Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on May 10, 2011.
Those ignorant about photography as a medium might believe that photography is an art that always tells the truth. They’d be wrong, of course. A photo can be manipulated, molded and tweaked just like any other medium. As a photographer, you have the ability to blur the lines between reality and fantasy. It’s a matter of pushing the film a little harder than it was designed for or a selective crop or using the right filter to get the effect you want. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of where you’re shooting from. As Bob Hallam explains in his description of his curiously surreal photo, Keen Observation, this photo was taken at the top of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea summit. At 13,796 feet (4,205 meters) above sea level, Mauna Kea is well above the timber line. There is not enough oxygen for the trees, and the atmosphere is weak and thin. At such an elevation, clouds are below you or immediately around you. And the sky is crystal clear. As Bob points out, this is one of the reasons why it is the ideal location for an observatory. What he is modest about, however, is that it is also a great place to shoot inspiring photographs that are cause for questioning reality. Keen Observation shows us just how fine that line can be sometimes. We must not forget how fine we can make that line in photography. We must celebrate how blurry we can make that line. Traditionally when the horizon is present in the subject, the rules would dictate that the horizon be placed according to the rule of thirds. Place the horizon high to focus on the ground or the reflections in a placid lake. Place it low to focus on the sky. But as is the case with many of the compositional rules, they do not account for exceptions. Keen Observation is one such exception. Sure, there is physical subject: The observatory, or even the outcropping of land beneath the sea of sky. But compositional rules don’t take into account the non-physical subjects – ideas or spiritual subjects. What if the subject is that blurry line between what we know as humans and what has yet to be fully understood? What if the subject is the border at the edge of reality? Where would you place that line? What about according to the rules? Ignore the rules, place it where it means the most to you and to your non-reality. And let Bob Hallam’s photograph be a reminder of this lesson. Bob’s Flickr photostream is deeply rooted in his passion for photography. He explores colors, textures and awe inspiring landscapes and everything in between. Regardless of your specialty, you will find something inspiring in Bob’s works.