Craft & Techniques - 22
Other essays in this series

Photographic Notes on the Creation of Specific Images
#6 - Clearing Spring Storm

by Alain Briot

Clearing Spring Storm, Canyon de Chelly

This photograph is part of the Print of the Month Collection

I created this image shortly after moving to Chinle, Canyon de Chelly, Navajoland, in 1997. Tsegi overlook, where the photograph was taken, was only 10 minutes from my house. I was on my way to pick up my wife, Natalie, after work when I noticed the dramatic clouds. I realized that if the sun came out a truly incredible lighting effect would take place. I immediately decided to drive the short distance to the rim of Canyon de Chelly to wait and see if the sun was going to appear.

I waited perhaps half an hour until the sun broke through the clouds. What I witnessed then remains one of the most incredible scenes I have ever seen. "Clearing Spring Storm over Canyon De Chelly" is the result and this image explains what I saw better than any text I can write. I took a number of photographs and the best one was the second or third one. Before that there was not out enough sunlight. Afterwards there was too much sunlight. The best photograph was just in between, when light and shadow areas were evenly balanced, creating tension and beauty at the same time and making me deeply aware of the utterly temporary nature of natural light at transitional times when storms are moving away.

What is most interesting when I look at this photograph today and reflect upon it, is that this light quality came to define my vision and played a key role in shaping my personal style. However, I did not see things that way back then.  When I created this image the most important aspect of it for me was the panoramic composition.  Certainly, the light was important and I was aware that the light made the image.  However, it was the panoramic format that I thought was going to define my style.  So much so that I purchased a Fuji 617 camera following the creation of this image and proceeded to create a series of panoramic images with it.

As things turned out, I tired of the panoramic format relatively quickly, perhaps within two or three years of using the Fuji 617, and eventually stopped using it.  However, to this day I continue to seek the light quality in the image above, regardless of which camera I use.

What was happening then was a misconception on my part regarding what my personal style consists of.  I thought my style was coming from the format of my images while it was essentially coming from the light quality in my images. The former –format- is a superficial aspect of my vision while the later  –light- is a fundamental aspect, one that will not go away because it is not based on temporary preferences.  Rather, it is based in a deep-rooted appreciation of light that goes back to the day I started photography.

Alain Briot

Essay and photographs Copyright © Alain Briot 2007
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