My Top 12 Photographs

September 18, 2013 | Leave a Comment |

01RefractionX_2005_501_johnpaulcaponigro

Refraction X, 2002

02ExhalationIV_2006_47402_johnpaulcaponigro

Exhalation IV, 2005

03inhalation103_johnpaulcaponigro

Inhalation I, 1998

04nocturne1204_johnpaulcaponigro

Correspondence XII, 1999

05oriens105_johnpaulcaponigro

Oriens

06correspondence306_johnpaulcaponigro

Correspondence III, 1999

07path107_johnpaulcaponigro

Alignment I, 1999

08procession108_johnpaulcaponigro

Alignment II, 1999

10ReflectionXVIII_2008_510_johnpaulcaponigro

Reflection XVIII, 2008

11SuffusionVIII_2007_511_johnpaulcaponigro

Suffusion VIII, 2007

12Constellation_VI12_johnpaulcaponigro

Constellation VI, 2013

093_Illumination_VI_2012_47409_johnpaulcaponigro

Illumination VI, 2012

Updated 2013

This is a selection of my top 12 images of all time. This selection doesn’t reflect sales, publication, or activities on the world wide web. It simply reflects my opinion. Click on the titles to find out more about each image.

Geography

Read The Most Sublime Landscape Experiences Of My Life here.

Process

20% straight. 80% composites.

Poetry, by any means necessary.

Experiment to find out what’s possible.

Concepts

A profound shift in consciousness arises when we relate to the world (all of it) as parts of a living thing into whose fibers we are deeply woven before birth and after death. Just as every individual has a unique spirit, every location has its own unique spirit (Genius loci is the latin translation of what the Greeks called this.), which fits into the larger world spirit (Anima mundi is the latin translation of what the Greeks called this.) We are not apart from nature, we are a part of Nature.

Magnificent Moment

Read about the most Sublime Moments of my life here.

 

View more of my Annual Top 12 Selections here.

View more images in my ebooks here.

View my full Works here.

View my Series videos here.

View new images in my newsletter Collectors Alert.

Oriens I, Death Valley, California, 1999

I missed the shot(s) the first time. When I got back from Death Valley a friend said, “Zabriskie Point? Again? Well, I’ll bet you could photograph it in a way that hasn’t been done before.” I knew what she meant, but her comment actually clarified another idea for me.

I had been deeply impressed by the way the light changed mercurially over time, continually transforming the landscape, from pre-dawn through early morning. It first lit the blue gray sky with pale pinks, then turned the far mountains from a cold brown to a hot coral, crept slowly across the valley floor to set Manley Beacon on fire (the crescendo in a magnificent symphony of light that most photographers favor), and continued to create moving pools of light in the foreground during a process that lasts for more than an hour. It is a wonder to behold and to fully appreciate it one needs to be still and vigilant for some time. Its full impact cannot be found in a single moment, I found it in many.

The solution? Make multiple exposures of the same composition throughout changing passages of light and then blend them together to create the impression of an extended moment in time.

I had made exposures of sunrise at Zabriskie Point, but I hadn’t made the ones I needed now. I had to go back. It took a year and a half. Knowing that so many unexpected things often happen, I prefer to make flexible plans, so I wondered if would return for an idea that ultimately wouldn’t work. I envisioned glorious light in every layer of the landscape. As I began making the exposures, I realized there was a flaw in my plan. If I selected the ‘best’ light in every area of the picture, all areas would demand equal attention. There would be no contrast. The final image needed shadow just as much as it needed light. I persisted, making exposures, without moving the camera, for more than an hour, of every significant change in light – and shadow. My original plan was useful but it needed to be modified as it was executed based on specific conditions, new information, and insight. To succeed, I had to listen not just what was in my head but also to the place and the process.

Later, as I looked at my transparencies the final solution presented itself. This new solution even highlighted my feelings about the place more strongly than my original idea. The result, different from my initial conception, but consistent with my intention, achieves a dramatic lighting effect never before seen at one time. Yet, throughout time, a similar sequence of experiences has been witnessed countless times by so many.

The light on the foreground is unaltered, or to be more accurate I should say is faithful to the transparencies that recorded it. The separate portions have not been modified substantially nor were they modified unequally – there has been no dodging and burning. Instead, the light has been reorchestrated with time, faithfully representing the existing light(s) but changing what can be seen in a single moment.

Nothing in the foreground, midground, or background has been added or removed. The sky, however, is an addition from another location. I found the smaller sliver of sky contained in the original exposures made the composition cramped. It lacked the vast sense of space found in the desert. The sky had in fact been the first indicator of the presence of the coming light, making a thousand transformations before its arrival. But the sky that morning was not particularly noteworthy. I could have spent a lifetime waiting for the perfect sky. I chose instead to incorporate another sky from another location that supported both the composition and the light. This sky I altered dramatically, both in tone and color. I did so to expressively complement the drama of the light below, to support it and not detract from it. While the lower half of the image is a matter of resynchronization, the upper half is a matter of recontextualization.

Neither method (resynchronization or recontextualization) yields a classically objective document. But the results of their application may yield artifacts that are truer to our experience of events than traditional photographic practices. If applied in specific ways, they can represent certain aspects of events more faithfully, such as the passage of time.

Making this image changed the way I think about and experience the essential elements of photography – light and time.

 

How many ways can thinking more predictively about change aid your creativity?

How many new ways can you think about fundamentals of your medium?

How can planning increase your creative success?

What can you do to encourage your plans to evolve?

 

Find out more about this image here.

View more related images here.

Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.

 


In my Death Valley digital photography workshop, Steve Lumpkin stumbled into a real keeper. “I looked back and realized my footsteps would soon be gone.” This was more than a magic moment; it was also a moment of personal insight. Steve made the most of his situation and invested a lot of himself in his image both literally and figuratively.

Was it the adversity of the situation, photographing in high winds on a dune field, that encouraged him to shoot from the gut? Was this a deep-seated feeling waiting to be expressed? Whatever it was the image has emotional intensity and it’s loaded; it works on many levels both formally and thematically.

What does or would it take for you to make loaded images?

Read more in my creativity lessons.
Find out more about my Death Valley digital photography workshop.
Learn more in my digital photography workshops.

 

In my Death Valley digital photography workshop, Justin Hartford consistently found a quiet corner to pursue his nude self-portraiture using his quiet gestures in the surrounding landscape as a way describing varying psychological states. His style was immediately recognizable, so much so that when another participant presented a nude of him everyone in the group thought it was his work. His approach was so different it stimulated a lot of dialog. His presence prompted us to ask how we could make our photographs more personal.

How many ways can you think of to make your images more personal?

Read more in my creativity lessons.
Find out more about my Death Valley digital photography workshop.
Learn more in my digital photography workshops.

In my Death Valley digital photography workshop, Fani Cortes shot with a DSLR modified to make infrared images. She’d go to specific locations and make specific images that would highlight the strengths of this effect. On occasion, she made full-spectrum images that looked identical to her infrared images. The tool gave her a new way of seeing and her images a new look.

How would your photography benefit from exploring non-standard tools?
Which tools would benefit you most?

Read more in my creativity lessons.
Find out more about my Death Valley digital photography workshop.
Learn more in my digital photography workshops.

 

In my Death Valley digital photography workshop, Tom Barry tried something new. He began shooting images to present side-by-side in diptychs. This formal device gave his images a smart new cinematic quality. This planned experiment opened up a whole new way of thinking and looking for him. Now he’s got new experiments to try – combinations with more than two images. He’s not sure just how far he can or should take it and still be successful. He’s got a mystery on his hands – and this excites him! How will it work out? Only more images will tell.

How could you use two or more images in combination?
What planned experiments would help you most?

Read more in my creativity lessons.
Find out more about my Death Valley digital photography workshop.
Learn more in my digital photography workshops.

 


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