The urge to see big things is almost inescapable. A big landscape, a big river, a big sky, a big sunset–these all shout like a carnival barker and we often pay full attention.
I live in northern Alabama where big lakes are 15 minutes to an hour away. A big river, the Tennessee, flows east to west before swinging north to meet up with the Ohio and eventually give over its muddy waters to the Mississippi. Not far away are waterfalls, water pulled frantically over limestone ledges and pushed into rough boulders and fallen trees.
Still, big water’s temptation costs time and preparation. And transportation. And finding the right spot and the right time. The opportunity to shoot, then, is self-limited. The river’s not going anywhere. It’s our time and circumstances that lead us elsewhere.
But it doesn’t have to be a big deal. Because small is near. Small is attractive. Small is big enough to lock our attention. And small predominates. A few trips a few miles from home proved to me that small is the big deal whose invitation is easy to accept.
Small waters are the small ponds tucked in the brush, the small creeks barely moving among bare winter trees, the rain-fed puddles caught between thick stands of trees and denied the drying sun. And remnant puddles, the remains of streams escaping their banks after four inches of rain.
What do these small waters do, what do they give us?
In a field of dormant golden tan grasses, a puddle reflects the deep blue of a storm-cleared sky. Surrounded by orange clay soil, water hosts its complementary color, sky blue. Shallow water seems to deepen the image it reflects. Stagnant water surprises with the exceptions, the life growing around it and in it. Normally dry ditches meant to drain a farm field awaken with torrents of water that only last an hour or so. Small water magnifies what is seen in it and around it.
I can’t get over to the big river or the big lake every day.
Most days, though, I can bike over to the greenway, a few miles from here, that features a horse farm, grassy fields, a small creek, a dense woods, plenty of after-rain puddles, and a big big load of small water.
What kinds of landscapes do you like to shoot? Are they near or far?