(Post by Ian Plant)
DREAMSCAPES are photographs that move beyond the literal, transforming subjects into something unexpected by rendering the familiar in an unfamiliar way. I use a combination of pre-capture techniques to create Dreamscapes, relying on long exposures, unique lighting conditions, non-traditional perspectives, and special natural events, all of which can render landscape scenes in a surprising or unfamiliar way. Any place, any location, can yield a Dreamscape—provided that conditions are right. At all times I seek to think abstractly about a scene, letting time and motion play a role in the creative process.
Have you ever had that feeling when, waking up early, everything still seems caught between dreaming and reality? This is the feeling I strive to capture in my photographs—that ephemeral sense of standing outside of place and time. The sensation of the waking dream is what I hope to evoke: although the elements seem true, the line between fantasy and reality blurs.
Nature photography has become extremely popular, and many places have been photographed thousands, if not millions, of times over. New techniques, new approaches, and new perspectives are necessary to keep things fresh and to move the state of the art forward. My goal is to find ways to do just that, and to create images that are, if nothing else, different from what people are used to seeing.
I seek to make images at the edge of light, and to find places that are off the beaten path. It is not the light or the place, however, that makes a Dreamscape. Rather, it is the fleeting convergence of composition, mood, and light that sets an image apart—these “decisive moments” create a magic that is unique to photography, transcending time and transforming even mundane places into the sublime. By focusing on moment, rather than place, I hope to produce images that show a side of nature that most people do not see. My goal is to transform a scene through the creative process, showing a new facet of its truth, and revealing its inner essence.
Only a handful of images a year get placed in my Dreamscapes collection. Great photographs don’t just fall from the sky—they require patience, hard work, and dedication. Even with significant time spent in the field, few images rise to the highest level. The process of building a quality portfolio is a long and arduous one, and there are no shortcuts along the way. It may take years for one’s work to speak with authority, but even then, one can never expect to complete one’s progression as an artist—it is a lifelong journey, rather than a destination.
I RACE HIGHER AND HIGHER, CHASING THE FLEETING LIGHT AS THE SUN MAKES ITS GRADUAL DESCENT. I photograph a location, and then when the sun falls behind the trees I climb higher until I am in the light again. Soon, I run out of ridge and time, and know that I have one last chance to get it right. I am almost ready to give up my chase when I spy this lone twisted tree surrounded by a meadow of spring flowers. I get creative with flare on my lens, resulting from placing the sun just outside the image frame, I manage to make a few photos before the sun disappears; the chase is over, and I can sit for awhile and enjoy the silence and beauty of nature, interrupted only by my heavy breathing. August 2010, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington.
WE THINK OF THE DESERT AS A DEAD PLACE, HOSTILE TO LIFE, BUT IN THE OPEN PLAINS OF THE SONORAN, LIFE DOES MORE THAN SURVIVE, IT THRIVES. Especially in spring, the lushness of the Sonoran Desert can overwhelm the senses. I was in this spot in the Arizona desert at just the right time of year, not only for the incredible spring bloom of brittlebush and ocotillo, but also for the sun to rise through a notch in the mountains. I spent several days chasing the receding shadow of the rising sun, trying to capture a moment when dawn’s first rays brushed the tips of the flowering desert plants in the plains below.The desert opens its arms in greeting to the new day, basking in the sun’s warmth. March 2009, Kofa Mountains, Arizona
THE ANCIENT GREEKS CONSIDERED A RAINBOW TO BE A PATH LINKING THE HEAVENS AND EARTH. Scientists consider a rainbow to be a meteorological phenomenon that causes a spectrum of light to appear in the sky when the sun shines onto droplets of moisture in the atmosphere. Both sides seem to have a point. March 2010, Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
GLIDING EFFORTLESSLY IN THE AIR, THE SILENT PREDATOR SURVEYS A WINTRY FIELD FOR ITS PREY. Its eyes fix on a target, wings extend to shift course, and for a second it hovers before a cloud mirroring its shape. I trigger the shutter before the fleeting moment is lost forever to the passage of time. February 2010, Quebec, Canada
Ian Plant, Virginia
Ian’s photographs and instructional articles have appeared in a number of books, calendars, and magazines, including Outdoor Photographer, Popular Photography, Nature Photographers Online Magazine, and National Parks, among many others others. He is a photographer and author of eight print books, and numerous instructional eBooks and video tutorials. Ian leads several nature photography workshops, digital photo tours, and online classes each year. You can see more of his work at http://www.ianplant.com or follow him on Twitter.Tweet