patrick hutchison /
deep planes creative

channel, flow

Looking at the image that heads this post, I am vividly reminded of the experience of taking it. Stepping outside in the crisp early morning, along a channel of the Mississippi River in La Crosse, WI, I managed to land in the moment where banks of fog began to form over the water. For the first few minutes it was clear, and then I turned my attention from some nearby subject and saw this.

The resulting picture fits well with the goals of my ongoing Driftless project. There is interaction between the built environment and the water and islands of the Driftless Region, seen in the floodlights that would be excluded from a more traditional landscape. There is an opacity or sense of mystery to what we are looking at. And like many photos in the series, the viewer perhaps feels a little bit alone, observant, outside. So why isn’t it actually in the published series?

Of the 87 final selections (from ~1,000 taken this last trip), why are only around 15 included? Why didn’t this shot of a foggy bridge make the cut for the current version of the collection, or this scene from my hotel? It’s the same fog, and the same moon. There’s a bit of mystery in both, or at least an occlusion that stymies our full grasp of the scene. Shots taken from the bridge have appeared in the work previously, as have some buildings in the cityscape. The answers often come down to small degrees of difference or gut feeling, or - less romantically - space. While I liked the effect of the mist in the girders, that image ultimately felt too clean and abstracted for how the series has trended over time. Perhaps if I capture similar vibes in the future, it won’t feel as out of place. And although the city of La Crosse has certainly featured in the series, it tends to be in close up, seeing its funky little details. This one feels anonymous and better saved for some other project.

These decisions are a huge part of channeling the flow of our creativity. In working toward a cohesive and effective body of work, we have to be discerning and willing to make difficult exclusions. Editing hurts. I really, really wanted to have that first picture in the series. It’s arguably the handsomest shot of the entire excursion, and it hits all the right points. But the thing is, this one is just righter:

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