Say you want to portray a rose -- not a particular rose but the quintessential rose. You want to capture the essence and spirit of all roses -- "rose-ness" if you will. You could start with a lifelike photograph, gradually remove the nonessential bits and highlight the key attributes common to all roses. Kind of like switching from a 17th century Dutch master to a 19th century French impressionist.
That's what I was thinking about last weekend while trying to portray the sights and sounds of thousands of sandhill cranes and tens of thousands of white geese who congregate every winter at the spectacular Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. I didn't want to just show birds (as impressive as they are) -- I wanted to show what it felt like to be there. To show the tranquility of a family of cranes gliding silently, ghost-like across a twilit sky. To show the tumultuous ascent of countless white geese at sunrise.
So, I tried an experiment -- a technique my friend Deb showed me a few weeks ago where I set my camera to multi-exposure mode, telling it to overlay three exposures in a single image. I've never done this before so there was the distinct possibility that I would arrive home with a card full of blurry and garbled images. Fortunately, some of them came out OK! They're still a far cry from being there but several actually hint at Bosque del Apache-ness! Here are a few of my favorites.