When you hear the loudest land mammal roar, you stop. Hairs rise quickly on the back of your neck, goose bumps travel the length of your arms. But when you see the source, a 30-pound Howler Monkey sitting in a tree, not howling or roaring, you ask, “Really? That came from you?”
When we don’t see all the details, or perhaps none of them, we fill them in with our imagination, from our own experiences. A dog barks, and you know it’s a dog. How big and how friendly are up to you.
An author describes a character, and our imagination fills in the fine points. When the book becomes a movie—take Harry Potter—we are shown exactly how Harry looks.
We have these choices in photography. A dancer is frozen at the peak of her leap, the intensity of her gaze captured, the delineation of every muscle fiber preserved. Or, her movements could be wrapped in a slow moving veil of color and light. In another example, we marvel at the fine details in the peeling bark of an ancient birch tree, or in different photograph, see no detail whatsoever in the blue black twilight surrounding the forest.
Decades of fast-developing technology, the obsession with more megabytes, that bigger is always better, swept the photography community along. It continues to be a strong and seductive current, but sitting on the side of the bank for a moment I realized there were times when I could better express myself, and better let the viewer make their own interpretation, if I didn’t reveal everything. Less light, less focus, and less color might be ways to give you more room for your own feelings to rise up.
I am typing these last few words an hour after sunset. Two coyotes are calling back and forth. I saw one earlier today, crossing the road. She looked me in the eye, and I saw the exactness of her gaze, eyes reflecting the sky, ears straight up and pivoted towards me, and the hairs on her back fluffed up and holding in warmth on this cold spring day. Now at twilight, I can still remember her intensity. She calls again. She is down the arroyo, perhaps under the grove of junipers, their branches revealing windows up to the night sky. Her mate calls. I imagine him on the little hill behind the house, stretching his face to the star-filled sky. I can not see either of them, but I am stirred by a haunting, ancient feeling. I imagine the rabbits being ever so still, the great-horned owl keeping a watchful and hopeful eye on everything. The wind blows against my window and I can barely see that the junipers and piñon pines are doing a gentle dance. My imagination is running wild, all from a couple howls, and two coyotes I can not see.