|Photo © S.Banos: Grand Canyon circa '89|
Recently (outta desperation), I decided to try my hand at doing a series atop Twin Peaks, San Francisco's scenic vista viewpoint. It's a tourist hotspot with a steady stream of visitors checking out the skyline et al, and since everybody's there with a camera in hand for a relatively short amount of time before departing to the next tourist hotspot, it's relatively easy to shoot without arising too much suspicion. I had tried it years ago with little success and abandoned the idea since I wasn't quite as desperate for a coupla decent photos; seems the drought here however (at least for me), goes well beyond water. Oh, and one more thing- I have to cycle, not drive, to the top of said peak... doable yes, but not something one looks forward to.
Two Sundays and one roll later (yeah, that's a lot for me- I shoot 35mm with a large format mind set), I was looking forward to a successful start with several very promising possibilities... that never transpired upon development. Perhaps pushing my well past 50yr old bod all the way up such incredible heights into an oxygen depleted strata of our atmosphere had taken its toll on my mental faculties. All I got for my effort (besides the exercise) was... a roll full of almost(s). So, what went wrong?
The picture above was shot in somewhat similar circumstances, and is one of my all time faves. But it has a few more things going for it. For one, it has those incredibly dramatic clouds that seem to extend into space itself, it also has... a background that envelops the lone subject right into the protruding foreground- and it doesn't get much better than the Grand Canyon. As beautiful, as San Francisco can be, atop its scenic viewpoint, the skyline's way off in the distance, flat as a pancake, and was of no aesthetic consequence whatsoever.
And that was what was most missing in my photos- a background to play the groupings of tourists against and make for a successful composition. Without a backdrop to add a layer of contrast and interest, the weight fell entirely on the tourists in the foreground. They did their job alright, but the supporting cast didn't show; they couldn't pass the ball, and I couldn't make the hoop (hey, it's playoff season). Perhaps that was why I had very consciously, and uncharacteristically, become very aware of the color of people's clothing while shooting- my unconscious was signalling that there just wasn't enough there (no, not oxygen depletion- stimulus deprivation)! I would need the composition to focus completely on the form and actions of the main subjects- and the two instances where that almost manifested imploded when others walked into the frame just as I was about to release. I'll probably make it up there once more before summer's out (again, outta sheer desperation), not to do an essay- that's definitely not gonna fly. But I gotta (gotta) get at least one shot out of it... maybe.