was a closer approximation of how the image impacted me viscerally.  An emotional reality.  Indeed, when I exhibited both the color and black and white versions, the latter consistently drew the most attention… and the most sales.

© 2011 Xiomáro

Published by Xiomáro

Nationally exhibited artist, photographer, speaker, teacher, and curator. Author of "Weir Farm National Historic Site" (Arcadia Publishing). www.xiomaro.com.

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