Now, as I sat among the poppies, I quietly thanked my intuition. I was lost in a world of color and line, and loving it. Then, again, words in my head from that soft-spoken voice,
“Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.”
“Mine, too,” I thought.
Day Three. The lily pond is my favorite place in the garden. Spiritual, sacred. Calming to the soul, yet continually alive with color and light. I really have no idea how to capture it. I’ve taken some glorious photos. They have come close to capturing the light, but nowhere near close to expressing the feelings I’m having as I wander here. I sit, I shoot, I sit again. Put my cameras down and just stare. Try another technique. Good, yes, but not quite. Monet must have felt the same frustration. It’s so amazing to be sitting there in the exact spot where he sat, looking at the same lilies and light, struggling for expression.
“It’s on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly.”
Day Six. I’ve fallen completely in love. I lie awake before the dawn trying to find ways to hurry the light into being so I can head off to the garden again. I return mid-morning with cards full of images and then, even before I’m done with breakfast, I’m thinking of what I’ll shoot when I go back that evening. I don’t think Monet has ever left his gardens. His spirit is around us every day. And that voice...
“Now I really feel the landscape, I can be bold and include every tone of blue and pink: It’s enchanting, it’s delicious.”
Day Seven. I take the tour of Monet’s house. Did you know that his dining room is bright yellow? His kitchen bright blue? Even the ceilings, painted with a glossy sheen, reflect the roses on the porch when the light is right. He just brought the gardens inside!
Day Eight. Mark has taken the students through a number of techniques all designed to produce less real, more painterly images. Today we’re doing motion blurs, moving the camera at a slow shutter speed. I first played with this technique shooting out the window of a moving car (see “Basic Jones,” OP, September 2006). The technique here, however, is much more refined. Looking at the landscape, I try to see the flowers or the trees or the lilies as paintbrushes. Then, as I move the camera, I literally use these elements to brush color onto my image. How I move the camera determines the shape of the brushstroke. How long I leave the shutter open determines the thickness of the stroke and the depth of the color. As I watch our group pushing and twisting their cameras at the landscape, I’m thankful that we’re the only ones in the garden. But I know that if Monet were watching, he’d have had a smile on his face. Perhaps he does. That voice again...
“I’ve caught this magical landscape and the enchantment of it that I’m so keen to render. Of course lots of people will protest that it’s quite unreal...but that’s just too bad.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself. Day 10. I don’t want to leave. The gardens have become part of me, and I, part of them. The views here are, in their own way, as magical as those of Yosemite or Yellowstone.
I’ll share with you two of my images. Monet’s are far better, of course, born from a brilliant eye and a life of keen observation. Mine are still a work in progress, snapshots of techniques still unfolding. But they’re a beginning. And I’ll be back; there’s no question. In the meantime, I’ll hold on to the words I heard as I walked the last time from the garden,
“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.”