Monday, October 22, 2012

On Stepping Into The Surround

Rembrandt images like this often have a wide, dark surround. This separates the internal image, arranged by Rembrandt’s aesthetics, from ‘normal’ reality framing it. There are areas of extreme dark and extreme light to activate the areas of our brain which construct a light source and surfaces for the light to fall on. There are areas of high contrast, well-defined edges to activate the areas of our brain which construct edges and forms to contain edges. There is an area of bright color to activate the area of our brain which constructs hues on surfaces. And there is an encompassing arrangement of smooth gradients and soft, soft transitions which link all the visual areas without sending our brain the cues to switch off the other construction projects in progress—the light, the surfaces and forms, the colors...

Last year for Halloween I did a post about some trees in an empty lot near here. The trees had been spray-painted with orange X’s but there was nothing festive about the orange X’s because I suspected it meant the trees were going to be cut down and, sure enough, just a few days after I took a photo of them the trees were cut down.

Halloween Trees (Ode To)

Carnage Candy

Every now and then I get off the sidewalk and walk through that empty lot and nothing much has changed. Once or twice during the summer a work crew goes in there and cuts down all the weeds and wildflowers. So far nobody has cut down any more trees. And nobody has cleared away the stumps from the trees that were cut down last year.

Over the weekend I walked through that empty lot and I saw that on many of the tree stumps there were big, really big, mushrooms. The mushrooms were all at least as large and some larger than my hand with my fingers spread completely.

Here’s a medium shot of one of the biggest stumps, with a little wild diorama on top—dirt, leaves, twigs, and really big mushrooms.

I got a close-up of the mushrooms, too.

The tree stumps with mushrooms were extraordinary scenes, all in miniature.

The bright sunlight on top of the mushrooms, the dark shadows underneath, the subtle umbers of the mushrooms, the bright greens of the background leaves.

I could have kneeled there all day trying to get a composition just right. It would have been nice to stretch out low on the ground and get some blue sky into the picture. But the empty lot isn’t far from a busy street and I didn’t want to look too crazy.

I was feeling kind of sick over the weekend and this kind of stuff always cheers me up.


The empty lot didn’t charge admission
but there were stages scattered all around
and on every stage was a little show.

When I looked the shows seemed to get bigger.

When I took some photos for a moment
the shows were so big they surrounded me
and for a moment I stepped into them
the shows that became bigger when I looked.

There wasn’t a script so I had no lines
but I may have improvised something like—

“The dark under the mushrooms is darker
when the sunlight is so bright on the top.
When your eyes adjust for the bright sunlight
you can’t see into the dark underneath.
You can imagine almost anything
something mundane or something magical
emerging from that impossible dark.”

When I took some photos for a moment
I was down in there and then I came out.

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