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July 01, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, July 01, 2005

The color and texture of nature The color and texture of nature (July 01, 2005)

Photographs explore the vivid hues of trees, leaves and rocks

By Katie Vaughn

When Bruce Hodge sets out to take a photograph, he makes sure to slow down. He examines the small things around him, their shapes, colors and textures. And his resulting photographic prints, on display at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, encourage viewers to do the same.

While earning a degree in mathematics at the University of Georgia, Hodge also took classes in photography, studio art and art history. He practiced black-and-white photography, but had little time for the pursuit after moving to Palo Alto to work as a computer scientist.

But a string of negative events 10 years ago prompted Hodge to reevaluate his life, and in the process he rediscovered his love of photography. He took the art form back up, this time working with color film. His body of work has become a collection of vividly hued prints of trees, leaves and rocks, the simple objects he finds when he ventures into nature.

"I basically like to go to places that have a variety of form and texture," Hodge said. "It's sort of a voyage of discovery. I'm really trying to see the world as if I'm seeing it for the first time."
Weston's influence

Hodge touts Edward Weston as his main artistic influence. A 20th century photographic master, Weston is credited with helping to transfer photography from the realm of portraits and soft, painterly effects to fully utilizing the medium's ability to capture the detailed properties of simple objects.

"He's one of the real icons of fine-art photography," Hodge said. "He started looking at everyday things for their form. I'm heavily influenced by that because I'm looking at things for their form, their texture, their color."

The practice of bringing out the inherent qualities of photography can be seen in Hodge's images of rocks. While most feature bright shades of blues and oranges, they vary drastically in pattern and texture, ranging from smooth to porous and jagged.

Hodge took many of his rock photographs at Point Lobos, a popular spot among photographers, as its rock formations offer interesting shots that constantly change due to weather, lighting and the tides. Hodge also enjoys photographing objects and scenes in Hawaii, Maine, Costa Rica and throughout California.

From Hawaii came "Heliconia, Hana," an image of overlapping green, purple and pink leaves with a distinct graphic quality. Viewers may notice the patterns and colors before they identify the subject as leaves. Hodge encourages such processes.

"We're used to seeing things and categorizing them," he said. "It's what you have to do to cope, otherwise you'd never get anything done. But I try to see the things you ordinarily wouldn't take notice of."

More complex is Hodge's "Maple Leaf, Gazos Creek." A combination of textures and colors, the image features a large gold leaf and orange pine needles resting on dark craggy rocks, with gleaming blue water flowing in between. It's a scene many have likely passed on a hike, but one that few have probably stopped to admire. Captured by Hodge, it becomes a sight worth contemplating.
The big picture

Hodge also documents larger scenes, such as in "Looking Out, Wildhorse Valley," a hyper-realistic photograph of a tree. Brilliant white branches with green moss pop from a backdrop of dark forest, creating a sense of silence and stillness. Similarly striking is "Sky and Reeds, Acadia," a calm scene with a minimalist, Asian feel. Bright green stalks of leaves and grass emerge from perfectly still water reflecting fluffy white clouds.

It takes Hodge several steps to produce his crisp, boldly colored images. After shooting photographs onto transparency film, he views his shots on a light table and picks out the ones he likes. He makes high-resolution scans of those, and uses the files in Photoshop, cropping shots down or adjusting their tonality if necessary. He runs the photos though a final elimination, and sends those that make the cut to a professional lab for printing.

Hodge takes as many as three dozen shots on a photographic outing, but of this batch, only a select few make it to print.

"I feel really lucky if one image ends up going on the wall," Hodge said.

Hodge's familiarity with computers has enhanced the efficiency of his art, and represents one of the many ways practicing photography melds the analytical and creative sides of his personality. Through the past decade, photography has become much more than a hobby for Hodge. It has become a major part of his life, altering both how he lives and the way he sees the world around him.

"It really changed my life," he said.

Hodge's photography is exhibited through Aug. 11 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St. Show hours are 12-1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and one hour prior to a public performance.

E-mail Katie Vaughn at [email protected]

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