Crozet Calendar Clinic: Anna Henderson

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Anna Henderson’s photograph is featured in the 2021 Crozet calendar.

Each month a prize-winning photograph from the archives of the Crozet Calendar will be published together with a story from the photographer of how the image was made and commentary by Sam Abell about the merits of the photograph.

“I’m starving for color.”

With those words my friend and fellow photographer Arthur Meyerson declared his desire to move on from Hokkaido’s snowy landscape where we had been working for a week. I was sympathetic but not feeling as starved for color as my Texas-born friend. I liked the colorlessness of Japan’s northernmost island, one of the snowiest places on earth. Maybe that’s because I began as a black and white film photographer who grew up under the influence of the Great Lakes’ white winter weather. I felt nourished by the same snowy whiteness that was starving Arthur.

But his statement made me think about taste in color and how it varies from person to person. The range of colors I most respond to is well represented in Anna Henderson’s fine photograph of tire tracks in the snow. But not everyone finds such monochromatic scenes worthy of being photographed so I asked about her experience of coming upon such a colorless scene and boldly committing it to a color photograph.

“I had been anticipating the perfect time to get some photos of snow, but this was January of 2020 and we hadn’t had much yet. So after a couple of inches fell one day I grabbed my camera and drove around Crozet trying to find things to photograph before the snow melted. I was trying to find the perfect place to get some images of fog on the mountains.”  

“When I drove into the parking lot at Chiles Orchard I did not think much of the tracks that my tires made because I had gone there for the orchard. But just before leaving I decided to photograph the fog. At first, I was disappointed by the fence and parking lot being in my way, but decided to use my wide angle lens anyway. It was then I noticed the pattern of the tracks in the snow. I stepped as far back as I could without having my footprints in the frame and quickly took a couple last photos of the day.”

How often this happens. Photographers approach a situation with a predetermined point of view. They know what they’re after and pursue it with a single mind. But life surprises them with other possibilities. If they’re alert and responsive these other possibilities often yield interesting photographs. This happens to me often enough that I’ve made it a rule never to leave a situation without stopping to look back. The situation often looks different—and sometimes better—than when I was walking towards it wearing the straightjacket of my own assumptions.

Anna’s story of her connection to photography also intrigued me. “I became interested in photography in sixth grade when I got my first basic camera and would run around taking pictures of my cat and my friends. However, after a few years my uncle, who is a professional photographer, gave me his old Nikon D5200 and a few basic lenses. Since then I have been pursuing digital photography and trying to learn different techniques and grow as a photographer. I have also been taking advantage of the darkroom at school to get more into film photography. Through this, I have become fascinated with how the process of developing photos makes each component of photography, in general, seem so simple.

“I’m now a senior at Western High School taking an independent study course focused around photography, both digital and film. So fortunately I have many opportunities to fit photography into my schedule.

“For the most part, I am drawn to macro photography because I enjoy finding ways to expand on the smaller, less-seen parts of the world. Recently, however, I have been exploring landscape photography and love seeing how I can translate what I see in real life into a photo. There are so many beautiful places around our area that I have been photographing for years. I usually find myself at places such as Chiles or Mint Springs, but I also take just as many photos around my neighborhood and at my school as well.”

Color—or lack of it—isn’t the only virtue of Anna’s image. Her point of view gives a dynamic perspective to the scene. The use of a wide angle lens (which exaggerates the foreground somewhat) adds to that dramatic feeling. The result is an image that radiates a strong sense of personal presence. We feel we’re standing in the parking lot with her. And Anna wasn’t wrong about the fog on the mountain. It is important—but not as the subject of the photograph. The subject, she realized, isn’t in the distance. It’s in the pattern of tire tracks at her feet. The fog skirting the mountains finishes her photograph. And finishing photographs is important. 

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