Volcano – abstraction of peeling bark

I’ve spent the last few days continuing to work on a piece of peeling bark I found in my yard this winter. I pretty pleased with the direction it’s been taking. The first few photographs were visually interesting, but as I’ve worked on it, a clear theme has begun to emerge. A small crack that cut through the bark revealed itself to be the cone of an ancient volcano, with the rough texture of the bark looking like crumbling rock. A fragment of peeled bark, out of focus in the deep background, became smoke rising from the cone.

Volcano (abstract of bark) ©Daniel Sroka
Volcano (abstract of bark) ©Daniel Sroka

The photograph above is just one of around 20 variations I have made so far. I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with the point of focus. The entire character of the photograph is altered depending on which parts of the bark are in or out of focus. Getting this just right usually requires the most amount of work. As I’ve done this, I’ve also been trying to establish the mood of the photography by playing around with light and color. Using some dried leaves as a backdrop, I added a burnt brown color the “sky”, while a flourescent light underneath helped to cool down the base of the “mountain”. Still more work to go…


Interesting insight of your visualization process. I often wondered what the source of background colors were as well. To me what you are doing seems very analogous to sketching. Do you think of it that way?

Paul, I usually think of my working style as being closer to sculpting. Probably because I’ve done a lot of abstract stone carving. I favor direct carving, where you have no preconceived notions of what you are sculpting, and you let the stone guide your work). With my photography, I feel like I am carving an image out of the light and shadow, out of subject and background.

Dan – that’s a great analogy and not one I believe I’ve heard applied to photography. Painters sometimes speak of sculpting the paint on the canvas, but I can see the analogy applied to your work very well also.

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