serious photography – Caddo Lake, Texas
Serious photographers never, ever shoot sunsets. Sunsets are for idiotic tourists with no imagination. When I used to live in a small flat in Higgovale (Cape Town) I had a wonderful side-on view of Lions Head and Signal Hill. The tourists buses (mini mobile Ant Farms) used to go along to the end of Signal Hill in the evening and disgorge their crop-fulls of Shermans to check out the twinkenlights fluttering into blinkenness in the City Bowl, with the harbour and Table Bay all spread out behind. You could just picture the ‘ach suusses’ and ‘geils’ as Herr and Frau Kleinekamera crabwalked frantically around each other to get the better view of the spectacle of Kapstadt drawing on her nocturnal gown, generously elbowing away their fellow package travellers and quietly stepping on their sandal buckles while doing so (eina!). All this was imagined from my point of view, of course, as all I could see from my balcony were ephemeral falling tiaras of tiny flashbulb-pops forming and vanishing around the jowls of the buses. The average tourist has no idea that the film or imaging chips in their matchbox cameras cannot make any sort of useful image in very low light. Their poor matchbox cameras, faced with dark scenes, attempt to cope by auto-flashing at full output, but of course their micro flashes cannot throw an image-forming beam hundreds of metres down. All that results from the point-n-pop excercise is wasted film, wasted batteries, and fun eye candy for those looking up to the Hill.
So, sunsets are awful. Sunsets with silhouettes are worse, because it’s so damn easy to make a 3-D object look interesting by reducing it to 2-D in the camera and then throwing away all colour information by turning it black. It’s one of those things that’s guaranteed to get oohs and aahs from your most boring relatives when you inflict a slideshow evening on them after your latest budget trip overseas. Serious photographers thus avoid silhouettes, and particularly silhouettes at sunset.
The lone-tree-in-the-landscape motif is also among the worst of dreadful cliches. Shoot even one and you mark yourself for life as one of those nerds who learned their photography from large glossy hardbacked books, the primary-coloured ‘how to’ tomes that well-meaning parents find on remainder sales and inflict on teenage offspring in the vague hope that they’ll stay off drugs. Shoot a lonely tree and you enter the club of losers with no natural sense of what an image should be, no eye, the B-team of unsophisticated shutter-schmucks.
Here’s a picture from Caddo Lake, northeast Texas, late on 16 May 2008.