Quiet and contemplative,
Winter offers time to reflect on the past and plan for the future.
A time of great energy,
Spring brings dramatic interactions between clouds and water.
Summer brings a treasured
flood of lazy, warm light, playing across each day.
The first piece, 27 Mornings In Winter, was shot and edited in 2008. Winter on Hood Canal can at times be a wet, cold unending parade of shades of gray. Depression is not uncommon. At some point, I decided to get up early every morning for a while (27 mornings to be exact), drive a few miles up and down our road or hike back into our woods, and start making something of all this gray. I finished the film and then put it away for a while, not really sure of what I had made, but I certainly felt much better about winter. In 2009, I began to extract still images in the form of palladium prints. Showing the film and prints to friends and photographic colleagues, I was pleased at the strong response to the simplicity and quietness of the work.
In May of 2011, upon seeing the combined package of short film and artist folio of palladium prints, John Scanlan at Verve Gallery of Photography commented that I might want to continue with three more seasons. I thought about this idea throughout the spring and summer. I watched the sky, the water and light and began to imagine how I would make a film of each season. By the time I had gained insight into what I would shoot for spring and summer, fall was upon us and I was finally ready to begin.
In the Season of the Loon was shot in the fall of 2011 and edited though the winter. I made numerous pilgrimages to the beaches of Shi Shi, Kalaloch, Ruby and Rialto, the rainforests of the Hoh and the Quinault. All magical places where the natural world delivers up a beauty and elegance that is simply breathtaking, humbling in fact. Most are lightly visited in the fall and winter, and so it was often possible to spend much of the day contemplating in near or absolute solitude.
Cause and Effect was shot and edited in the spring of 2012. For years, I have watched the spring storms roll in off the Pacific and pass around the southern end of the Olympic Mountains. Spring is a time of great energy, of dramatic interaction between the sky, the clouds and the water. The idea of cause and effect was also present in my interaction with the soundtrack by the great cellist Jami Sieber. More than once, I would listen to a passage and then quite literally go out and shoot a handful of scenes, edit them in and then shoot more to tailor the imagery to the music.
On July 11, 2012, I began to shoot In Search of the Elusive Lumen. For me, summer here in the Northwest is very much about the light. Whereas the soft winter light opens the forest up and allows us to see everything, the summer light has a wonderful selective quality which highlights individual forest elements for brief moments, creating into glowing, precious icons of detail within the great cathedral of the forest.
As much as each film had to uniquely reflect the mood of the season, I wanted to create prints that would serve as equally distinct and complimentary counterpoints. I drew upon a diverse pallet of print making skills, using archival pigment on various media for the color work, platinum/palladium where it felt right, and a fragile Awagami tissue known as Tengucho for yet another expression.
Creating A Cycle of Seasons has been a cycle of exploration and learning and drawing together skills accumulated through the indulgence of others. I would especially thank Ron Reeder for teaching me the ins and outs of making digital negatives and platinum/palladium prints, John Scanlan for his subtle suggestion of attempting this project in the first place, and Sue Ethridge, my partner in creativity for over 30 years, for her practical observations, superior design skills, and endless creative support and encoragement.
Doug Ethridge: A Dance of Still and Moving Images
The history of our medium is replete with examples of multi-talented individuals. Pianists who became photographers are too numerous to mention, but certainly Ansel Adams and Paul Caponigro are two of the most recognizable names on that list. Writers who were also photographers are fewer, probably Wright Morris the most famous of those. But to my knowledge, there is only one important and significant photographer to have successfully plied his talents to still photography and filmmaking — Paul Strand. Even in his case however, the films he directed can hardly be called artwork; propaganda, yes, but art films? Decidedly not.
Doug Ethridge is blazing a trail. I suppose it is not particularly surprising that here in the age of digital photography — where the line of demarcation between still cameras and video cameras is evaporating before our eyes — that some still photographer would flip the dial and try his or her hand at making something artistic with moving images. Many have tried, but to succeed in filmmaking requires considerably more than flipping a dial on a new-fangled camera.
Ethridge has an advantage because he is trained both as a videographer and as a still photographer — and knows both worlds equally well. This gives him an advantage of incalculable value. He sees and knows where the two media intersect and how to use the best of each without multiplying the combined limitations. As you watch his video sequences, it is obvious that his eye for still photographic composition is his guide. His videos seem perfectly natural to anyone whose passion is still photography. Indeed, after viewing his films, on several occasions I've often found myself looking at a still photograph in some book and subconsciously waiting for the slight movement from the expected breeze. It's often said that good photography teaches us to see. Ethridge is teaching us to patiently wait.
The reason his videos work so well is that, quite simply, his skill with the craft of filmmaking is superb. How many budding desktop publishers have discovered the world of fonts and worked with diligence to use all of them in a single layout? How many new Photoshop devotees have pushed their new tool to unheard of heights, only to regret their unrestrained enthusiasm as they slowly evolve into a wiser state of maturity? I've seen many a still photographer beam with pride as they play their first (or twentieth) video sequence with an embarrassing plethora of video tricks, dissolves, jump cuts, zooming effects, shaky pans, and sliding titles. God help them if they ever discover Adobe After Effects.
In contrast, Ethridge knows all these skills and wisely chooses to ignore them. He carves to the essence of seeing and sculpts for us a direct experience — as direct as can be created with a recording medium. Those masters of the f/64 group would have welcomed his moving images into their fold with open arms. I recall once reading on an old Kodak brochure their definition of a good photograph: A good photograph is one that makes the viewer so aware of the subject that they are unaware of the print. There is something better than that, however. Is it impossible to be intensely connected to the subject and simultaneously aware of the artifact? Rather than shoes that are so comfortable we are unaware of them, aren't shoes even better if we know they are comfortable because we delight so in the walk? Any still photographer who is tempted to try a video would do well to study Ethridge's pioneering work, not just for its techniques, but for his sensitivity to the subject and deft handling of the delicacies of each sequence. His sequences bring us intensely aware of the subject, but we can be equally delighted in the design and skill of his art.
I first became aware of Ethridge's project on the completion of his first film. We were delighted to publish his still photographs as well as his video in LensWork Extended #96. During my interview with him, he hinted at the possibility of a larger project, expanded to include all four seasons of the year. Sometime later, the second video appeared. I held my breath. Now, with the release of the final two chapters, the cycle is complete; we have the circle of life. And I think we can say with confidence, that we have witnessed a dance of still and moving images that will continue to inspire both still photographers and videographers for some time to come.
Music that plays well with images needs to be cinematic in the first place, with open spaces for the imagination, logical cutting points for editing, a great flow and enough mystery that you should be able to see pictures in your mind with your eyes closed.
John and Elizabeth Falconer beautifully capture the meditative nature of traditional Japanese music, playing shakuhachi and koto together for many years. They are not currently performing, but their CD's are available on cdbaby at https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/duoen. Jami Sieber is an accomplished cellist, vocalist and composer. Based now in Santa Fe, her music is ethereal, spiritual, energetic and inspiring. Her cd's, as well as workshop listings and lots more, can be found on her website at jamisieber.com.
It was a pleasure and privilege to work with the music of these talented artists, and if you enjoyed hearing their work, please visit their websites and buy a CD or 2!