Despite my lack of posts here over the last few months, there hasn’t been a lack of photographs being made. Most of the work I’ve done has been in continuation of the Through Tommy’s Eyes project. Tommy’s really been giving us a run for our money lately, so it’s been harder to sneak away to photograph. We’ve tried to get out in the hills as much as possible, and I’ve photographed our little dude playing and tossing rocks every chance I’ve got. I’ve just loved watching him grow and learn, and even if nothing grand comes out of this project, I know I’ve got some great photographs documenting his childhood.
I love music.
I know I’m not unique in this aspect, so why bring it up? Why devote a post on my photography blog about my love of music?
There was a recent period in my life when I wasn’t the voracious music listener I was before and after. The only time I listened to music in any degree was while I was driving. But last year I gradually paying more attention to my iTunes library, and one of my resolutions for 2019 is to really get back into music.
I’m going to make perhaps a long-winded correlation, but hear me out: In the past 12 to maybe 18 months I’ve felt a resurgence in my confidence as a photographer (this whole topic of confidence deserves its own blog post, which I may or may not write), and I feel like my return to searching for new music and listening more often has been a big contributor to that change I’ve seen in my creatively, especially over the last month and a half. It was in early- to mid-2014 that I stopped searching out new music and listening so much, and it was around that same time that I felt a decline in my confidence level.
Music has always been one of my favorite things. I love the memories that certain songs can bring to the surface; I love the excitement of hearing an old favorite I may have neglected or ignored for a long time; I love the thrill of hearing a brand new song that stirs up emotion in whatever way, be it happiness, or sadness, or rowdy, or hopeful.
And while I’m on this topic of music, and its impact on my creativity, music has been a part of my photography. I’ve often thought of what a soundtrack for projects or individual photographs would sound like: what style of music would it be? would it be a score? who would compose it? what artists and songs would be on it? During the years of 2015-2017 and part of 2018, whenever I went out photographing I played music in the car that had an impact on me when I was in college or during my time in grad school. Artists like Interpol, Death Cab for Cutie, Wilco, The New Pornographers, and Elliott Smith. My thinking was that that music inspired me and helped channel my creativity back then, so it should inspire me now. I felt my work was strong then, so listening to that same music should help me make strong work now. Right? I even made a playlist with all of those old favorite songs and albums.
Looking back on that period, I feel like I was making work that was trying to by like the work I was making during college. I feel like I was trying to make that old music inform my present-day creativity. In mid-2018 I realized this, and thought “it’s 2018. I’m not in my early or late twenties. I need to be making work that is more authentic to my 2018 self. Why not update my music?” And once I did that, once I started playing the music that was inspiring me currently, today, I think that was when my confidence began to really return. I had, without stating specifically, decided to live in the present and look to the future as an artist, and turn to those things that are currently inspiring, informing, and influencing me. I’m not trying to make the music I listen to be responsible for my success or failures, or ups or downs as an artist. I just mention all this to illustrate the music’s power to influence me.
The lesson I’ve learned (and maybe it’s still sinking in) is that I’m not the same person I was when I was in college. I’m not the same artist I was then, or in 2008. I’m not the same artist I was a month ago, nor am I, I think it would be safe to say, even the same artist I was yesterday. We’re all progressing—or, god forbid, digressing—and we need to embrace that progression, grow with it, and learn from it. It might do us good to take a minute periodically and identify (if it’s not obvious) what is causing that growth.
In my last blog post I wrote about some of the goals I have for 2019, and that I wanted to begin a project I’ve been thinking about for 10 years. That project being about walking and hiking. A tentative title for it has been 10,000 Steps. And when I say I plan on beginning the project, I mean I’m going to undertake the project more earnestly. Because the truth is, over the years I have made the occasional image while hiking in the mountains surrounding Cache Valley with the intention of developing the idea. In fact, I’ve blogged about it before, twice in 2013, and again in August of last year.
This project, I feel, has so much potential, and there are so many directions I can take it. Or that it can take me, which will probably be more accurate, both creatively and geographically.
The following image, a 360° panorama, is the first I deliberately made nearly 6 years ago, and it more closely resembles what I then imagined the images to be. Now, in 2019, I’m not so sure of the format of the images.
I like that you can see the trail leading both to the North and to the South in the same image, and this is one direction the project could go. We’ll see. I just need winter to come to an end so I can start making images. And since it’s mid-February, I’ve got a long wait ahead of me…
I'm reading Beauty in Photography by Robert Adams again. It's one of my go-tos when I need to figure things out, whether it be where to go with an entire project, or help me clarify my thoughts on things. Adams' book, Why People Photograph is another resource I turn to often.
In the essay, "Making Art New," Adams tackles that gremlin artists face to keep their work fresh, keep improving, and perhaps even reinventing themselves.
A section of the essay begins, "The question, 'what is new?' implies a more hopeful question, 'what is better?'" (WPP 79) Then goes on to ask by what mark we measure progress, and offers "more Truth and/or Beauty" as a measure, but then points out the challenge this can be, and says he is "unacquainted with any first-rate painter or photographers who believe that their pictures will be more beautiful than those of Rembrandt." But Adams acknowledges that sometimes our predecessors were wrong, or at least viewed to be wrong, by those influenced by them. Though seen to be wrong, we are never free from their influence: "...as long as we respond to our forebears, they are with us."
It is my belief that we are influenced by our predecessors always, whether we respond directly to them or not, for it is that response to an influence or denial or divorce from it that shapes us, informs our current work, and guides us in our quest to improve.
“Isn’t it necessary for [art] to be…different from what has gone before?” Adams asks. Then begins to answer with this gem:
...All art comes out of a background of convention established by one's predecessors. Every serious artist borrows not only from those conventions, but from the particular insights of individuals he admires. This is unavoidable because, as the painter Mark Tobey observed, "No young artist can grow unless he emulates someone bigger than himself"—we all start small. Thus, Cézanne, for example, borrowed from Delacroix, and Matisse from Cézanne and Delacroix. It sometimes even seems as if the greatest artists borrow most. Certainly none of those just mentioned ever tried to hide his dependence on his sources; each, great as he was, understood that creations out of nothing are possible only for God. We seem in the end to be left with a series of revivals. (WPP 81)
In order for us to grow, in order for us to even begin learning, it is necessary to emulate and borrow. But, as Adams later states, “No serious artist would…ever set out simply to repeat another.” Sooner or later, we must be as Matisse who said “I have accepted influences but I think I have always known how to dominate them.”
It's been far too long since I've posted anything here. 2018 has been a busy year so far. Our little boy has been keeping us on our toes. I haven't been focused on my photography as much as I would like to have been these past four or five months, but hopefully that can change soon. My attention has had to be placed on other things. But I have been able to get out and make some new work on occasion, included making several lumen prints and venturing into making chemigrams, which I will post sometime in the future. I just need to figure out a way to flatten them all—that fiber based paper sure likes to curl a lot. So none of them are included in this post, but look for them in a future post! Meanwhile, here are some new photographs:
I've been venturing into a new area oh photography for me. For those who know me personally, I've never really been interested in making photographs of people. I haven't really been interested in taking family snapshots. But after getting married, I began changing, and then changed even more when Thomas was born. My phone is full of photos of our little boy, and selfies of Gina and I from all of our various trips and adventures.
As Tommy has grown, and especially as he's moved into Toddlerhood, I've been fascinated by and interested in how he views the world. He's such an inquisitive and busy and active little fellow, and he is always getting into things, and now climbing up anything his little arms and legs can get up. He loves to go for walks; in fact, any time he hears the words "out" or "outside" he bolts to the front door and starts knocking or pounding on it as if he's asking us "you said 'outside,' why aren't we leaving right now?" He loves picking up rocks along the trails we hike, and he often has to have a rock in each hand. If there's any running water nearby, he claws his way out (or tries to) of our arms to go to it and play in it, or throw rocks in it.
But, as I watch him grow, as I watch him walk/run (mostly run), as he talks in his little baby gibberish (that isn't gibberish to him—in his mind, I know he's telling us very important things, and I love his intensity), I find questions swarm my mind: What draws him to certain things? Why did he pick up that particular rock, only to drop it 5 feet down the trail to pick up a new one? What is going on in that little mind of his? What is it like to be in that little body, and want to do so many big things in a big world? Why is repeatedly doing one thing for several minutes so captivating? What is it like to understand what those around you are saying to you, but not be able to express yourself or talk back?
This wonderment on my part has driven me to start taking more serious photographs of Tommy, and the things he sees. Photographs that are more serious and intentional than the snapshot of him doing something cute. The photographs that follow are some preliminary photographs in my own exploration into what being a toddler is like, and what being a parent to such an active and intense boy is like.
This boy feels everything right down to the core.
It's been pretty quiet here on the Departures blog a lot this year. It's not because I haven't been photographing. Quite the contrary. I've been out quite a lot. And I cranked out a lot of lumens this summer, and finally started scanning them in, and wanted to post this one quick, since I'm particularly pleased with it. I hope you will be too!
I've been waiting to post this until I had finished the other photographs from a recent family camping trip in Island Park, but my excitement to share this one has finally taken over!
I spent one of the days there making photographs from the same spot as the lighting and weather conditions changed throughout the day. The photograph below is the result:
This is just a digital rendering of what I have envisioned in my mind. The finished physical piece is intended to be an installation piece that will measure about 7.8 feet by about 4 feet, with each "bubble" being mounted directly to a wall. This is the direction I see these pieces going.
I need to spend a lot more time with the other photographs I made on our trip before I decide which ones to publish, but keep checking back for them!
Just about everywhere I go to photograph, hike, fish, or camp, there's always some sort of litter, and almost always, there's a beer can or bottle to be found. I try to practice what I learned as a Scout to "pack it in, pack it out," and "leave a place better than I found it." Lately, I've been using the litter I see as visual exercises to make found still life photographs before I pick it up. I don't know if anything major will come of all these photographs but I feel they're still important in my image making.
"Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working."Read More
I've been out quite a bit in the last month gathering photographs for these photo-mosaics I've gotten into making, and thought I'd share a few of the pieces I'm working on.
This first one has images made on three or four different occasions—once in the evening and twice in the morning just before and after sunrise.
This next one has images made on five or six different occasions, at dusk, and at dawn and late afternoon.
This last one has photographs made on two different occasions, once at sunrise, and the other at sunset.
It's been a lot of fun conceptualizing, composing and then piecing together all the photographs that make up the larger piece. It's real time-consuming, both in the making of the photographs, and in the editing and arranging. I've got several hours already put into each of these photographs, and they're not even close to being something I'd say is a finished piece of artwork.
In a way, I feel as though I'm rebelling against the style I've worked in in the past 13 to 15 years, and it feels good to break from my "norm."
Four images of a wheat field while the sun sets with the camera panning in motion with a long exposure.
About eight or nine years ago, I created a blog titled 52 Photographers, where I would feature one photographer each week of the year. I don’t remember now just how many posts I made on the blog, but I know I didn’t make it a whole year. The purpose of the blog was to help me seek out photographers I hadn’t seen before to keep the creative juices flowing.
I recently had the thought of resurrecting that blog, but I don’t have the time to make it a weekly thing. So, I’ll make it as much of a regular thing that I post about on this, the Departures Blog. And so, with no further ado, I’ll introduce the first photographer I’ll be featuring: Krista Wortendyke.
It wasn’t the content of the photograph that grabbed my attention so immediately and completely. It was the way she had pieced multiple images together in a multi-frame mosaic. I had seen seen work in this same approach before though—I have been aware of James Balog’s photographs published in a book titled Tree: A New Vision of the American Forest. But it had been so long since I'd seen or thought of Balog's work, that I'd nearly forgotten all about it, so it was if I were seeing work done like this before, not in terms of content—in this case, a fireball in an unnamed or even unknown desert, presumably from an explosion, and a large, black and gray plume of smoke rising into the sky—but in technique.
The body of work "is an exploration of the way imagery and information from movies, videogames, newspapers, and the Internet come together to form our perception of war." She goes on to explain: "Explosions are war’s most universal and most spectacular signifiers. We are never falling short of this imagery. I have made use of these magnetizing images to show not only how the lines between fiction and non-fiction blur, but also to show how a mediated experience can become indecipherable from a real experience." I find the concept intriguing, and the implementation is quite apropos to the subject matter.
I love coming back to these photographs. There are so many things that go unnoticed on a first look because there are is so much imagery to take in in each piece. And with so much of war and violence in the news, the imagery of war has become so commonplace and mundane, and with the quality of graphics and the immersiveness of war video games, it is easy to confuse reality with fiction.
Take a look at Krista's website and other projects here.
*All images used by permission of the artist.
On Saturday evening we drove out to Benson again so I could photograph. Here are a some of the evening's fruits:
Last week I got to go to Seattle for the first time in eight years to see the Avett Brothers in concert. Yeah, I know, Seattle is a long way to go just to see a band, but the Avett Brothers are no ordinary band!
For those of you who don't know, my brother got Leukemia while in South Korea in the Army in 2004. After treatment at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, the cancer went into remission, but some months later, it relapsed, and the only chance of getting rid of it then was to do a bone marrow transplant. So, while in my very last semester of college, I went up while he went through that treatment at the VA Hospital in Seattle. At that time I was in the middle of my Parks project for my BFA, and I got to photograph a lot of the parks in and around Seattle. While I was there last week, I took the opportunity to go back to a few of those parks and rephotograph some of the original scenes from 2005.
This one is really the only "re-photograph" I made. The rest are all new images.
Along the road, I snapped a few photos with my phone (for those of you who follow my Instrgam feed, some of these will look familiar):
The concert, as the Avetts always are, was amazing!
On Sunday, after church we drove down to Redondo, a place on Puget Sound with a nice boardwalk. It was still a nice place for a photograph.
I didn't realize how much I missed Seattle until I went back. It's such an awesome city, and it was hard for this good thing to end, as all good things must, as the saying goes.
The last couple years, me and my dad and brothers have gone fishing up on the Fall River and sometimes the Henry's Fork, and this year we turned it into a full on family vacation.
We stayed at the Coffee Pot Campground on the Henry's for two gorgeous nights, though the second was rainy the whole night.
When we arrived, the fish were rising and we rushed to line our rods and get in the water to see what the fish were feeding on. It turned out there was a small Green Drake hatch with a few caddis and PMD's, and we tied our flies on and tossed them out. I missed every strike I had, but my brother managed to hook and land a fish.
We fished for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, and enjoyed the lovely Island Park sunset.
I also couldn't resist photographing the full moon rise.
I woke up early the next morning and made a few photographs. And I should point out that I just love being able to carry a darkroom in my pocket. My camera phone and the myriad of photography apps I have come in really handy if I don't want to carry my DSLR.
We had breakfast, and sat around at camp before we decided to go to Big Springs and look at the fish, but there were only three or four, and they weren't the behemoths that have been there in the past. We heard a couple different possible reasons for their disappearance, including the sea gulls just pushing them out, and them being illegally fished.
After Big Springs we picked up a few flies at the Trout Hunter Fly Shop and then headed to the Buffalo River, where we all managed to catch a few fish each. And, I'm actually proud to say I got outfished by my little sister on her first time with a fly rod.
While we were there, a pretty good sized Green Drake hatch came off.
When we were done, determined partly by grumbling stomachs and rumbling thunder not far off, we headed back to camp, where it continued to rain for a few more minutes, then cooked dinner when it finally let up.
Afterwards, we sat and sang and played our instruments and visited with a good friend of ours who is working at the scout camp this summer, before we called it a night and went to bed.
Then Tuesday, after we packed up, we stopped at Upper Mesa Falls to make a few photographs. It'd been several years since I'd been there, so it was good to rephotograph these scenic falls.
I always hate leaving that place, and it was no easier yesterday. It's a good thing I should be going back again in a couple weeks.
Wanting to see a different part of the Bear River Range, I decided on hiking the trail up Temple Fork this weekend. But not before spending the night in Right Hand Fork Canyon again. I've mentioned how convenient Right Hand Fork is for just pulling off the road and pitching a tent. Skipping the tent and just sleeping in the back of the 4Runner makes it even more convenient. I know, I said I wasn't going to cheat and do that, but it allows me to hit the trail much earlier than if I'd pitched a tent, and I wanted to be on the trail as early as possible. Partly for the nice morning light for photographing, and partly because when the weather gets warm, as was forecasted for today, I like to hike in the cool morning air.
I've decided to try and incorporate Right Hand Fork to be it's own photographic project, as I mentioned I thought of doing last week.
This morning I was on the trail by about 6:30. There is a dirt road that connects Temple Fork to Right Hand Fork, Left Hand Fork, Blacksmith Fork, and if you take the right roads, you can end up at Bear Lake. Right now, those roads are gated off, and any hikers wanting to hike the trails up Temple Fork, have to start at the gate, adding about a mile to the overall trip, not that that's a bad thing.
I made it almost all the way across this bridge and then thought it just needed to be photographed.
A little further up, I turned around and saw this:
Then walked another hundred feet or so and photographed this:
At the actual trailhead to the Temple Fork Sawmill Site (more on that later), there is a beaver dam. I made this photograph:
And then this:
I continued following the stream off-trail, stopping and making photographs as I saw them, which was pretty often. Here's just one of them:
I'm not 100% satisfied with most of the others. I'll need to spend some time with them, and I'll post them later if I deem them worthy of a blog post.
After I'd made that photograph, I finally got back on the trail, and set out for the Sawmill.
The trail parallels the stream the whole way, never getting more than about 100 feet away from the water, so the hiker is constantly accompanied by the sound of the water dribbling over a shallow bed of pebbles, or crashing over feet-high drops in elevation. The chirping of birds waking up also provide more melodies and harmonies to the score of mother nature's soundtrack.
Continuing south, and then bending to a more easterly direction, the trail passes several more beaver ponds, that look to be uninhabited (I vaguely remember hearing that all the beavers up on the Temple Fork have been removed). This one, however looked a little less "unoccupied:"
I had been periodically making video with my phone (which I may or may not post to Youtube when I get it all edited and put together), and as I was walking and recording, I came upon this beaver pond. There's a pretty big grove of Cottonwood trees that the beaver has really been hard at work at cutting down. If that beaver has been removed, it wasn't removed before it felled a few dozen trees, all about twenty-plus inches in diameter, and getting half-way through several more, and even more smaller trees. It's lodge alone was around twenty feet in diameter—one of the largest lodges I've ever seen. It was all rather impressive that a rodent so small could have that kind of impact.
The Temple Fork Sawmill was built by Mormon settlers in 1877 to provide lumber for buildings in Cache Valley, including the Logan Temple, and ties for the Utah & Northern Railroad. It ceased operation in 1883 after having produced an estimated "2.5 million board feet of lumber, 21,000 railroad ties, 900,000 laths, 2,000,000 shingles, 50,000 pickets, charcoal and an uncounted number of broom handles." It burned down in 1886, and wasn't rebuilt. There is now a monument at the site with a few pieces of equipment.
Of the trails I've hiked so far, this one ranks pretty high. It was absolutely gorgeous, both in sights and sounds.
While hiking yesterday I had a realization.
It was always easy for me to make photographs of the landscape around Idaho Falls and Rexburg and in Island Park. I loved, and still love, those places, so meaningful photographs just came easy.
When I first moved here to Logan, it was hard for me to make meaningful photographs. The landscape seemed so foreign to me, even though I was no stranger to Cache Valley. I was no stranger to the kind of landscape in which Logan is situated, and I was no stranger to mountains. But the reason for my moving here was to pursue a Masters Degree in photography, and, being thrust into needing to produce work regularly, I found myself facing creative roadblocks at almost every turn. Nearly every square foot of land in Cache Valley has been developed in one form or another, from farm use to residential and commercial use. That said, I can deal with urbanization and Man's impact on land easily enough. My whole B.F.A. project was centered around man's alteration and recreation of Nature. But the Upper Snake River Plain has very little radical variation in elevation. Cache Valley is locked in by mountains, and they induced a sense of visual claustrophobia in me to the point of near creative break-down. I've always been drawn to photographing bodies of water, whether they be lakes, rivers, streams, etc., so I would drive up Logan Canyon to photograph the Logan River, but that induced the claustrophobia as well as being faced with entangling vegetation, and I rarely came away with a photograph I was pleased with.
So, on to the realization: maybe I've needed four years in Logan. Four years of hiking trails, fishing the rivers, and driving up and down the highways to call this place Home and finally start to make photographs of a place I have come to truly care about.
Today I realized that with all the photographs of Right Hand Fork I've got, I have a pretty good start at a project of that canyon itself. For such a relatively small geographic area, there's quite a variety of images to be made regarding the canyon and river. Cache Anglers collaborates with the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources and USU to restore the Cutthroat Trout population in Right Hand Fork, and it serves as a launching point to many different trails in the Bear River Range, including connecting with the Great Western Trail.
Last night I drove up and made these while my dinner was cooking over the fire.
This morning I headed up the trail. It only goes up Right Hand Fork Canyon about a mile before it veers up Willow Creek. Another mile further up R. H. F. Canyon, there are some cliffs that I wanted to check out, which means I had to bushwhack a mile through dense brush, and follow the dry streambed. But not long after leaving the trail, the canyon walls narrowed to 20' to 60' wide, with ciffs on either side, ranging from only about 20 about 100 feet tall. The cliffs I had as a destination, according to the topo maps are at least 200 feet tall.
Since the sun can't reach the canyon bottom for very long during the day, there is still quite a bit of snow, and I really would have benefitted from bringing my snowshoes, but I didn't think I'd need them. Anyway, bushwhacking through dense brush and thigh-deep snow can really take it out of you, and add rain to the mix, I threw in the towel before I got too worn out to make it out safely. Once the snow is gone, I'll give it another go.
I did make some photographs along the way though.
After the hike, I decided to head up Logan Canyon and see how high up I could get on the road up to Tony Grove. On my way there, I saw this and had to stop and photograph it:
Lots of good images, and plumb tuckered out. I've had a good weekend so far.