Walking out from a construction site, I passed by something slick, tarlike and greasy, on the ground. I’d had a hard time finding interesting things to photograph at the site but suddenly I was intrigued. The reflection of lamplight and the oozy-goozy-ness of whatever it was on the floor immediately reminded me of a night sky. In Photoshop, I paired it with the dry rusted wrought iron beam I’d discovered in the same building. I burned a highlight in the image of the rusty iron to reflect the “moonlight” of the tarry sky. The darkness of the place in the picture would normally depress me but creating these fabricated landscapes allows me to disappear into them at times and draw up enough light to feel comfortable.
“You’re gonna have a great new life, Meena-Mouse,” I told the quivering mouse in the Hav-a-Heart trap as we approached a nice shady spot in the grass by a stream. “You take care of yourself little-one. There’s a food store right over there and if you follow the stream you’ll come to houses nearby.” I held the cage up to examine Meena one last time.
In addition to the Trader Joe’s Organic peanut butter I’d used to lure the poor creature into the trap, I’d fed it oats, bits of chocolate, and blueberries cut in half. I’d stuffed pieces of tissue through the top of the trap so it could have a soft bed. And first thing in the morning I’d driven down off my hill with the mouse in the trap, carefully secured in the passenger seat, so it wouldn’t be caged up any longer than necessary.
The last few mice I’d let loose had frantically clung to the trap with their tiny feet. That had freaked me. I’d had to clunk the trap on the ground several times to get the mouse to drop out, to go free. This time I was prepared for that. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the mouse immediately springing out with a fast flying leap—right into the water.
For this week’s fabricated landscape, I flipped a photo of trees reflected at the edge of my pond. The frame was pieced together in Photoshop from a warm scarf.
Not all landscapes are calming scenes. Last week I combined contrasting textures to create a peaceful effect, but this week I chose two different scratchy textures to highlight the tension. This kinda reflects my rough week of dealing with the heat, loss of the internet and then power, my dog falling and failing, and the television breaking. Nothing earth-shattering. But it all added up to an uncomfortable edginess.
The foreground of this fabricated landscape is a pile of dried grasses that I tinted blue in Photoshop, and the sky is the negative image of a Shagbark Hickory tree trunk laid on its side and turned bluish as well.
Even with the windows shut tight, the frog-song coming off the pond these spring nights is so loud it can keep you awake. The peeping, screaming, grunting or gulping sounds of each frog can reverberate all the distress already roiling around in your head. Or, if you settle your mind and limbs into the rhythm of it, it will lull you to sleep.
On the night of an almost-full moon I photographed clouds over the pond. Then I inverted the image in Photoshop, to depict the water below that teemed with new, noisy, messy and mysterious life.
In the middle of the vast woods at Connecticut Hill, New York’s largest wildlife management area, a horrible squawking-beeping made me jump. My cell phone, usually useless there, was suddenly lit up and alive.
“Emergency Alert. Snow Squall Warning until 10:45 AM EST. Sudden Whiteouts. Icy Roads. Slow Down!” I read aloud from the screen where a yellow triangle with an exclamation point was prominently displayed. I looked up at my hiking buddy.
“Let’s turn around,” she said, and we turned and bolted back out the way we’d come. Even my frail arthritic dog hightailed it over the icy trails with urgency as, very quickly, the snow started falling. In our haste to be out of there, I didn’t stop to photograph the heavy sky, the barely visible trail, the snowflakes coming down, first as minute dust-like particles and then growing bigger and faster. And more dense. Later, safely at home, in Photoshop I pasted together images of tumbling rocks and foamy residue from a sandy beach to remember the adventure.
Making a landscape from a human face. I thought I’d try this, at least once. So I took a negative image of an old classmate and pasted it onto a mackerel sky. My effort was going well enough until I tried to add scattering, the fine white haze that one sees at the horizon. That lightening up of the sky at the farthest point one can see, just before it disappears beyond the nearer more solid landform, has always drawn my focus. But I guess I should have highlighted it more subtly. My photography instructor, who knows all about capturing light and making light work, wasn’t buying it.