Whitewater... in search of simplicity and nirvana

Blog - Phil-osophy on Landscape Photography > Whitewater... in search of simplicity and nirvana
14/06/2013 - 19:12



For a photograph of any sort to have some degree of harmony, we need to consider the elements that we chose to include within our frame.... a frame created by the viewfinder (or in the case of a stitched panorama - to be able to visualise a virtual frame).

Ideally, to create an image that is framed in such a way that we are not distracted by something that draws our attention from the essence of what it was that fired the photographer's desire to make a picture in the first place.


“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”

(William James)



Subtractive compositions in photography can potentially lead us to create images that question the very essence of things we see in front of us...





Having been a kayaker for 34 years, I have always had a fascination with whitewater rapids.

On many descents of whitewater rivers in the UK and in the French Alps, I have had to pay attention to the river's hypnotic flow patterns, waterfalls, ledges.... semi-submerged boulders, eddies. Otherwise it would result in a long swim, if for some reason an eskimo roll didn't work out - due to  being tipped upside down by some feature that hypnotised me too much (to consciously navigate around!)

So it's nice to take the time to consider these river features 'up close and personal' in photographic studies. I try a mixture of crouching down on ledges that project into the flow; and on other occassions from the shallow shoals of the edge of the river I wade in to the flow in my wellington boots (I like the feeling of the water racing over the boots and the sense of connection it gives!).

There is often a mixture of elegant undulating & mesmerising patterns, from unhindered flow - mixed with the pure chaos of the aerated dancing crests of the standing waves below a drop or ledge. It is this dichotomous relationship of order and chaos, I think, that I find fascinating.




“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

( Hans Hofmann)




The variations in colour tones of the varying flow rates, form and depth of the currents across a whitewater river intrigues me also.




“Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity.”



I enjoy also occasions of making these studies in a gorge environment - where there can be some fascinating ‘chiaroscuro’ events, in transient light especially.





I aim to try and portray in simplistic terms the essence of a section of river, at that given moment







Can this approach still invite the viewer to consider some kind of questions, such as :



  • where has the river, so far, come from?


  • where will it end up?


  • how fast is this river?


  • how big are these waves and rocks?


  • how wide is the river at this point?



As well as to invite reflection on:



  • what feelings or emotions does it invoke?



The lure of these intimate river studies is one of quiet contemplation, meditation and an impluse to explore the fascinating mixture of aesthetically & mathematically beautiful order  - juxtaposed with the turbulent chaos of the wave fronts, as they tumble and regenerate.



It is a sensory immersion - as misty air from the waterfalls carried in the breeze is felt on one's face; the roars of the animated flow; the smell of the trees, wild flowers and the faint aroma of peat particles from the high moorlands carried downstream.



Somehow with all that is grabing for attention in these environments, there is an invitation for mindfulness and to find for a few moments some sense of nirvana...





sarah beagley
18/06/2013 - 11:30
Stunning :)

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