Expedition 2014

Antworks in progress

Antworks in progress

In a few days we’re heading back down to Costa Rica.  The process of gathering the equipment – cameras, lenses, lights, tripods, hard drives, monitors, cables, batteries, the list always seems endless – is an exercise in precision and anxiety.  Forget one cable or adapter and the shoot is compromised.  What a lot of stuff it takes to work with ants.  We lay everything out on the studio floor, check each piece of gear, each connection, each light.

This year for the first time I'll be concentrating on photography.  What a relief the four videos are finally filmed – We Rule and The Chosen are finished; War and Antworks are in post.  Although I’ve done some photography on each trip, I’ve never had time to focus on it.  Shooting the videos, working with a cast of millions of ants to create a narrative, is like hovering around a black hole.  They suck up every ounce of time and mental energy.

If all goes swimmingly well, if the ants are amenable, the weather cooperative, and my prized plant in good shape, then over the month I hope to do four different series of photographs.

One series is similar to the above image. Using the same colorful plant from the Antworks video, I plan to set-up a dense thicket and photograph as the ants strip the leaves to reveal an abstract tangle of branches.  No up, no down - ants defy our tie to gravity - but a  square photograph that captures the entangled dynamic of ant and plant.

But, instead of one frame, like this image, I plan to do a Gigapan.  I’ll take several photos and stitch them together to make one large high-res image.  That should be a challenge.  Supposedly it's not that complicated, but shooting a moving subject makes it a more difficult proposition.  I’ll also attempt to focus stack a photograph - to take several frames of one image, each with a different focus, and combine them to create a seemingly three dimensional view.  I'd love to get beyond the shallow depth of field inherent in macro photography.  We’ll see.

My goal with these images, and with the project in general, is to find a balance between nature and culture and to create situations where the two commingle.  If my input predominates the work seems heavy-handed, but too much nature and it becomes a documentary.  It's the search for the provocative points where the two overlap that excites me.