Benevolent Winter Sentinels
Benevolent Winter Sentinels
I am a native of La Crosse, Wisconsin.
During my lifetime and for countless generations the Mississippi River with its tributaries and the bluffs that border each side of the river plain have provided seasonal venues for a wide variety of recreational activities. One particular line of bluffs lies along the eastern boundary of the river plain which is home to most residents of the city of La Crosse. That line of bluffs bulges westward between US Highway 14 to the south and County Highway B to the north, and is home to an incredible network of trails that reach from river edge to bluff top.
Lately I have been working on a collection of winter images in an attempt to convey the majesty of these bluff lands and to showcase the venues that bring joy to the many folks who ply their slopes and summits. In these images the ruddy and rusty colors of autumn are long gone. Verdant spring hues are a distant promise to yet be kept. Now in winter we see the bluffs themselves – the bare and truthful essence of what they are. They seem to stand like benevolent sentinels - looking over the river plain and welcoming those who would scamper up and slide down their slopes, climb on their shoulders, and stand on their brows for a better view of the river plain below.
(Full gallery can be seen via link at the bottom of this journal entry)
In the full collection the original color images have been processed into a sepia-toned set and a cyanotype-toned set. The monochromatic processing emphasizes the shapes and textures of the winter landscape. We get to see the ‘bones of the land’ – the forms of the bluffs and the 'skeleton of the city' - the outline of homes and roads near their feet. The tree branches on their slopes are like millions of empty hangers waiting to display next Spring’s foliage fashions.
Some technical info: Each image in this collection was created from between 10 and 30 drone captures. Those images were combined and processed for rendering intent and exposure. Selective noise reduction and sharpening were applied using various techniques applied at different steps in the process. Images were converted to sepia-toned output and cyanotype-toned output using a baseline black and white process and color grading settings developed by the artist.
Inspirations for this project
The idea to explore monochromatic processing of these captures arose while viewing some of the earliest photographic documentation of life along the upper Mississippi River. An exhibit at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum of cyanotypes of the upper Mississippi River by Henry Peter Bosse was a major influence in this project.
For the last 30 years of his life, the primary inspiration for Claude Monet’s artistic output was the area around his home. His main subject: the water lily pond on his property. In all seasons and from many different angles, he produced over 250 works on that subject alone. My memo to self: Living in La Crosse, there is always a subject at hand in our backyard.
Complete galleries can be seen here: River Winter Sentinels Gallery.