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'Snap Decisions' at Columbia's Meeting House Gallery

By Mike Giuliano

10:50 AM EDT, July 31, 2013

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The Columbia Photo Artists' exhibit at the Meeting House Gallery has the punning title "Snap Decisions." It's clear that a lot of planning went into these photographs before they were snapped, because the compositions and lighting are carefully thought out.

The numerous shots of nature, for instance, certainly involved as much planning as anything that a photographer might set up inside a studio. These outdoor shots often get up close to a subject and then show it in isolation.

Jay Taylor's "A Lily in a Pond" is a close-up shot of a pink-and-white flower flanked by vibrantly green leaves. Those leaves blur in the background, ensuring that your attention remains on the single flower in the foreground. A similar strategy is deployed for "A Butterfly in a Daisy."

When Taylor pulls further back, he may go quite a distance. In "A Bridge in Venice," he shows a gondola in a canal that's heading toward a beautiful bridge; this shot also gives you a nice look at the surrounding buildings. As with several other photographers in the show, Taylor features both local and distant subjects.

Another nature-oriented photographer who likes to get up close is Tim Ambrose, whose "Dew in the Morning" is such an extreme close-up of a pink flower that you can count the drops of water on its petals. In "The Iris," Ambrose prompts you to keep your attention on that flower by placing it against a dark black background.

Harriet Rosenberg favors relatively wider views of nature. In the black-and-white "Little Gunpowder Falls," there is an appealing shimmering effect achieved when the sun plays across the surface of a stream. Although Rosenberg shoots "The Old Mill" in color, the mill's worn wood walls and stone foundation are so subdued in coloration that the shot seems drained of most color.

Also going for a contemplative tone is Joan Forester. "Sylvan Quiet" depicts autumn woods in whch both the forest floor and the tree canopy are softly golden in hue. Much more dramatic is Forester's "Yellowstone Falls," a long view of this powerful waterfall descending between craggy cliffs in Wyoming.

The human presence in nature is implied by Jerry Gettleman's "Old Red Truck." This vintage vehicle is parked next to a faded gasoline sign and pump that seem every bit as old within a rural setting that contains no people.

For another old car, check out Bruce Blum's "Street Scene, Havana." Unlike the worse for wear truck in Gettleman's shot, this ancient American car obviously has been nursed along for decades by its Cuban owner and positively glistens. By way of contrast, the car is parked beside Cuban residential buildings so faded and cracked that they have a sort of derelict charm.

Traveling much closer to home, Blum also has a black-and-white shot, "Howard County Conservancy," in which the panoramic perspective emphasizes rolling fields punctuated by bales of hay.

True to this exhibit's tendency to incorporate both nature and travel shots, Jerry Weinstein has a "Bluebird" that is very close and very blue, as well as a "Clown in Bolivar Square, Bogota," whose multi-hued costume is complemented by the colorful balloon sculpture he's holding.

Again and again in this group show, you essentially have choices between taking a vacation or a staycation.

For those with passports in hand, go to see Ann Eid's "Harbor, Copenhagen." It's a straightforward look down a narrow, boat-lined canal. This is an especially harmonious composition owing to the grayish-white tone that predominates in the overcast sky and the canal water.

And for those who think there's no place like home, Dennis Gilbert's "People Tree at Dusk" shows this outdoor sculpture's abstracted human figures silhouetted against a nearly dark sky in downtown Columbia.

The Columbia Photo Artists' exhibit "Snap Decisions" runs through Sept. 7 at the Meeting House Gallery in the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center, 5885 Robert Oliver Place, in Columbia. Call 410-730-4090 or go to http://www.themeetinghouse.org/gallery.