Making of 40 Photographs #25

This is image #25 in my series of ‘Making of 40 Photographs’. I think this is an apt picture to show you, after my post over the weekend about Michael Kenna - an artist whom I greatly admire for the simplicity and space in his images. Particularly those of Hokaido.

Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia

I'm finding as I progress with my photography, that I'm looking for simpler and simpler compositions. As a beginner to photography I looked for beauty in a scene only to discover that it wasn't enough - the composition had to be good and the light - of course, had to be right too. Now twenty years down the line,  I often find I make images because the simplicity of the scene demands it. This is almost a reversal of what I would choose to do when I started out.

Like a form of Haiku, a picture can be broken down into simple components of shape, colour and tone and I think this image of the Salar De Uyuni is a perfect example of that. It works on two levels : the colours are pretty monochromatic, and the space in the composition is simplicity in itself. For me, that chromatic quality lends for a less-distracting absorption in the image. I'm drawn to the duo-tones of the distant mountains, like little triangles all lined up on the horizon. Plus I feel that the diagonal line across the sky makes the shot for me.

We were camped on Pescado Island, a little spot right in the middle of the largest salt plain in the world so I could reach the Salar for early morning and late evening shooting. But I made a point of leaving everyone else on the island so I could be alone on the Salar. Photography is not often a social act, and apart from having the thrill of being on the salt flats by myself with no other person, or support vehicle around me, it would give me a chance to connect with the stillness and space of the location. It's a real thrill for me to do this.... be alone. I find that when I'm out there on my own, I seem to find my awareness is heightened, and that has a direct impact on my photography.

I stood in this location for a couple of hours, never bored, watching the distant storms come and evaporate, shooting telephoto and wide angle, but often preferring a wide angle field of view.

On a technical note, the Salar is bright. Very bright, and the sky for a change would be less bright than the ground. I was a little bit confused as to whether I should use a grad filter or not and I recall using one for this shot. But I metered the ground and exposed +1 to +2 stops otherwise the ground would have been underexposed. With film (as always), I'm forced to visualise the scene in terms of dynamic range, and that is something I love very much about the process.... I feel the image is created in my imagination.

And that's a good thing.