Friday, April 23, 2010

Keith Burgess: Mood and Texture

With the annual CRPA conference coming up this weekend, I've decided to resume this blog with an appreciation of the work of two-time CRPA contest winner Keith Burgess. His work can be found here and here. His CRPA winning shots are here (2007) and here (2009).

Keith has an extensive body of work so I could pick out all sorts of themes; I'm going with a few shots that combine aspects of texture and mood. Texture, taken literally, conveys a tactile impression visually: soft, rough, slippery. I view it as more than that, as a way to emphasize part of the character of location. Texture itself also contributes to mood, just as light does, so photographs that emphasize both dimensions are particularly powerful.

The first image brings out the dryness of the high desert with a large patch of close-up rock in the foreground and general high contrast due to the mid-day sun. The textures of the arching rock on the left and the distant rock wall add to the roughness of the image, contracting with the curve of the arch. Desolate yet beautiful!

In the second image the use of texture is more straight-forward and at the same time more unusual. The shimmer and granularity of the water contrasts with the diffuse, soft slopes and the smoke off the engines, giving a counterpoint to the presence of the train. Beautiful terrain but it doesn't look like a great time to be there, the mood is somber, yet with signs of life from train and sparkling water. By no means a striking image but worthy of contemplation.

The third image is a classic B/W with low light creating strong shadows on the ground, highlighting the dirt, stones, debris, and rails of the yard, contrasting with the diffuse shapes and tonal variations in the steam and the rigid geometry of the wall and doors on the right. The presence of the shovel mechanism conveys a sense of abandonment or waste, or at least better days, even though the facility looks to be active and well kept. I'm a fan of the emphasis through contrasts and shadows on the rough ground textures.

As usual the last image is my favorite of the set. The variety of textures! Snow blowing in the air, seen as distinct streaks of snow, and also as snow dust kicked up by the train; the ripples in the water; the fine lines of the tree branches; the ballast and ties. The backlight and the snow reduce the extent of color, and the yellow engine noses is soft rather than bright, subtle. The backlight also makes the blown snow streaks visible and creates a quiet mood.

These shots are not necessarily representative of Keith's work; none are strong in color or bold in composition. The effects are quieter but the photography is no less excellent. Well done; I'll have to revisit the collection some day, perhaps the night CPL shots or his other work.

Until then, consider what I have written as you contemplate this shot. It's like a homework assignment! :)

1 comment:

Chase Gunnoe said...

Nice to see you post something new and refreshing, J!