OF RESONANCE AND LANDSCAPES
Some of you may be surprised to learn that I have been directing choirs in the Southern California area for nearly 30 years. I have spent a good part of my life practicing on instruments, learning to read music, and eventually earning a Bachelors and a Masters in Choral Conducting. There was a time, in the not too distant past, when I was convinced that I would continue to teach until well into my seventies as many of my colleagues have done and are continuing to do. But in 2006, I picked up a Nikon DSLR camera for the first time. It was the first time I held a decent camera in my hands since shooting landscapes with a Canon AE-1 after I had just graduated from high school. For the next three or four years, I shot everything. Portraits, street photography, macro…it didn’t matter. I just wanted to get out with my camera whenever I had a chance. In 2009, I took my camera to Yosemite and to Laguna Beach for the first time, and began to realize that my true passion in photography was landscapes. By that point, I had looked at thousands upon thousands of photos featuring portraits, auto shows, air shows, sports, and street scenes, et . Eventually I began to realize that they really weren’t making an impact on me, even though they were excellent and may have been taken by incredible photographers. At the same time, there were photos that I had come across that were taken of the Dolomites in Italy, Reine in Norway, Patagonia in Chile, Banff in Canada…these photos stopped me dead in my tracks. They resonated.
As I was trying to come up with a name for this blog, it struck me that there were several musical terms or adjectives that are usually descriptive of sound properties that carry over to describing a landscape. “Composition”, “contour”, “dynamics”, “balance”, “dissonance”, “harmony”, just to name a few. In choral music, we use the term “resonance” to describe a certain ringing that appears in the tone of the human voice when the jaw and pharynx are positioned correctly. Additionally, the string of a violin resonates in the body of the violin, the length of a flute resonates as it is blown into, and so on. In short, if something resonates, it is moved sympathetically as a result of the sound that is initiated. In trying to come up with a term to describe what I felt as I looked out on an incredible sunrise while up in Yosemite, or the Milky Way glowing brightly above Joshua Tree, or a storm moving in while perched on a mountainside overlooking Glacier National Park, the term “resonance” seemed perfect. That scene resonated in me, and I believe the same scene, for whatever reason, resonates in many of you as well. Between the light…and the mountain peaks….and the reflection in the lake….and the billowing clouds…there’s just something about that moment that resonates deeply in just about all of us as human beings.
As a choral music professor, I remember being surprised to learn that Ansel Adams was headed towards a career as a professional musician before becoming sidetracked by landscape photography. I was further surprised when I came across a quote by the great landscape photographer Galen Rowell recently which stated “”Ordering a performance of light rays for the public eye is much like ordering a performance of sound waves for the public ear.” It is with these comments in mind that I, a choral music director by trade, now embark on a part time career in landscape photography in search of more of those moments when time seems to stand still. More moments between a man and his creator. More moments when the clouds part and your heart seems like it will explode because you’ve honestly never seen anything quite so beautiful in your entire life. More moments when you encounter a truly resonant landscape.
William McIntosh first began shooting landscapes with a Canon AE1 just out of high school in 1981. Since switching to a digital camera in 2007, William has shot extensively throughout the United States and Europe and has done work for several clients including Disney, the Orange County Register, and Popular Photography Magazine. His photos have also been featured in several publications and online blogs. Over the past 30 years, The Nikon D4 and D800 have replaced the old Canon AE1, but William’s passion for shooting landscapes hasn’t diminished. Whether he is heading out at 4 AM to catch a sunrise in Laguna, dragging his three kids halfway across Austria just to get to Heiligenblut before sunset, or staying up until 2 AM to shoot an empty Disneyland, William’s goal as a photographer is to simply be there when the magic happens. He currently resides in North Orange County, California.