On Saturday evening we drove out to Benson again so I could photograph. Here are a some of the evening's fruits:
The day after I went out to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, which was also Easter Sunday, Gina and I headed up to Grace, Idaho to photograph. It's only an hour and fifteen minutes away, and in all my 8 years of living here in Logan, I'd never made the drive to visit the place—it was my first time there since 2007 when my friend Jon Long and I made a trip down there. But a little while before this most recent trip, I knew I needed to return again, and Gina and I made plans to do so.
A couple weeks ago, I went out to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, accompanied by my father-in-law while Gina watched the LDS General Women's Conference broadcast.
As I mentioned in my last post, Gina and I went out there on our third date. It was my first time ever going there, and I knew that the place had a lot of potential for some really great photographs. The way the land has been altered, and the way the Bear River has been diverted and channelled really draws me in. Since around my time in college, I've been intrigued as to how we humans interact and change the land around us, for better or worse. And as I've been out photographing periodically over the last three or four weeks, I've ended up along the Bear River. Most of the time it's been intentional; I love to photograph water—I always have, ever since I first started learning how to really operate a camera and control exposure. There is a part of me that is concerned that that subject matter is low hanging fruit for me, creatively. It's pretty easy to make a good photograph of water. The land around Cache Valley still remains a challenge to me. Back in 2013, I discussed some of the challenges I faced in dealing with the landscape of Cache Valley, and I think I still struggle with it a little. At least when it comes to subjects of photographs that aren't rivers or streams or other bodies of water. One side of me says to not worry about it and to just stick with what I'm good at. And there's nothing really bad about that. I think it's a valid argument. But there's also part of me—a large part—that realizes that there's no growth in doing only what you're comfortable with.
But, I'll stop rambling for now, and get on with the photographs:
A little over a year ago, Gina and I went on our third date out to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge west of Brigham City. While driving around after we had walked around for a bit, I stopped a few times to make a few photographs. This is the best one:
Sunday, I was in the mood to go out and photograph after church, so Gina and I loaded the car and headed out. I had in mind to end up in the Preston area, but in a roundabout way. We headed out to Benson, and then turned the car north towards Idaho. We went through Amalga, and Trenton, and through the Bear River Bottoms Wildlife Management Area, and on through Cornish and then Preston. I'm starting to get a few more ideas for a project bouncing around in my head, and I feel like I'm getting a good amount of images to use as a foundation to whatever I decide to do.
In my last post, I lamented how I felt I'd turned my back on my photographic education and friends and mentors I made and gained along the way, and I said I wanted to change that. I also mentioned that I went out last Saturday with the sole purpose of making photographs. Here are my two favorites from that evening:
Last night Gina and I loaded up the car and headed back out to Benson, which is only about 10 minutes away. Instead of taking the tactic from last Saturday and drive from one spot to another, I decided to just go to one spot and stay there the entire evening. I think the exercise was fruitful. And even after about an hour of photographing there, I know there are many more hours of photographing to do just at that one location. Edward Weston spent much of his life photographing Point Lobos; he made 29 other photographs of peppers until he finally made Pepper No. 30 (part of me wonders if he finally thought "Eureka!" or if he continued with Peppers No. 31, 32, 33, etc...). Ansel Adams did the same with Yosemite. After years and years in those same places, they still continued to find new photographs to express the way they felt about those places. Back in college when I was living in Rexburg, Idaho, I returned time after time to Texas Slough. Something about that little body of water spoke to my soul. This is my favorite photograph from 2004:
It was so cold, and my fingers fumbled around trying to work my new 5x7 camera, and I stood shivering as I focused, took a light meter reading, and then waited the couple minutes while the film was exposed.
Like I said, I felt pretty successful last night. I took some of the lessons learned from Saturday's outing, and came away with stronger images. At least, I feel more confident in them.
I think I've found my "pepper" in this next photograph. That huge limb that's lying just above the water really drew me in, but this photograph (while I like it quite a lot) doesn't really emphasize that limb the way I'd hoped. I guess I'll have to go back and keep trying however many times it takes to get it right.
Last week, my friend and former photography professor, Darren Clark, nominated me to participate in a Facebook hashtag "campaign," #challengeonnaturephotography, where, for seven days, you post a nature or landscape photograph with that hashtag, and then nominate someone else to participate. As I've done so, I've had the opportunity to think back on my college education, and what I've been doing with myself photographically since then. Here are some lessons learned and thoughts I've had, in no particular order, over the past seven days (all the images I shared on Facebook are included at the end of this post):
- I've lost the ability to really speak about photography as art. Not completely, but I've lost a lot of that ability. I want it back.
- I need to come up with a new photographic project. Or two. Or five. No matter the quantity, I just need something to to keep me motivated. I guess setting some deadlines might help too.
- When I decided not to pursue an M.F.A. after all, I lost focus (no pun intended) and motivation to just create art. I still photographed when I went on trips and went backpacking (sometimes), but I devolved into making photographs that were little more than just "pretty pictures of pretty places." They were, to me, a little empty. Not completely, because I never really photographed anything at any point in my photographic education or life afterwards that I didn't feel some emotional connection to, and felt a desire to express that connection through the photograph. But that's where any profundity in my photographs made in the last four or five years stops. Without an overarching purpose (see the previous point) behind my photographs, I feel there isn't lasting impact.
- Since I did lose focus and motivation to create, I've felt like I'd turned my back on my education, and the friends that I made along the way. I felt like I betrayed them in some way. Within the last three or four weeks, I've felt the need to fix all of that. Participating in this hashtag thing has helped to light the fire of motivation.
- I went out with Gina Saturday evening west of Logan specifically to photograph. In the long run, I'm not sure how successful the photographs all are, but getting out helped get the creative juices flowing again. And the outing revealed how out of practice I am with working a camera: I forgot to focus the lens on the first photograph I made!
- Along with the loss of the ability to talk about my work, my eyes have lost some refinement in composing, and attention to areas of the photograph that need work (dodging, or burning, or overall color balance, or contrast). I also want that back. Probably more than the ability to talk.
- I need to work on consistency—consistency in color balance, contrast in both black and white and color photographs—which I think has always been a problem for me.
- I've always echoed the sentiment of Elliott Erwitt who said "The whole point of taking pictures is so you don't have to explain things in words." Early in my photographic education I felt in agreement with the statement that the more one felt they had to say about their art, the least successful it was. Now, I don't agree. I believe there is always some room to talk about the art one creates. Maybe a better way of thinking is that the image should be strong enough to stand on its own, and not require an explanation. Maybe that has been Erwitt's point all along, and I've just missed it...
Anyway, on with the images.
I have to explain the following image and why it looks the way it does. Our first day in Banff National Park, we went for a walk down to Bow Falls, just outside of downtown Banff. While we walked, I would stop to make photographs, and I stopped to make this one. I got the tripod set up, and composed the photograph, and got the exposure figured out. It would be a six second exposure, with my neutral density and polarizer filter on. So, I started the exposure, and turned my back just real quick to see what Gina was doing. I only had my back turned away for one second. It was just one of those quick turns. When I turned back, I turned just in time to see the tripod tipping over. I jumped to try to save the camera from crashing to the ground, but I was too late. My camera face-planted right into the dirt. The fall crunched the two filters, and bent the front of the lens in (I was using a Tokina 12-24mm), sort of like a bike wheel after a real bad bike wreck. As far as I can tell the glass of the actual lens is ok, but with the front of the lens bent in the way it is, I can't get the filters off to really check out the glass. Even if I could get them off, I wouldn't trust the lens to be able to focus and operate properly. The camera body itself is ok, thank goodness. And I did finally just get a replacement, but this time, I got the Nikon 12-24mm. I should have just gone with that one to begin with, since the Tokina had some issues (chromatic aberration being the worst) that I had to fight a lot. But, I guess it's good that the cheaper Tokina got smashed, and not the more expensive Nikon.
The whole ordeal could have been prevented if I'd have checked a bit better on the stability of the tripod. While I had my hands on the camera, it was fine, but its center of gravity was forward enough that once I let go, gravity was allowed to do its thing. So, kids, learn from me and check your tripods.
This is the last photograph that lens made:
Luckily, I had my Nikon 24-120mm lens, so I wasn't shut down from making photographs with a real camera, instead of finishing the trip with my phone's camera. Unfortunately, that lens was still in the hotel room. And, years ago dust got into the focus mechanism, so it won't autofocus, but it works, and it got me by for the rest of the trip.
Well, it's been almost six months since Gina and I got married, and it's been awesome! I've meant to post these photographs I made while we honeymooned in Glacier National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park, and Banff National Park for, well, almost six months. But, blogging hasn't been a huge priority...
Because I'm publishing a lot of photographs, I'll make three separate posts for each Park.
Anyway, on with the photographs: