WordPress Photo Challenge: ROY G. BIV

It began with a drive down the Sea-to-Sky Highway, returning to Vancouver from Whistler. While still in the mountains, I shot The Tantalus Range from Cheakamus Canyon, just off the highway. Further along, after passing through Squamish, the light was pretty awesome all along Howe Sound, so I pulled off at Britannia Beach by the old Customs House to look for some landscape/seascape photo opportunities. I may yet get a few images out of that, but it wasn’t until I was on my way back to the car, ready to head off, that I noticed the sailboat. The sailboat is where this story begins.

SandingIt really wasn’t much to look at. But someone was beginning to make an effort to clean it up. The sailboat definitely had potential — as a fine vessel — but what attracted me was the work being done on the hull. The lines and colours and textures are just the kind of elements I like to extract abstractions from. (In this image alone, you can find four of the completed photographs above. Two more came from the stern, another from the bow, just out of frame.)

I ran off a couple dozen or so shots of the hull, some wider, some more detailed. Then, took a few more of the peeling paint on an adjacent shed, which was also interesting (and the basis for another post). Then got in my car to complete the drive home.

It was a tough week of work, with several days in a remote location, so I didn’t download the photos to my laptop until Friday night. By then, I was pretty excited to have a go at the sanding shots. I thought there might be a series of images and words coming from it. Here’s the story of how that series came to be, image-by-image, post-by-post.

Continents ~ Indigo

I started with the widest shot, the one above, intending to muck about with the frame a bit and see what interesting forms might be found. I cropped this down, just a bit, to the widest “interesting” frame of the ship’s hull, adjusted exposure and contrast (in Photoshop, I use multiple adjustment layers to manipulate exposure and contrast: exposure, levels and curves).

Right away I was struck by the sense of a world map, the shapes created by the sanding seemed to form continents. A bit more cropping, more adjustment of exposure and contrast, colour balance … tweeks to the saturation and vibrance. And I had a workable image.

For this blog, an image isn’t enough. It needs to evoke words, and continents wasn’t producing anything, so I set it aside and started looking at other frames. I’d noticed something earlier that would eventually become The Kiss, so I started working on that.

I didn’t get too far on that when I was hit by a mental image of ideas or thoughts floating about in my mind like tectonic plates on the Earth’s surface. From there, the words just flowed.

Whenever I start writing about mind, or thoughts, ideas and concepts, you can bet the words will eventually take a Daoist or Buddhist turn. No surprise here.

The Kiss ~ Red

The Kiss
The Kiss
With Continents completed and posted, I turned back to The Kiss image. It was proving troublesome.

I tend to be easily distracted, and one of my favourite distractions when working on the computer is to check Facebook or WordPress. That’s when I noticed the new Weekly Photo Challenge had been posted: ROY G. BIV.

‘Roy G. Biv’ is an acronym made of the first letters of the seven colors of the rainbow, to help you remember: Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Indigo. Violet.

The challenge is to post either one image containing all these colours, or to post seven separate images as a gallery, each image featuring one of the colours.

I enjoy these challenges, and usually post at least one response to them. But I was having a hard time thinking of anything in my catalogue to respond with, until it occurred to me that this photo essay of sanding images just might do it.

By then, I had The Kiss image in hand (and already had an evocative idea for composing words for it). But it was as indigo in colour as Continents. Could I get another colour out of it?

Red seemed the best option for a passionate kiss, so I added a few adjustment layers to the image and started colour tweaking. The Hue and Saturation layer did most of the heavy lifting, but Color Balance and Vibrance adjustments were also necessary. It took a lot of trial and error to get just the right red, but the end result is satisfying.

Which left just the words.

A couple of weeks ago, my platonic soul mate called me out of the blue while I was at work. We have one of those connections that can’t be explained, even to ourselves let alone anyone else. (I asked her once, “Have you ever known something to be true, absolutely true, but have no rational explanation or understanding of how you know it’s true?”  She didn’t even have to think about it before replying, “Yeah, this thing between you and I.”) We’ve tried romance a few times, but have never been able to make our relationship work that way. And yet, there’s this thing between us.

We don’t talk to each other often. See each other less. But every time we do, it’s like we pick up from the last time as if no time has passed at all. Still… for me there was something different in this phone call, something more. Although the words comprising the first stanza of the poem are eloquent and beautiful, the emotion I experienced while talking with her is best and most simply captured by the first couplet of the second verse

Although there were many words
What I heard was home

I’m not sure that feeling has ever been more powerful, or more satisfying. Or less in need of action, or expectation, or immediate need of anything else.

The couplet which follows that, about the kiss itself…

I made myself a promise when I started this blog: The words must stay true to the words. They don’t need to tell “the truth” about the image, nor about whatever story or event or concept may have gotten the words started. The words need to flow, and tell their own story honestly, without interference of my wishes, or desires, or prejudices, or faithfulness to constructions.

In the end, the poem is about something much bigger than I or my special relationship with a platonic soul-mate. The poem absolutely needs that kiss to be true to its words.

I don’t need the kiss to be true to our relationship. But I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about it.

Dragon and Slayer
Dragon and Slayer
I went to the bow of the boat for this image, and had to crop down quite a ways to find something visually interesting in it. Even then, there seemed to be nothing there, until I noticed arms, legs and a torso. Rotating the frame 90 degrees clockwise, and a little whimsical imagination later, I had a knight attempting to slay a dragon. The patch of green offered the lush grass. The flurry of scratches became a fusillade of arrows. And the white field surrounding the battle became an ominous magical fog.

The image itself required very little tweaking. The colours are pretty much representative of the actual hull. I just needed to balance them in order to remove the blue tinge from the bright white paint of the hull.

Three images down. Almost halfway there.

Mistaken ~ Orange

After Dragon and Slayer I went to the stern, which was in a bit of direct sun, but with shadows. Balancing the exposure of these sections tooks some extra work (with separate channels and adjustment layers for the shadowed areas). Originally, I went here because the orange held some promise for producing a nice rich yellow.

I found a frame I liked and started working with it. Yellow was proving most difficult, but the orange was producing a lovely light creamsicle shade when I noticed a pair of eyes… and a beak. I worked some more on the image, while muddling with the word “owl” in my mind, looking for words.

With the shadows balanced out, the image proved pretty easy, but the words just weren’t coming… Until the orange tweaked “tabby” and the story of a cat and mouse game began to flow. I had some fun with mis-direction, hoping the readers would be as mistaken in their assumptions about the story as poor Janice.

Four down. Over the hump. But now it would start getting trickier. Both for words, and for images.

The Peninsula
The Peninsula
From Mistaken I went frame hunting in the middle-hull images, hoping again for something yellow to emerge. There was this one slender shape I kinda liked, which resulted in a very wide, thin landscape frame. But none of the colours were coming up yellow or violet, and the blue wasn’t satisfying, until I hit cobalt with a little saturation tweak.

The cobalt surrounding a white field led to an image of a tropical beach, on a peninsula.

The tropical beach lead to a happy vacationer walking the beach with no care in the world other than choosing which side of the peninsula to swim on.

That seemed complete and idyllic enough… until the words demanded the happy vacationer become an egregiously wealthy, unrepentant one percenter. <sigh> Oh well.

Violet ~ Violet

I went back to the stern for the next image (you can see the tabby cat’s eyes in the lower left corner), still hopeful to get yellow out of that lovely orange. Instead, after much arduous and violent colour tweaking, that gorgeous violet just popped out.Unfortunately, the frame had no subject, nothing for the eye to come to rest on. It had little more than that gorgeous violet, some lovely textures, and a bit of sweet interplay between tones and shapes and lines. The colour was the real attraction, but the image had no hook.

And there weren’t any words flowing from it.

Until I remembered my photography professor’s lament when we wimped out on our critiques of fellow student’s lacklustre assignments: “If this were hanging on a gallery wall, and no one was watching, would you be tempted to steal it? No? Why not?”

The words began with a woman calling bullshit on her companion’s critique of a photograph, then morphed into a bad date featuring a strong, self-confident woman and a disappointingly wimpy Tinder meetup.

In an unexpected way, the story makes the image work, at least for me. (Then again, I just defended Violet for exactly the same reasons the hapless male in the story does.)

Fire ~ Yellow

Yellow was proving exceedingly difficult to get. Going back to mid-hull, I found a pleasantly abstract frame to the left, this time needing a counter-clockwise rotation, and set upon it with ruthless saturation attacks. Nothing was working, until I noticed the “Colorize” checkbox on the Saturation settings dialog.Click that, move the Hue slider over to yellow and… WHAM!

Fire leapt off the screen.

There were no intentions or ideas for words to this image when I started working on it. At least, none of my own. But what inspiration had motivated the words of Violet to have the hapless male suggest his date might prefer a yellow image? I had thought Violet to be complete, but Fire demanded more words for that story. Fire’s words made her stronger, sharper, wittier, more passionate, and even less able to tolerate weakness.

It was tempting to give her a fiery yellow dress and a string of large Ferrari-red beads strung around her neck, but that seemed overkill given her dialog, which left no doubt as to the qualities of her character.

And with that, the challenge was complete. There may yet be a few more images to pull from the sailboat sandings, but for now — I’m done.