Seeing with Fresh Eyes
The dog sees with fresh eyes. Walking with her in the morning, three days after the winter solstice, the hues of Grand Bahama are softly ablaze. Green grass is under bare feet, and nearby a tiled swimming pool reflects teal-tinged clouds.
The texture of a conch shell, a hermit crab on the grass, small star-shaped flowers. . . these appear as I pass by, not seeking for things.
Pausing to breathe and gawk, each stride takes time, for short pauses between the steps call forth, occasionally, a photograph. Framing these images is a question, in mind for months now: "how can I see with fresh eyes?" A camera will not answer this, but becomes a transient, tiny window to explore in wonderment.
Walking around one side of house, wings flutter. Bird song floats by and the lack of any human made sounds conveys an inner experience of living "wild in the wild." Images flow.
SLOW photography on island time
WHAT IS SLOFO?
Slofo is slow photography, the attentive, deliberate creation of a photography. These photos were made on two Bahamas islands, framed with a mindset of SloFo.
Today photography is obsessed with speed and doing things faster. This compulsion for speed subverts creativity. We rush the process and the experience of photography is cheapened. Quality takes a dive. Instead, when we think carefully, and take our time, we get greater satisfaction from the process.
A way of thinking, slow photography is taking time to contemplate, be remindful and think as we make pictures. When we look up and about from our cameras, and are continually aware of the events around us, we can do slow photography anywhere with any gear. We do not need to be on an island. Slow Photography begins where we are standing.
ON ISLAND TIME
Creating photographs slowly in the Bahamas was a pleasure; the abundance of sunlight and clear, shallow water created sparkling highlights in the water. Sailing a catamaran, we set out northwest from Nassau to explore three island groups: the Berry Islands, Eleuthera and Long Island.
About 120 miles east of Miami Florida, the Berry Islands rise from the shallow waters of the Bahama banks. They get few visitors. About 30 large cays (pronounced keys) and hundreds of smaller ones make up the region. Carved by receding glaciers, rainfall, runoff and erosion, these islands are set like teal gems in the blue Atlantic Ocean.
Instead of just shooting the mesmerizing colors of the water itself, I found leading lines at the water's edge to create depth in the frame. The shapes of the shoreline and its marine life created compelling seascapes. We looked for textures in close up views of marine life. Textures were everywhere: from the rough limestone iron shore to the studded surface of one foot wide red starfish.
ALONG THE BEACH
Just off the beach and below the water, a forest of sea fans bent over in the current. On land, colored shells were strewn along the pink-sand beach. Sea grape and an occasional coconut palm grew on the shore. These trees gave shelter to birds including banaquits, osprey and herons.
Where there are necter-bearing flowers or cactus birds appear; the Bahama Woodstar Hummingbird and the Cuban Emerald Hummingbird are common. Bright sunny conditions in December and January allowed for shutter speeds fast enough to freeze American oystercatchers on the iron shore.
White waves pounded the open ocean side of the Berry islands. Along the shore chitons, limpets and sea urchins held tightly to the volcanic rock. Bleeding-gum narite snails commuted along the sand and left winding trails. With small colorful snails everywhere you look, macro photography with the camera on a tripod could take place at a leisurely snail's pace.
ABANDONED PLACES ON LONG ISLAND and ELEUTHERA
On Long Island, while hiking near the beach, we found the wreck of a tugboat named Carmen. She was beached during a hurricane. Hiking light with a small tripod, I loaded Fuji 400 in the Konica AutoReflex T. Further South, on the island of Eleuthera, I photographed the ruins of the WP Stewart mansion with a Nikon n90s and Fuji 400 film.
FOUR PROVEN SLOW PHOTOGRAPHY CONCEPTS
1. Take more time. If you can, use a tripod. Pace your film, or dial in Single Frame shooting on your digital camera. Breath and walk around between frames. Practice taking just one image of each composition.
Good photographs need not be busy. To simplify the elements, ask " What is the most important detail or thing in this image?"
Reducing the number of visual elements in each picture makes them more vivid. When the light itself is so scintillating, an image can work with just sky and water alone to convey a sense of place. Using your tripod and film will help you make more thoughtful deliberate compositions, in part because film changes your capture rate, and tripods help you relax and slow down.
2. Dial it Down. Use a low ISO. Since there was abundant light, its easy to use your ISO 6 or 12 film. For digital, I used Nikon's new ISO 32 setting.
3. Remember your Camera's Sunglasses. Take your circular polarizing filter. It cuts sun's glare on the water for film and digital photographs. A circular polarizer also brings out the color of plants and intimate landscapes. I keep one permanently mounted to my 28 mm f/3.5 PC – Nikkor shift lens,
4. Keep it dry. Because of salt moisture near the waves, carry gear and lenses in your choice of Pelican case, Ziploc bag, or other protection. Use silica gel packs. When a rogue wave drenched my SLR as I was photographing tide pools, a product called Salt-X came in handy ( saltx.com ). I rescued my old Nikon by wiping the salted gear with diluted Salt-X, then rinsing it off carefully and drying it in the sun.
FOR THESE PHOTOGRAPHS, I took 3 old cameras, used Kodak Portra film, Fuji 400 film, and some expired Wal Mart Polaroid 35 mm cartridges. I took along a trusty 1968 Konica AutoReflex T with a 57 mm Hexanon 1.4 lens, an old Nikon N90S SLR, a Nikonos 4a underwater camera. I also used a late model Nikon DSLR.
Bottom Line: Slow photography is a process of pondering to think. SlowFO emphasizes design, mindful vision, and the happiness that comes from continual effort with our craft.
For "Blue Hole Adventures", a video on Slow Photography Tips, shot on location in the Bahamas, play the video or click https://youtu.be/C8xpnx33EZo