Early in the history of this blog it was suggested to me never to write about my own shots. Overall that is good advice, it is hard to be objective about one's own stuff, and frankly there is too much good stuff out there to write about instead. But sometimes one has a more intimate knowledge of one's own work, and sometimes one just has a point to make and so what, really, it's my blog. So I proceed ...
And besides, one point here will be that opinions vary and people approach shots from different places.
Consider this shot, what I call my "pumpkin" shot (captioned version here). One person whose opinion on rail photography I respect says they really like the shot. Another person whose opinion on rail photography I respect says the shot does not hold together. How can we reconcile these opposing viewpoints?
The shot is straightforward, a train in the background, some pumpkins in the foreground. The train is distant but conspicuous in location and motion and is obviosly the subject. So what ties the pumpkins to the train?
From one perspective, not much. There are no agricultural rows, say, that lead from one to the other. There is no apparent notion of the train serving the farm. Two objects, two worlds, arbitrarily brought together by the photographer. I see such shots from time to time, the photographer has stepped away from shooting the train to shooting the train in its environment, and the second object was present, and the photographer put them together. More to it than a simple wedgie but, really, it "does not hold together."
From another perspective, connections are prevalent. First, the frost on the ground can suggest late fall, and sure enough, a pumpkin suggests late fall. Second, while the compositional elements may not connect strongly, the shot has a pastel flavor throughout that joins, with various pinks throughout. The shot does not have a great deal of contrast, often a bad thing, but perhaps here it adds to a feel of softness, of lack of differentiation, of evenness. Third, the textures are harmonious - an expanse of gently frosted turf, and even the pumpkins nest into the plants, blend in, their forms becoming less distinct as they do in tonality as well. The train and foreground blend together and bond together, not in terms of compositional elements but in color and tonality and texture.
So the shot can be viewed in different ways. How it is viewed depends on what the viewer brings to the shot. Does he love fall, does he love the cripness of a frosty morning, and also the tranquility? If one misses the frost and the color then it is just a train here, some vegetables there.
Does she love agriculture, does she feel a bond to the land, to the farmland? There will be no flow between train and pumpkins, just two different spots on the image separated by dry weeds, unless one has an appreciation, a positive response of some sort, to the foliage. (I myself have a distinct negative reaction to an expanse of corn in particular that makes me less appreciative of the across-the-cornfield view seen in, say, shots from Ohio. They just have a boring foreground to me.)
Images come together, coalesce, in many ways. Commonly they do so in terms of composition, element A leads the eye to element B leads the eye to element C. Sometimes, however, the connections are through other dimensions, through common characteristics, repeated color, complimenatary tonality. Ultimately, however, that connection is made not only by the image but by the viewer, who sees with the eyes but draws connections and appreciates in the mind.