As promised, I visited the eucalyptus a few days ago, during a rain storm. It’s always chancy taking modern digital cameras out in the rain. It used to be that a rugged Nikon could pretty much withstand most anything. I had a trusty old Nikon F who’s brass body would bounce off a concrete floor unharmed. Today’s cameras, though well-made, are more delicate. It doesn’t take much now to short-circuit delicate electronics. Having written that, my Nikon D80 has made it through two dusty Grand Canyon adventures that included several rain storms. Yet, each trip in the rain could be a voyage of no return for my beloved camera.
As I approached the tree I could see that a large congregation of geese had already gathered. The ground around the tree must yield geese goodies during a storm. They were hunting and pecking, oblivious to my arrival. The tree seemed still and majestic, as the feeding frenzy transpired beneath it. Regardless of the birds, it was the sheen of the bark that allured me in close to the tree. A eucalyptus always appears somewhat nude as it lacks the toothy bark of most other trees. It glistens in the rain, its colors becoming more intense and disparate.
Today’s image reminds me of Edward Weston’s Torso of Neil. Weston’s famous photo depicts the marble-like torso of his young son, cropped tightly below chin and above crotch. The stingy cropping is an invention of photography and can only really be pulled-off successfully in this medium. Photography gives us the tactile clues we need to complete the subject that is outside the frame.
Painting has borrowed this kind of cropping from photography but is less successful when it does. I believe, since we’ve all made photos, that we relate to the “moving-in” or “zooming-in” with a camera to get more intimate with our subject. One does not get closer with brush or pencil in nearly the same way. The lens shields and protects us from close encounters in a way that allows us to go in closer and closer. The camera gives us a kind of raw intimacy that no other medium can.
I felt the need to get up closer to the tree in order to give it a more sculptural quality. It now looks like a truncated ruin, brooding in the rain. Like with Weston’s photo of his son, we are left seeing very little of the whole but understanding the whole better than if we saw it in its literal entirety.