Behind the shot: “Oak Bluffs 2015”

by Sue Dawson

OakBluffs2015blog2

I ASKED ALISON about the new photo on our main wall, called Oak Bluffs 2015. We’ve printed it as a large canvas, and we just hung it for tomorrow’s opening reception, for our second show this season of Alison’s newest work. It’s mesmerizing – it looks like it’s just floating on the wall. Here’s what she said:

“That’s the direction I’m going in now – a more muted palette, fewer primary colors. It doesn’t have to be dawn or dusk for me anymore. I used to look for a stronger color palette, which you’ll find early or late in the day. But now I’m watching for the really subtle things that are happening. Quiet things, like the two different flat calms going on in the water in this shot. I love the height of the tide – almost covering the rocks, with just a few of them poking through. If you could see all of the rocks, it’d be really seaweedy, really messy-looking. This just gives you a hint of the rocks.

It’s a location that’s so subtle, you’d never stop and take a touristy picture there. It’d never be subject matter that you’d hear, “Oh, honey, let’s stop and take a picture.” I feel like what I’m looking for now is something that’s evocative, but understated – something I think is beautiful, but not in an obvious way. A scene where a little change of light, wind direction, wind velocity, the tide, will make me screech to the side of the road, get out my camera, and ignore my appointments for a half hour.

I drive by this spot every day, and pay attention to what the tide’s doing, what the water’s doing, what the light’s doing. I stop there once a month and take pictures. But this particular day was unique. The sky was almost white, and the water took on two distinct tones. In the distance was flat calm, and up close, the water was moving over the rocks. So you really have this gradation from the whitish sky up top, to a sliver of the most distant water that’s moving, to flat calm water reflecting the sky, and into the moving water in the foreground. Beyond the end of the jetty, that flat calm is like a mirror, reflecting the sky. And nearest to me, the water was choppy, so I used a long exposure to make the moving water look soft and smoothed out over the rocks.

The centered one-point perspective draws you into the photo. And I kind of love the fact that the thing in the middle of the jetty is completely practical – not picturesque – and yet becomes the center of interest in the shot. It’s totally mundane – not like the fishing pier, which is beautiful unto itself.

I love the concept of the contrast between extreme sharpness and extreme softness in the same picture. And I already mentioned the two types of water – the flat calm, and the choppy waves I smoothed out in the foreground. There’s a duality throughout, really – a complexity that you see, the longer you look into the picture. At first it’s simple, calming, deep. But as you’re drawn in, there’s so much more to see, so much more to feel.”

Please come by tomorrow – Saturday, July 11th – and see it in person. Our reception is from 4 to 7pm, and this show will be here through August 7th. 

3 Responses

  1. Jeri Larson says:

    Alison, your description of the scene is poetic itself ! As I gaze at the picture I feel like I’m looking down into the water, as well as outward !
    The photo is fascinating and beautiful !!!

  2. Dorothy Wass says:

    That is lovely. I thought that it first it was taken in the winter but perhaps not. I hope to get over but we have the Susan Klein talk at the Tabernacle tonight and trying to sell more tickets to it.

  3. Ann Densmore says:

    Alison, you have moved into the art of light and photography that I love!
    This image is mystic and wonderful! I love it!!
    Congratulations on your important and unique work. You are my mentor and a great photography teacher. I love how you capture meaning in an image with subtly and yet, power. It’s a beauty.
    Ann Densmore

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