What shall I talk about first? How about the image in the header? It is an extreme crop of one of my own. My wife calls them “abstract”. What it “is” is part of a rusty bolt holding a metal washer to a board. The color is enhanced. It sort of reminds me of the photographs sent back from Mars that we have seen recently, or maybe of some earthly desert landscape. One time I scared myself. I had taken a photo of some birch tree bark and saw a face in it. Now I would just cut the tree down and sell the bark, face and all, on eBay.
I tried to be Ansel Adams for about 5 years. I walked about the mountains. I set up my 2 1/4 camera in the very same spots in Yosemite where he set his own tripod. I had a 4×5 view camera and I used sheet film. I made large format black and white images, and small 4×5 inch contact prints. I actually had gallery shows, not just one. Now that will inflate your ego way out of proportion to your ability. One gallery show and you start writing blogs and pontificating on politics, or what is or is not moral. Is my ascot in place?
One day while hiking to a waterfall here in Georgia, I came across a gully with a stream flowing at the bottom. There was a single log across the gully, which someone thoughtfully placed there as a bridge. There was no other way to cross it that was visible to me.
I have thought of the person who placed the log across the gully. Why one log? It was a trail in a forest. Could you not find another log?
There comes a time when your faith meets reality, and those things you thought you believed are tested. I was carrying a load of about 30 to 40 pounds of photography equipment, including my precious 4×5 view camera. I could not toss it across the gully – it was too far. I could not climb down into the gully and back out – it was too deep and steep. I could not heel-to-toe across the log carrying it all. I dared not cross the log with my equipment on my back. There was no one there to help.
I came to the spot unprepared, and I had to turn back. I also had diarrhea; just pure joy in the woods. My life was changed in those moments of failure and cramps! I lost my religion.
I did not photograph the falls that day. I spent the remainder of the day, slowly walking back to my car, cramping up several times along the way. Shortly after, I sold the view camera and all the paraphernalia, and 35mm became my artistic tool. Now it’s digital, the lighter the better. What a relief. Big cameras are darn heavy. I changed my photography style. I never set up in Ansel’s tripod holes again. I don’t have to be Ansel Adams.
I have also discovered that the most important photographs I ever took or will take are not landscapes but of people I love.