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The Kalalau Valley Journey

Bio-Alchemy and the bifurcating image

This page is going to talk about a work in progress: Something I'm currently calling Kauai Night Dream



While this piece is not necessarily finished, it is quite far along. and the journey its been on and will go through should make for some interesting reading. Check back to this page once in a while as I intend to post the ongoing evolution of this piece (pieces).


 I posted an entry a few days ago about Waimea and canyon  and mentioned that the road went up through the dry lowlands  in the south to eventually reach the mountain rain forest. Well this image starts with a very complex image I did a few years ago called Kalalau Valley Panoramas


Kalalau valley is an isolated an completely undeveloped region in the wettest region of Kauai island. The photos that make up this panorama were taken form the vista point lookout (mostly) you find a the end of the road. I made three trips to this lookout, each one at sunset and finally, I had a break in the clouds and got this fantastic view. The scale of the place is so large that even my wide angle lens could not seem to capture it. So did what usually do in these circumstances, shoot all of it every which way and know that I'm going to stitch something together later.  It proved to be a very tricky stitch indeed, as I did not have complete coverage and the dynamic range from the bright sky on the left to the shadows in the valley was extreme and uneven from one exposure to the next. But eventually I got this image which I' m happy with, but somehow it never quite sizzled for me. I think when Its printed very large 40"x 60" it might have some real impact.

 And so it sat until a few days ago. After a hiatus of several months I'm painting again and I scanned some backgrounds I've done on Asian paper to capture them for digital work. One of them looked like this


I'm calling it Dry Summer Field, because that's what I intend to paint on it in a sumi style. I'm not sure what gave me the idea to mix it with the Kalalau Valley image, but I saw the thumbnail in my finder and said what the heck and started to play with the two together.


A Sad Chapter

I worked for about three hours and started to get this really amazing image that reminded me of hallucinogenic moon light in tropical jungle. Night-Dream-Layers.jpgIt wasn't dark it wasn't bright it was all silvery and the more I worked with it the happier I got. It was late and I was tired and I tried to save it to a disk that was to full. And it was lost. Bone headed move on my part. I'm so paranoid about loosing work that it doesn't happen to often, but I got careless. I took a break and had dinner and then decided to go back that night and  try and recreate the image, because sometimes if you try to reconstruct lost work right away you can get it back fairly quickly. Alas the method I was using/am using is very complex and involves using multiple layers of the Dry Summer Field image over the Kalalau Valley image, with each image using a seperate blending mode and each layer a carefully chosen transparency and then a painted mask for each layer to boot. Click on the image to the right and see a the larger more clear version. What you see is about half of the layers that are currently in the file. (You will see that I'm terrible about naming my layers. ;-) While I eventually ended up with an image I am very happy with, it was not that special image I had before disaster struck.   Ce la vie.


The Bifurcating Tree of Possibility

I think I am an artist who responds improvisationally to what sits in front of me much more so than an artist who makes a plan and then follows a series of steps to bring about that end.  In this sense my approach is quite modern. Where as planned out process of art might be considered classical in the sense of master oil painter moving from idea to sketch to study to final painting, My process, though it often starts this way, inevitably takes non lateral turns and  dips and almost always ends up somewhere I could never have planned.  In the process of doing art, Especially with digital tools you are constantly making choices. Sometimes there are two many choices. I have to say the more I work with digital tools the more I'm embracing this idea of multiple choices to a problem; that there might be more than one answer and a single project could end up with three versions and six cousins. I think this goes against conventional wisdom but that's par for the course for me. I also have begun to see the digital work as more constantly evolving rather than reaching a point where a work is 'finished' and can't be worked on. By its very nature digitized media begs to evolve, clone copy morph, what have you.


Just to give you an example of this, let me show you three frames I saved while trying to recreate Kauai Night Dream. Each of these images excites me and could/should be developed in there own directions.  The first variation looks like this


You can see that I've migrated to a wider aspect ratio by cloning material from both images and making the image more cinema-scope like. Then I got this


Which somehow suggests an old  world war II photograph mildewed and battered with age.  Then I got


Also a very cool look. But in the end I ended up with the more solarized look you saw at the top of this page. But I  just know that I'm likely to revisit at least one of these other 'base' images as well.


Of all the Solarized looks tried, I saved two to show you. This first one is pretty cool, but I thought that the vibrant bright tonalities would not work as well with the other elements I planned to add. So I eventually chose this one. 



And so it goes.With Each new element that gets added, further branching of possibility presents itself. 

If your curious about how I achieved the solorization I'll let you in on the secret. one of the three Dry Summer Field layers is set to Difference, but the transparency of that layer is not at 100 percent. By dialing the transparency up and down, you can change the tones affected by  the solarization, add to this a curves adjustment attached to only this layer and you have a lot of control over the look of the solarization.

The  direction I've taken so far on this journey was down a somewhat familiar path of traditional landscape conventions. Even though a lot of surreal stuff is going on in this piece, it essentially plays by the rules of classic or Luminist landscapes championed by painters like Frederic Edwin Church. But I'm also very interested in following a more radical deconstructed post-modern interpretation of this scene and we'll see if any thing comes of that. That's good for now. Lots of Bifurcation to come. I'll blog a notification when further images go up on this page. We'll see what happens.

Update: Kauai Night Dream Version 3.0 

Not that I'm abandoning Version 2.0, which we see at the top of this page, But this is now a Bifurcation towards a larger Scene.


I've kept the aspect ratio the same but have now added more area to work on left right and top. This allows me to have 'proscenium compositions' on the lower left and right and makes the sky moe expansive. The balance rock is now a tree and a second, smaller moon as appeared in the sky behind the tree. I'm not sure about the polar map in the sky, but something like this might stay here.