Triptych Art: Windows to a Larger World

According to Wikipedia, the triptych is a sacred form that originated in early Christian art where it appeared as altar pieces. The art was presented in three panels and was usually hinged together. The three pieces created a much wider, dramatic presentation. This panoramic artwork provided the viewer with virtual windows opening into a larger world.

Rush Creek Trail Triptych

I’ve been making triptychs for more than 25 years. My very first attempts, like the early church artisans, were hinged versions. But, they were heavy, unwieldily and nearly impossible to hang safely. I abandoned the hinged version but continued to make individually-framed versions. Once I acquired a larger mat cutter I began producing single-piece triptychs featuring large mats with triple windows to reveal the three photographs. This is the method I use most frequently today. Some collectors prefer individually-framed versions and so I continue to offer that style too. Samples of these varying styles of triptych framing are here: Art on Walls.

Bolinas Rdg. 3 Traditionally framed

Single Scene Triptychs – Two Origins

Additive Triptychs
All my first triptychs were made from a single scene, painstakingly photographed on film – each panel a separate exposure.   I searched for landscapes that would be dynamic in it’s entirety, but would have features that would be suitable that each exposure (panel) would be interesting to the eye. Each exposure is added to the others to complete the continuous scene. The best ones I made are the Bolinas Ridge Triptych and the Point Reyes Triptych. I didn’t have a name for this kind of triptych, but I now call them “single-scene additive triptychs.”

Divided Triptychs
A few years ago a client needed a very large artwork for her New York home. Logistics and framing required a new approach. My more panoramic triptychs would not work in the space. I searched my catalog for a high-quality film image that could be divided into three vertical panels, framed individually and hung in series. Tomales Bay and Black Mountain, a sweeping view of the Point Reyes area was repurposed to become the Olema Hill Triptych. The photograph divided beautifully into three interesting panels. This is my first “single-scene divided triptych.” I have since found two other large-format film photographs that also divide beautifully: the Tamalpais Ridges and Alabama Hills triptychs have been added to my online collection.

Olema Hill Triptych

Multiple-Scene Triptychs
Other evocative triptychs can be created by the careful combining of related, harmonious photographs. Shapes, places, subject matter, even weather can create the grouping. For instance, these botanicals were found at the same place enjoying the same refreshing morning dew.  This North Bay Trees Triptych  includes three majestic trees captured in the infrared spectrum during the spring of 2015. Triptychs can be linked together by shape: Parabolic Dunes. These portraits of teasels, seem to be animated, connected by their gestures: Teasel Dancers. A lake, the ocean, and the desert share the beauty of a darkened sky in California Dark Skies.

North Bay Trees Triptych

I’ve been making triptychs for over 25 years now. The triptychs I create today honor the ancient art form. I’ve just added a dozen new triptychs to my  Triptych Collection here. The most popular sizes can be ordered online, but if you need something bigger please contact me. Triptych art will open windows to a larger world on your wall!

Here are samples, of actual and virtual triptych installations. My free Art preview service enables you to visualize artwork on your own walls to assess size and compositions.

The Moon and Venus Glowed Brightly

The Moon and Venus glowed brightly and the frogs were so loud that when I look at this photograph I still hear them….

My friends, Hadley and Marty B. stood with me on the shore of this hidden cove at Lake Nicasio, all of us struck silent by the startling beauty of the moon and venus in the darkening sky. As we set up our cameras, the silence broke. Two bullfrogs began croaking in joyous guttural conversation, first one to our left, then a reply came from our right. Back and forth they sang! It seemed that they acknowledged and accepted our peaceful presence. The sky so deep, so dark, so quiet. The frogs so deliriously happy…. we too. All of us delighted in the evening’s magic moment.

We had come to Lake Nicasio to see if we could find darkened skies suitable for photographing the stars.  Hoping for stars above and their reflections on still waters, this late February date provided us with both. It was clear, very, very cold… and not a breath of wind to stir the surface of the lake.  At first, I resisted including the brightly-glowing, new moon in my composition. I knew that the long time exposure would blur it’s shape. However, I soon decided to try.

I’m pleased by the effect of the diffused but brilliant light these heavenly orbs express in the night sky photograph. The long exposure reveals more of the millions of stars that are above us. This new photograph,  The Moon and Venus, Lake Nicasio has been added to the online catalog.


Stars Above, Stars Below

Details: Cypress and Stars (above), Teasel and Stars (below)

Photography Highlights from 2016

2016 Photo Review Gallery Here
My 2016 photography year began during morning walks, when I explored dewdrops, sparkling in the first sunlight on newly-leafing plants & gossamer webs near my home. As the year ended, I stood, under the dark skies above Point Reyes, looking up in quiet wonder. I trained my camera at the billions of stars glowing in galactic space. When I recently reviewed this last year’s work, I was struck by the thread that connects these vast distances and magnitudes of scale. The thread, of course, is the light, itself. How irresistably seductive this light is to me, whether it glows in micro-bursts from the small world below my fingertips or sparkles, fiery from the multitudes of stars in the vast, unfathomable reaches of space. This light is what I have been photographing all these years.

I began the year, in January, with a new little camera, a Sony RX 100m3. I put this versatile and capable tool in my pocket, so I would have it with me as I walked near my home. New worlds drew me in because I walked with a camera. I began looking more closely on my morning walks. Soon, frost crystals on teasels, shining bubbles on new-sprung puddles and sparkling dewdrops on webs came into view. A forest of teasels only a hundred yards from my home became a favorite stopping point. I marveled at their intricate structure, even more so when they were covered with frost or dew-festooned webs.

I’ve always enjoyed the surprises I found by taking a closer look at the “small world.” The little camera whetted my appetite for close-up work, and I invested in a fine Zeiss 90mmf/2.8 macro lens for my Sony A7R.  I used it some on the cactus flowers during a visit to Joshua Tree in April. When I returned home, the spring warmth had opened a riot of roses in our front yard, so I trained the new lens on the dew-speckled roses near my front steps.

While in Joshua Tree another seed got planted. The clear night sky kept me up late studying the heavens above the desert. I made my first serious explorations of the night sky to record the magnificence of our Milky Way.  When I returned home to Point Reyes, I began watching the night sky, hopeful of an opportunity to photograph the stars here.  I watched above throughout this last summer, waiting for a time the moon was dark and the fog had left our coast. I watched and waited – and then, on a startlingly warm and clear night at the end of September, the right moment came! I went to Drakes Bay and was stunned to see the galactic core of the Milky Way setting adjacent to a favorite cliff.

That remarkable night, when the night sky at Point Reyes first opened for me, I became excited – there was no turning back.  For the next two months I ventured to my favorite beaches and made a number of starry sky photographs.  Most of them can be seen in my online gallery collection:  In early December, another new lens entered my life. The Zeiss Batis 2.8/18 is highly corrected for use in night photography. I took it out for a spin before 2016 ended.  In late December I finished my photography for the year with a night visit to Pierce Point Ranch on the northernmost reaches of the Point Reyes Peninsula. The next evening I visited Sky Trail on the flanks of Mt. Wittenberg. I’ve added these new photographs to the Night Sky Collection.