Liquid Topology, 2007, photo by Fred Hatt
Here in the States we’re celebrating Thanksgiving, a time to honor family, food and fellowship, and to contemplate gratitude. Superstorm Sandy recently reminded those of us who live on America’s Mid-Atlantic coast of the destructive potential of water, but as I think of what I have to be grateful for, I am thinking of the water of life, the cyclical element that falls and flows, permeates and dissolves, irrigates and cleanses, rises and expands. Water is the blood of the living Earth. We New Yorkers are lucky to have plenty of rain that keeps our vegetation lush. We have a great water system with remarkably clean tap water from upstate reservoirs. In recent decades sewage treatment has made our coastal waters much cleaner than they used to be. We need to love and protect our precious water!
My most basic artistic motivation is just to revel in the beauty that is all around us, and to share my perceptions with others, “Look, isn’t this amazing?” I’m sure the sophisticates of the Art World find it as silly as the raptures of the “double rainbow” guy, but this way of looking at the world is not sentimental or delusional. The world is a complex phenomenon of interacting forces, and the harmonies and tensions that emerge therefrom are myriad. Aesthetic experience is fundamental to insight in science, philosophy, and the arts.
I’ve made a couple of posts of my photographs of fire (here and here), and one of my commenters, Heart_in_Water, suggested I do a post on water, the dynamic flow that complements fire in the ancient conception of elemental forces. Herewith, a collection of my water shots.
People are instinctively attracted to water, seek it out and gather in its cooling presence. Here’s a scene I came upon in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, looking down from the top of a stream and waterfall. A painter had set up an easel to make a study of the landscape, and a family took turns posing on the rocks and taking pictures of each other with their phones. In the background you can see my friend Peter bending over to take off his shoes, compelled to dance in the stream.
Painter and Photographers, Prospect Park, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt
Even water in a city gutter can provide a glimpse of visual magic. This standing water becomes a gap opening into a looking-glass city beneath the streets.
View of the Undercity, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt
The mirrorlike quality of still water is often used architecturally for this quality of opening up space. Henry Moore’s monumental abstract bronze at Lincoln Center expands to twice its size in a reflecting pool.
Reclining Figure, 1965 sculpture by Henry Moore at Lincoln Center, 2012 photo by Fred Hatt
Emerald Mirror, Prospect Park, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt
Even still water moves on its surface. The bronze angel does not move, but the reflected angel quivers in the wind like the leaves of a tree.
Angel of the Turbulent Surface (Angel of the Waters, 1868 sculpture by Emma Stebbins, at Bethesda Fountain, Central Park), 2008 photo by Fred Hatt
Macy’s in a Puddle, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt
Taxi’s Wake, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt
At night, reflected light does its shimmery shimmy on the surface of water.
Gold Under the Bridge, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt
Water on a Tar Roof, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt
The multiple image below shows the computer-controlled dancing water jets at the Brooklyn Museum, created by WET Design. You can read this set from the bottom up: the lowest image shows the initial burst of the water jets, the second picture shows them shooting high, and the higher images show the columns of water aloft as gravity begins to pull the droplets apart and back to earth.
Brooklyn Museum Fountain, 2006, photos by Fred Hatt
These fountains, with their unpredictable changing patterns, induce states of calm bliss in some who watch them, and screaming excitement in the children.
Fountain Joy, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt
The city is full of more traditional fountains, all of which celebrate the thrilling movements and sounds of water flying through the air and splashing down on itself.
City Hall Park Fountain, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt
Ring of Rain, Ring of Flowers, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt
Fragmenting Sprays, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt
As with fire, the shutter speed makes all the difference in photographing moving water. A fast shutter speed freezes the water as clusters of individual droplets, while a slower shutter speed allows the movement to blur into streaks. Sometimes a still photo of water looks like a sinuous sculpture in glass.
Belt of Water, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt
Fountain Dome, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt
Stairway Cascade, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt
Liquid Chandelier, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt
Dancing Waters, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt
Moving water has a prismatic quality – literally in the case of rainbows created by light shining through mists of droplets. (Click this link for a good explanation of rainbows, moonbows, sundogs, and other variations on the phenomenon.)
Rainbow in Falling water, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt
Water refracts and reflects the light and object colors in its surroundings. Water reflections weave together the colors of the environment without muddying the hues.
Wet Windshield, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt
Low Sun on the River, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt
The texture of the water’s surface varies according to the movement of the water itself and of the air moving over it. The surface of rapidly moving water is dense with perturbation, while stiller water warps light in a more rubbery, tremulous fashion.
Rushing Stream, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt
Rain on Pond, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt
Fluidity, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt
White Splash on Green, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt
I’ve never been able to get good photos of the ocean or surf on the beach. For me, those pictures never quite capture the immensity and power of the breathing sea. Smaller bodies of water, ponds and streams and fountains and puddles, share with me and my camera a vision of Nature as master painter.
Water’s Edge, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt
Ducks’ Domain, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt
This Summer one of my favorite and often-visited bodies of water, the Prospect Park Lake in Brooklyn, was almost completely overtaken by invasive ferns and algae. Apparently our extremely mild last winter played a part in this opaque bloom. Water is vulnerable!
Carpet of Algae, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt
We are creatures of the Watery Planet. Let us celebrate, respect, and protect the water of life.
Reflecting Pool, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt