I have long been inspired by the “New Topographics” photography. In particular the photographers, Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz and Frank Gohlke with their ability to conjure beautiful images out of banal subjects.
When I saw the following scene at Laugarbakki, Iceland I immediately thought it was something that might have been taken by Adams. The new lamp post, the part-made road and the emptiness of a landscape rolling into the distance all reference his critique of urban expansion into the prairies around Denver, Colorado.
This is NOT an intuitive composition! I saw the potential for an image and then it was a case of trying several different compositions until I achieved something I felt was appropriate for an homage to Adams. I will show the initial attempts further on in the blog.
Adams always used B&W film and so I felt the need to convert my image to B&W as well.
Far from being an Icelandic scene this looks much more like the baking hot prairie as the grasses are so light in tone. The sky is heavily overcast and would never be the same as Adams, Coloradan, wall to wall, clear blue skies, which added to the emptiness of his images.
Here are 3 earlier compositions that did not work.
There is no shape to this image and the tyre tracks, far from adding interest, just appear confusing.
This is better as I now have the triangle of grass on the left providing something of a zig-zag shape to the foreground. The single lamp on the right, appearing to look into the image, is OK but feels too comfortable an arrangement. The distant hedge touching the lamp post is just wrong.
The foreground shape is now more powerful but the composition still lacks something. It feels flat, too symmetrical.
In the final version, shown again below, the base of the lamp is now at a fulcrum point around which the weights of the other image elements could rotate. The lamp itself is now looking out of the image and this feels like a tension point (imagine a rope from the lamp to the left edge of the image) which is supporting all the weight of all the image to the right.