“Sittin’ On the Dock of The Bay”
Your assignment this month is to make five (5) good photographs that involve water in some way or another. Let’s think about water-essential for life, becoming less available each year, being polluted by corporate interests (think fracking and coal ash), refreshing, beautiful, and restorative. Nothing beats a good swim or a nice relaxing shower. In the battle between humans and water, it is inevitable that water will win. It already owns 70% of the planet’s surface! According to writer Tom Robbins water only needs humans for one thing-water uses humans as a container to transport itself from one place to another. So how about five photos? Look how water changes the color and texture of the river bottom!
Let’s see—one or two waterfalls, a good reflection, several droplets on leaves or flowers, perhaps a fountain which can be a source of all sorts of images-frozen or flowing in white flumes and foam, either way or in between, there seems no limit to what can be done with water. Remember Frankie Laine singing the song written by Bob Nolan?
All day I’ve faced the barren waste,
Without the taste of water:
Cool water. (Water.)
Old Dan and I, with throats burned dry,
An’ souls that cry for water: (Water.)
Water exists in three states (or more): solid-ice, gas-steam, liquid-water. It can be distilled, de-ionized, and de-salinized; and, best of all, made into good Scotch whisky. It separates the continents. Water seems to have a mind of its own. It has debarked from California leaving a drought behind. It has moved to the mid-west where there is flooding. Rain can be a metaphor for disaster- as a flood, it kills. It can also be beautiful creating rainbows, making grass and other plants greener and standing taller. In the song “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” by Creedence Clearwater Revival John Fogerty sings a song about the difficult times facing the band because of its internal dissension and its impending breakup. One line asks, “I want to know – have you ever seen the rain comin’ down on a sunny day?” That question has followed me about most of my life. But it is a good question because sometimes a sunny day is just the ticket, other times a rainy day is the answer to a problem., and at times they do occur simultaneously, we just may not see it at the time.
Walker Evans gave some advice to Ben Shahn just before he left for the South Seas. Shahn was begging for just something, anything to better understand photography. Evans said, “Well, it’s very easy, Ben. F9 on the sunny side of the street, F4.5 on the shady side of the street. For a twentieth of a second hold your camera steady,” and that was all. This might serve us equally well in photographing water. There’s not much else to say.