Friday, June 30, 2023

The spirit of exploration


The subject of this image isn’t a specific thing. This image is actually about an experience.

At first this picture seems to deviate dramatically from my typical style, but it’s very true to what I’ve always loved about nature photography. The act of going out and trying to create an image forces me to slow down and see things I otherwise might not have noticed.

This picture — whatever it is — represents that.

Beauty is everywhere, but it doesn’t always jump out at you. Sometimes you have to look for it. Sometimes you have to let go of your expectations to appreciate what’s there as opposed to seeing what you thought you should see.

It’s often said that the journey is its own reward, but even if we believe that at some level, we’re often tempted to find a shortcut. There’s too much to do. We need to save time.

Social media certainly provides one such shortcut. Algorithms rank the most popular experiences, sending hoards of people to the same spots to capture the same experiences.

But social media isn’t the only shortcut. When I visited the island of Maui it seemed almost everyone on the plane — myself included — had the same guidebook. Once on the road I was in a line of cars and everyone pulled over at the spots the book rated most worth seeing.

Time is a limited resource and we generally want to make the best use of it. But I also think that if we let others direct and curate all our experiences in nature, we see a lot, but we don’t really “see” anything.

The image above, titled “Tethered,” was inspired by the work of abstract expressionists and the result of a lens that’s quite cumbersome to use. I spent hours working through various combinations of natural lines and colors to make just a few images that I found pleasing.

This summer, the picture is featured in at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, part of that museum’s annual Midyear show. At the exhibit opening this week I was very happy to see some visitors appreciate the delicate beauty of the image without needing to unravel the mystery.

Then I headed off to explore a few parks in the region — no agenda, no guidebook. I couldn’t have been happier.

(Prints of Kevin Ebi's images are available through Learn about new work by joining his mailing list.)

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