Sophisticated, Subtle, Substantial

Photography & Conceptualizing Beauty

“The presence of beauty is one of the most neglected presences in our contemporary world. Beauty was the word without which the ancient world refused to know itself; beauty was at the heart of everything they considered. In our times, beauty is reduced to glamour. It caters to the surface and the external image. Once you’ve got the up-front hit from it, there’s nothing behind it. Whereas beauty is a far more sophisticated, subtle and really substantial kind of presence (Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, John O’Donohue, Greenbelt).”

A photograph during a break in a photography workshop – an older homestead outside Vulcan, Alberta (11 November 2011).

Homestead - Vulcan, Alberta

23 thoughts on “Sophisticated, Subtle, Substantial

    1. Hey there, Kenneth:

      Thank you for having a look around and catching up with the Sophisticated, Subtle, Substantial post. The idea of coming to terms with what ‘beauty’ is and how we respond to it is a discourse to unravel … some fun and realization along the way.

      I’m enjoying your photos … as I’ve looked around your site and recent days, one that stands out is the lyrics of U2’s MLK … good.

      Take care,

    1. Hi Maggie …

      Mood & the Vulcan Homestead – That blustery, fall mood of wind and clouds stirring is there; there’s foreboding about what a weather change will mean for the world below. If you are ever able to travel to southern Alberta, it is picturesque in terms of land and sky; it’s a place where you can see for miles and there’s some thinking to do about how to photograph it.

      The night before this photograph was taken, I’d spent an hour with Dean of Deanz Garage a few miles back; we’d been looking at the cars he was restoring and to photographs of vintage vehicles he’s breathed new life into and put on the road. We’d gone back to his house to see a photograph his wife had taken of a grain truck just as they were first pulling it from someone’s farm – a dark rusting relic, a photo well-executed.

      We then went outside to see how the sunset was shaping up – one long curving ridge of pulsing, billowing cloud, lit by the sun in reds; Dean was showing me a weather formation called a Chinook arch caused by a massive temperature change as the air moves across the mountains and begins its journey across the prairie. Vulcan is fifteen hours away from me; my intention, though, is to make my way back and to spend a few days out in the landscape with my camera. I’d encourage you to find your way there, too … if the opportunity is there.

      More of what’s at play in this photograph is what’s on the ground, the homestead, the farm buildings, the equipment, the fence – all have moved into disuse, but remain … for memory’s sake. There’s the beauty of what once was – the tone and mood complement the memorable.

      Maggie – thank you for looking-in on the ‘Sophisticated, Subtle, Substantial’ post. I’m glad the photograph and perhaps John O’Donohue’s words on Beauty connected with you. I like what I’m finding in your ‘Living Life in Glorious Colour’.

      Take care,

  1. I love everything in this picture. The life that once went on under this dark cloudy sky. The life and beauty that remains nowadays. i love John O’Donohue’s words as well as your comment to Maggie. Very inspiring indeed. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the beauty you see with your heart.

  2. Love both the quote and the photo.

    Your photo exemplifies how painful beauty can be at times, I think,
    achingly or searingly so.

    I love the mutable sky, and cloudscapes.

    Thank you.

    ~ Lily

    1. Hey there, Lily:

      You’re connecting with a photo that many are able to find beauty in; John O’Donohue is the source of the quote and he goes on to describe how a group of Jesuit priests were jailed for protesting the Vietnam war … one of the priests notes in a poem how a Tulip in the prison yard strengthens and emboldens him and his cohort. John goes on to take/make new meaning from the phrase ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ – a rich talk is the one he gave and the one that the quote is taken from, something he entitled ‘Beauty: The Divine Embrace.’

      I’m liking the sky and cloudscapes in this photo, too.

      Thanks for looking in ….

      Take care, 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for the info. on O’Donohue.
    I have found his book on Beauty, and from the synopsis, my Mission Statement (so to speak)
    is right in line with his writing. Beauty satiates and sustains, that I know. Gotta love the serendipity
    and connectivity of Life.
    (See also: your gorgeous and lush old-growth forest photo; I am sure my orchid–wrote about earlier in the week– came from such a place,
    though probably on the other side of the world. So, more beauty and serendipity, there. Thanks so much for finding me, so I could find your beautiful site, here.)

    ~ Lily

  4. What a great shot!!! Thanks for liking my posts so I could find you….great work….so much mystery in that photo…

  5. hello lumens borealis. my name is jesse, a musician who is in the process of releasing an album set in Alberta. i find your photographs inspiring. i’m wondering – would you mind if i set some of them to music ?

    the music is a bit on the experimental side – vocal based, and coming from an intention to support well-being (relaxation, compassion, playfulness) on the planet.

    please get in touch: jesse.thom [at]

    thank you for your beautiful work.

    1. Good day, Jesse:

      You’ve some nice tunes and nice sounds, there. Thank you for your kind words with regard to images on ‘In My Back Pocket – Photography.’

      Setting images to music … I’m thinking you’d use a platform like Animoto to pair slide/image presentation with an MP3 or MP4 audio file and create a video that can be embedded within a web page. This interests me and doing so adds purpose to the images.

      It looks like you’ve been sifting through the site today … the question then becomes about what kinds of images support your lyrics. What next step(s) do you propose? Are you good at creating this kind of video entity? Do you need a practiced hand to create the video?

      At this point I’m interested, but, wish to hear more about your intention and about the link between the images and your songs.

      Hopefully, this makes sense.

      Lumens Borealis

    1. Hello Deni:

      The Vulcan, Alberta homestead … in tones and textures, it is somber and is a scene that does make you want to explore, to see more, to understand what this homestead has been. It is one of those first shots on my blog … and a scene I would love to explore again, especially at this time of year with the kind of billowing clouds that present themselves as they move from the rockies over this first bit of the prairies.

      Thanks for connecting with the image … good schtuff!

    1. Hello, hello …

      Thanks for having a look-in here.

      The Car Angles – time as a car jockey and polishing cars and seeing vehicles from ground level has, without doubt, influenced perspective(s) on images of vehicles, shape and shadow, light and gleam or lack. Within these shots, I was enjoying the distortion of wide angle. As car jockey, though, those were good days, just after high school working at Waterloo Mercury in Edmonton – not quite ‘Fast and the Furious’ days but equally interesting along a learning curve of driving various used vehicles coming in on trade or delivering the newest ones to new homes. Curiously, older trucks with their aged condition and size, often with inaccurate speedometers were the best fun.

      Beauty can be found in all situations.

      Take care … 😉

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