Weekends pass slowly at the Ithaca Bakery at the Triphammer Mall as people relax at the intimate café tables — laughing and chatting together. It’s a scene of tranquility, even down to the photographs of flowing falls and quiet wooded scenery on the walls.
A series of photographs of Ithaca’s beautiful natural sites, the gorges and state parks, “Mist, Light and Stone” by local resident Dan Elswit is showing at the Ithaca Bakery at the Triphammer Mall until Tuesday.
A place for people to sit and relax while enjoying a cup of coffee or a bagel, the Ithaca Bakery keeps a continuous rotation of works from artists in the area to display their pieces.
Elswit said he wanted to show his photographs in the bakery because of other local artists’ work at the store. Also, the bakery has a familiar, welcoming atmosphere perfect for an art setting.
“I don’t put my photos up anywhere,” he said. “I want to make sure the environment feels right.”
Sandy List, director of marketing and public relations at the bakery, said she chose to showcase Elswit’s work because of its professional quality and its local theme.
“They’re evocative and appealing, and they would work well in that setting,” she said. “It goes with who we are — an independent local business. It just fits in with our mission.”
Elswit worked on the series for a year before displaying the 13 pictures at the bakery. Strictly a nature photographer, Elswit said he likes his images to showcase beauty and perfection in the environment.
“I am inspired by the natural world,” he said. “I am particularly interested in the idealistic view of things because it feels like you get enough of the real world when you’re out there.”
One of the more recognizable photos of Ithaca is of the Buttermilk Falls State Park. Sweeping water cascades down over the cliff, falling into a placid pool of water below. The vibrant green of the moss-covered gorge mixes with the lustrous white of the flowing water in a moment of fantastical beauty.
Because of the serene and soothing atmosphere they offer, Elswit said the waterfalls became a powerful source of inspiration in the series.
“There is something about moving water — I just find it so tranquil,” Elswit said. “My job and my life is kind of hectic, so I go out in the wild for peace and tranquility.”
Ithaca resident Linda Hirvonen visits the bakery almost every day and said the pieces stood out to her because of the outstanding beauty in the images.
“The reproduction is gorgeous,” she said. “The photographic angles they’re taken at are very beautiful.”
Unlike some photographers today, Elswit said he embraces the use of digital cameras and computer programs to enhance or modify the images.
“A lot of people think of digital photography as film photography with unlimited film, but there’s so much more to do,” he said. “It’s a whole different medium.”
Elswit used one of these modifying techniques to combine multiple pictures for a photograph of a bridge at Upper Treman Park to create an image with more dynamic lighting and defined details. In the photograph, vibrant green leaves cover the ground of the gorges. A dark stone bridge cuts across the bright color of the trees growing from the sides of the cliff while the entire scene is bathed in brilliant sunlight — a powerful mix of man and natural beauty.
Elswit said using the techniques in digital programs such as Photoshop help him to use his original images to realize the perfected images he envisions.
“To me, this is art. It’s more like painting, in a way,” he said. “A painter may not paint exactly what they see, they paint what they see in their mind.”
Hirvonen said the photographs add tranquility to the atmosphere of the place and are a good source of culture for the public.
“They add a lot to the ambiance, and they’re wonderful for the artists,” she said. “It brings art to the public, and it’s free.”