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TO JAN. 8, 2005

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Christopher Burkett walks a fine line with his photographs, somewhere between showy and masterful, between too slick and polished just right. The Oregon-based Burkett, once a brother in a Christian order, left years ago to become a full-time nature photographer. In that crowded genre, he’s become a star. Detractors will carp that Burkett’s lush color photographs of aspens, fallen leaves, and gushing waterfalls wouldn’t look out of place as the backdrop on one of those creepy motivational workplace posters. But his achingly delicate subjects—wispily translucent leaves, tiny tree branches laden with snow, breeze-blown fronds of fern—can’t be captured with the regularity Burkett manages through mere hackwork. Burkett’s most impressive images (Glowing Winter Aspen is pictured), accounting for nearly a third of the pieces now on view, combine an exuberantly lit object, usually a tree, in the foreground and a dark, indistinct background that’s largely devoid of sunlight. It’s a wholly counterintuitive scenario, as if Burkett had found the single ray of sun on an otherwise dark and dreary day over and over again wherever he went. Capturing natural beauty at its most breathtaking surely takes luck. But who ever said that luck had nothing to do with being a great photographer? The show is on view from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, to Saturday, Jan. 8, 2005, at the Kathleen Ewing Gallery, 1609 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 328-0955. (Louis Jacobson)