A Thousand Words

September 09, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

"One picture is worth a thousand words."

Popularized in modern times by the early 20th century American advertising industry, variations of that sentiment have been around for hundreds of years (and expressed by some very famous people, including Leonardo da Vinci).

It's true for photographs as well as paintings. A single image can convey what might take many pages of text to describe.

Even more powerful is the idea that those words are not static: because viewers interpret images uniquely, it's easy to imagine how a single picture can easily be worth hundreds of words - or yes, even a thousand of them. The words a picture paints for me may be very different than those it paints for you.

Create a series or collection of photographs, and now you've got an essay. Maybe a novella! Curating multiple images around a theme enables the photographer to tell a richer story...or present an intriguing concept...or ask a question. Collections can also be an excellent opportunity to combine "big" landscapes along with more intimate impressions to better showcase a location or express an idea. Just like moviemaking: start with an establishing shot and then move in for more detail. 

Your collection might be based on a literal concept, or lean more to the abstract. I've been building a series under the working title "From Out of the Mist" which contains images like these:

Dappled Fog Autumn New EnglandCurtain RisingRecipe for an idyllic scene: take some early morning lake fog, add a dash of brilliant autumn color, and finish with an iconic New England church. (The "Little White Church" sits on the shore of Crystal Lake in Eaton, New Hampshire.)

Revealed Chocorua Lake White Mountains New HampshireRevealedClearing fog just after sunrise picks up color from the first light, and reveals part of the shoreline at Chocorua Lake. (Tamworth, New Hampshire) Misty ApparitionMisty ApparitionWispy fog dances through the mountains on the heels of rain showers. The wet conditions amplify the colorful appearance of the autumn foliage. (Pinkham Notch - White Mountains, New Hampshire)

Thinking about my work from a thematic perspective also gives me ideas about what I'd like to shoot moving forward. What stories am I trying to tell? What chapters still need to be written in order to complete the narrative?

Speaking of which, sometimes a series or collection turns into a book project. "Seasons in Teton Country" is one on which I'm currently working. Its outlines were established a few years ago; over time the remaining details continue to be added. 

spring at Grand Teton National ParkSpotlight on SpringAfternoon storms forming over the Teton Range create quickly changeable - and dramatic - skies. A few rays of light break through, highlighting the lush springtime foliage. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

And the Rain Came Teton Peaks from Driggs IdahoAnd the Rain CameSheets of rain darken the sky above this old, abandoned homestead standing in a field of wheat. (Alta, Wyoming)

Leaves of GoldLeaves of GoldAspens standing beneath Grand Teton at the height of autumn color. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

Long ShadowsLong ShadowsThe low angle of the sun during the winter months creates wonderful long shadows. Here, they extend from the cottonwoods all the way to the barn, their blue hue mimicking that of the clear, early morning sky. (T.A. Moulton Barn - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)
You can create stories without being a writer in the literal sense. Good photographs have their own very special way with words; what they have to say can be compelling.

Write on!


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