Common Photographic Themes: Tunnels

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This week, we’re going to try something different.  Every Tuesday for a long time, we’ve featured a specific photo or a specific photographer to serve as inspiration.  The approach is great and very well received, and I believe hundreds of our readers have been inspired by the elegant and simple approaches that we highlight each week.  As the group grows, and as the Flickr pool amasses such a large contribution, there are a lot of great photos that sadly get overlooked.  And so I want to try something new this week:  I’m going to select a number of photos along a common theme and share them with all of you.  The purpose is to illustrate the many approaches and the several different presentations that can be had of a similar subject.  This is where we find our inspiration.  This is how we’ll grow and thrive.  If this approach is well received, we’ll do this regularly…perhaps monthly.  So please leave your thoughts and comments and let us know what your think.  And so this week’s topic:  Tunnels.

Tunnels are like portals into a different world.  The land before and the land after can be so very different.  The tunnel, in theory, would serve as a transition zone except that it often falls short.  To pedestrians, motorists and so on, tunnels are a necessary evil and appears as an afterthought.  Or is it?  Those of the Shutter Photo @ Flickr group tend to think otherwise:

“The Girl Named Brett” by Jon DeBoer

"The Girl Named Brett" Jon DeBoer

"The Girl Named Brett" Jon DeBoer

A repetitive pattern, dramatic lighting and clear vanishing points isn’t enough for photographer Jon DeBoer in this photograph.  The scene only serves as a setting for the real subject, who happens to be a girl named Brett (who is featured often in Jon’s photographs).  A sultry pose in an otherwise linear setting?  It works because it’s unexpected.

“Champion Rock Bins” by David Clark

"Champion Rock Bins" by David Clark

"Champion Rock Bins" by David Clark

Many tunnels are entirely utilitarian and do not feature spectacular architecture.  David Clark‘s tunnel featured in his photo Champion Rock Bins is absolutely a mess and it looks to be pretty hazardous and creepy.  But creepy and dangerous can be truly mesmerizing in the right light.

“Moscow Subway Arches” by Mark Heath

"Moscow Subway Arches" Mark Heath

"Moscow Subway Arches" Mark Heath

Some tunnels are implied, as is the case here in Mark Heath‘s photo, Moscow Subway Arches.  Mark’s warm treatment of the shot doesn’t seem to stand up to the otherwise cold feeling inside this tunnel.  I can’t help but to think that there’s a conflict between the exquisite architectures and the floor materials, the latter doesn’t really seem to fit.  The juxtaposition serves well in this tunnel photo.

“Enlighten I” by Brian Day

"Enlighten I" by Brian Day

"Enlighten I" by Brian Day

Photograph Brian Day created Enlighten I, this haunting photo, from inside this classic tunnel.  Vanishing points are somehow more appealing when they’re off center and slightly asymmetrical.  It also helps to have a huge light source obscuring the actual point on the horizon.  All is accentuated by the texture of the many small stones making up this arch, all pointing to that lost vanishing point.

“Tube View – Westbahnhof” by Christoph Hetzmannseder

"Tube View - Westbahnhof" Christoph Hetzmannseder

"Tube View - Westbahnhof" Christoph Hetzmannseder

Tunnels are known to take you to other places, but it’s rare to find a tunnel that is in and of itself another place.  Tube View – Westbahnhof by Christoph Hetzmannseder, shown above, is something out of a science fiction novel.  I feel like I’m inside Stanley Kubrik’s 2001 Space Odyssey.   I appreciate Christoph’s use of the 10mm lens which introduces a barrel distortion that curves the hard, straight line of the overhead sign.  Without the distortion, that sign would be a hindrance to a perfect view.

“The Ponderer” by Jim Summerson

"The Ponderer" by Jim Summerson

"The Ponderer" by Jim Summerson

Jim Summerson takes a street photography approach with his shot, The Ponderer.  The subject leans on one wall of the tunnel’s mouth with his back to the camera, but the tunnel otherwise dominates the photograph with its massive stones.  The person is dwarfed by height of the tunnel.  I also find it interesting that the vanishing point is not carried by the tunnel itself.  Rather, the vanishing point is reinforced by the alle of trees well beyond the tunnel.

 

 

 

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About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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