photo sharing and upload picture albums photo forums search pictures popular photos photography help login
Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Fifteen: Making travel portraits that define personality and character. > The Bottle Man, Oro Grande, California, 2006
previous | next

The Bottle Man, Oro Grande, California, 2006

I spent an hour visiting with Elmer Long and viewing his unique art -- a forest of trees with old bottles for branches. (For an image of that art, click on the thumbnail below.) I made this portrait of Elmer in his home, as he talked of his life and his art. The battered hat and long beard give Elmer much of his character. I have tried to imply even more character by including his folded hands. They may be at rest, but they are well worn and well used. I use soft window light so that Elmer can come to us from out of mysterious shadows. His work comes from the imagination, and the source of imagination is often shrouded in mystery.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30
1/40s f/3.6 at 29.6mm iso80 full exif

other sizes: small medium large original auto
Phil Douglis20-Nov-2006 17:56
Thanks, Enny -- soft window light usually can add both mood and meaning to portraits. In this one, it creates an interplay between light and and shadow that speaks softly of time and mystery.
Guest 20-Nov-2006 13:57
great the light and compo.
Phil Douglis17-Apr-2006 06:11
Sorry I missed the program. I was away, shooting in Asia.
Guest 20-Mar-2006 02:34
Hi just saw elmer and his glass trees featured on Offbeat America on HGTV tonight so i looked him up on the net and saw your blog here...thanks...sandy
Phil Douglis27-Feb-2006 22:23
Thank you, Galina, for this insight. Someone once said that the "eyes are the windows of the soul." If that is the case, we can see Elmer's thoughtful soul at work here. The interplay of light and shadow certainly plays its role as a curtain here, and adds both mood and atmosphere.
Galina Stepanova27-Feb-2006 20:06
Probably two things are most important for deep spiritual portrait-eyes and light.
His eyes look deep inside, feels like he lost in his thoughts. Yes, the light is creating mysterious mood and opening a little curtains so viewer can look in his soul.
Phil Douglis27-Feb-2006 17:39
The light on this portrait puts me in very good company, Mo. Thank you.
monique jansen27-Feb-2006 15:08
reminds me of one of my favorite photographers, Steve McCurry , or one of my favorite painters, Rembrandt. Very skillful use of light and shadow to create a meaningful portrait
Phil Douglis21-Feb-2006 04:47
Yes, it is amazing -- not just how we expressed ourselves about Elmer, but about everything we saw. Twenty photographers, each with different visions and sensibilities. And what a learning experience it was for all of us, to draw on each other's insights. We talked non stop for three days.

And yes, the mood of the light and color of your child's portrait, and this image, are very similar. Quiet, introspective, with a touch of mystery. I can't tell what the books are about, but he had books all over the room.He also had a mannequin there as well, but it seemed so out of character that I did not photograph him with it.
Guest 21-Feb-2006 04:31
This is an amazing picture. It is interesting to see how the various photographers participating in your trip captured this character, all so differently.
The first time I saw it, it reminded me of my child's picture The subject is quite different, but the colours and lighting have similarities.
Interesting detail: the books on the shelf on his left - they look like childrens' books!
Phil Douglis18-Feb-2006 06:52
Thank you, Ana, for this comment. Shadows abstract the subject. Abstraction is one of the three most important principles in expressive photography because it encourages viewers to use their own imaginations when reading a picture. And that is precisely what you are saying here. Less usually says more.
Anna Yu18-Feb-2006 06:19
Sometimes the use of shadow is more important than the use of light. To hide things. To add mystery. Very ince portrait that doesn't reveal everything.
Guest 18-Feb-2006 01:21
Excellent shot!
Phil Douglis18-Feb-2006 01:03
Thanks, Carol and Ana for these observations. This image is all about the light. I made one earlier from further away when he was closer to the light, and it did not work. It described him, but did not define him. The interplay of light and shadow on the face and hands do indeed guide the eye and imply meaning, rather than merely describe his appearance.
Ana Carloto O'Shea18-Feb-2006 00:45
And he does come to us from subtle shadows... Seems perfect here. That shread of light coming from the right and landing softly on his shirt creates a path that breaks the image in two parts and "forces" us to look down to his hands, which are as important as his face... And I think we look at his hands, because of that subltle light otherwise the main and only focus will be on his face. I love that imaginary line that is created by the light that guides us from the face to the hands and then... our eyes can leave :) the light seems beautiful outside and we are left wondering what's there too...
I like this portrait a lot actually, being a great observer of the way the light is used in portraits it would be hard not to like this one. A favourite indeed!!!!
Carol E Sandgren17-Feb-2006 21:58
I can see teh mystery in his eyes...simply because they are looking away. The shadowy light also adds quite a lot to the unknown. Unfortunately I was not able to meeth this talented man since I had to break away from the workshop early, but now I am intrigued, and hope that I may go there sometime in the future. Your portrait holds such intrigue!
Type your message and click Add Comment
It is best to login or register first but you may post as a guest.
Enter an optional name and contact email address. Name
Name Email
help private comment