Most of life is lived
in middlegray,
that range of tone
where tone is inoffensive.
Photographs gather more-
the highlights and the shadows,
those brightest joys,
and darkest sorrows,
which rely on middle gray
for reference,
but exceed its scale.

The trick is finding
where middlegray
must fall
into your composition-
so that your whites are bright,
and shadows darkly clear.

I look out at mountain peaks
against a clear blue sky,
where sunlight shadows
canyons dark and deep.
Middlegray I choose to set
squarely where I stand,
so I can show detail
at both the darkest
and the brightest in my view-
my image not so light that snowy peaks
spin off, get lost in whiteness,
not so dark that canyon loses texture,
and you can't see
those shallow steps
etched into sheer cliff
to bring you from that downward path
back up again.

Middlegray holds me steady,
centers vision,
as long as I remember
to look above, beyond it,
place it carefully
in the world I see.

 © 2005, Lenore Horowitz