Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fireplugs of Ocala

Ocala, Florida


On The Giant Loop of the DI (plus off-topic shooting) Road Trip earlier this summer the farthest south I got was probably Gatesville, Texas. San Diego is the lower left corner of the country, but the border curves up quite a bit to get there and much of the Southeast, as well as Texas, is well to the south of there. By the time I'd gotten to Jesup, Georgia, on this second, Southern Loop, I was farther south than that, and by Ocala I was the farthest south I've ever photographed in North America. OK, I've done commercial shoots in New Orleans, which is almost there, and in Fort Lauderdale, which is a lot farther south, but those didn't let me experience the natural light. Instead it was all artificial light indoors—factory workers on the shop floor in Florida, a Board of Directors in a conference room in the Big Easy.

On the Giant Loop, the changing regional light was one of the most fascinating elements both for portraying the drive-in theaters and shooting other material, but the Southwest, the High Plateau, and Southern California were all places I'd done at least a little photography before. I'd never been to the Pacific Northwest, but had a pretty good idea what to expect. Getting down into Florida I found the October light truly different from anything I'd experienced before. The sun moved through such a low arc in the sky I had some difficulty estimating, at the end of the day, just where the sun would be coming up the next morning. This is far enough south for the light to be tropical. Sunrise and sunset are dramatic, sudden, like a speeded-up video.

Most strongly in Kansas, then diminishing through Oklahoma, Texas, then into New Mexico and Arizona, I'd noticed that the color of the light was different from what I'm used to back east. As mentioned here earlier, it even measured differently using digital tools and white balance targets. I didn't find that in Florida. The color of the light seemed normal (and so were the digital camera white balance numbers) but there was something near-subliminal about the quality of the light that seemed decidedly regional. I don't have a full handle on it yet, but it got stronger as I moved south to Ruskin and the Tampa Bay region, then slowly began to fade away when I left Ruskin and moved through Georgia and both South and North Carolina. I'll be interested to see to what extent I can portray that sense of light in prints.

Not just a fireplug here, but window signs saying "Florida for Obama 2012" and even a one way sign. Coincidence, but prophetic.

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