This is the first photo-montage I created, and due to the relative spontaneity and simplicity I think it's one of the better ones. I also feel that it works well as photography, and while I still may decide to try it with oil paints, I am currently having it printed on canvas at about 36"x40". I'm not sure if the low resolution (the two scenes were scanned from 3.5x5" prints) will help or hurt, but I can't envision the work being very effective at a much smaller size.
The landscape on top is a crater lake on Isabela Island in the Galapagos, near sea level and surrounded by dry deciduous forest (the same lake as shown in the link). The scene beneath is shot from a ridge in Kokee State Park on Kauai, Hawaii, only a few miles from the wettest place on earth. Sharp transitions between wet and dry, particularly on islands, fascinate me more than most other landscapes, and while it's not easy to figure out exactly why this is, I'm pretty sure it has something to do with feeling more "omnipotent" being able to experience in a few moments a condition normally associated with continental scales. (I suppose this has something to do with growing up in the relatively monotonous Midwest...I'd probably find it less entrancing had it been Hawaii.) I discuss this idea of landscape compression in my Statement - it drives pretty much all the compositions I've created.
The Hawaiian and Galapagos archipelagos contain some of the world's most ecologically diverse islands, in terms of moisture variation due to elevation change (along with the Canaries and some Caribbean islands, notably Saba in the Netherlands Antilles). The photo-montage thus accentuates a condition that occurs in both island groups - I've played with the brightness (by adding "mist" in the upper-right of the lower image) and the perspective to draw the landscapes even closer together than they would actually occur. I've tried to create the impression that the lush foreground is just across across the lake from, and only slightly higher than, the much drier landscape in the distance.
In this and all subsequent works, my choice to combine scenes based on their content rather than actual geographic proximity has removed any intent of site-specificity. I feel the compositions would be less powerful as potentially real places if they were known to be idealizations of particular locales.
Passing from sea level to summit or leeward side to windward side, the Hawaiian and Galapagos Islands contain desert, dry forest, cloud forest, and (in areas too wet for trees) moorland or bog; deserts appear again at the summits of islands high enough to rise above the clouds. In many cases the gradients are extraordinarily sharp, and I've wondered why this seems to be the case particularly in tropical and subtropical regions. The elevation changes that produce these gradients sometimes seem barely Annual Precipitation, Hawaiian Islands (for scale, Maui is about 40 miles long)noticeable compared to mountains in the American West that support forests in the middle of deserts. (And outside the Pacific Northwest, these forests are still relatively dry.)
While the moisture gradients are still noticeable, unfortunately many of the original ecosystems have been destroyed or greatly altered by grazing, agriculture, or alien species. In Hawaii for example, 90% of the dry forest has been destroyed, and most visitors don't realize that nearly all the low-elevation rainforest they see around scenic waterfalls is so dominated by alien plants that it can no longer be considered "native" forest.