|Nature Photography by Rob Gray :: Image #00070|
Landscape photography is generally considered to be a leisurely pursuit. This is sometimes the case and sometimes not.
In the case of Stone Steps I knew that there was a bus load of tourists heading my way. Once thirty or forty people had walked down these steps and across the carpet of leaves the shot would be ruined, so as is often the case, speed was important.
This photo is significant to me because it represents a break from the 'no hand of man' approach I had at the time. This subject is very definitely a man-made object, albeit made of natural objects and situated in a natural environment. Until this time I had avoided subjects that were not entirely natural. In fact a few weeks before, while returning from Beauchamp falls in the Blue Mountains, I had seen this image and quite deliberately not photographed it because it didn't satisfy my (somewhat narrow) criteria.
The image haunted me however and I resolved to try again on my next visit to the area.
A few weeks later I found myself back in the mountains, my main aim being to photograph the sculptured rock formations at the head of the Grand Canyon and, even though these steps were only a couple of hundred metres detour, I had to force myself to make the effort.
Some people look at this photograph and wonder where the steps are leading to, while others wonder where they are coming from. I guess this is similar to the old half full, half empty bottle of milk argument.
At the time of making this image I made decisions about composition based mainly on practical grounds. I placed the steps high in the frame because there was too much bright sunlight showing through the tree canopy and I reasoned that this would distract the viewer's eye too much. Although I would like to have included all of the large boulder, I felt that this bright background would only detract from the main subject. Besides, the carpet of dead leaves in the foreground was interesting.
What I didn't realise at the time was that I was also controlling the answer to the above question, ie. are the steps leading to somewhere or coming from somewhere?
When viewing the print I find the foreground of bright leaves catches my eye. Once there I look at the first step, then the second etc. until I'm over the top. I am visually 'walking' up the steps and going somewhere. If the steps had been lower in the photo (and assuming there was something of interest above them) I would start at the top and walk down. I would be coming from somewhere.
It's possible that there is a deeper reason for this from/to thing. In much the same way as a half empty bottle can indicate pessimism and a half full one can indicate optimism, maybe those who see the steps as coming from somewhere are looking at the past, while those who wonder where they lead to are looking towards the future.