Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back in New York City

How else does one return to NYC than a trip to Coney Island? I could think of no better reintroduction to the subways, the culture, or to connect present with past.

Photographing didn't make it that far, only to take pictures with some kids from the Bronx who made the long trip across the entire city to reach the beach. At each station, they would race to a car up the train, seeing how many cars they could pass before the doors close.

It was pointed out to me that it is a different kind of relationship between photographer and subject when the subject is aware of being photographed. These kids at first yelled at me for taking their photo, but I was able to show them a few of the shots, making them more comfortable with me. Afterward, their role was performer, and I the recorder.

The only question for me is, does the viewer know any difference, between when the subjects are aware of the photographer, and when they were not? More often, engaging the subject, to ask or find out otherwise how to allow for the relationship to begin, is the hardest part.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Great Finally

There really isn't much to say, except that I am home, and no longer on the road. The emotions are mixed, since being in New York City again is so different from the National Parks. I am going to miss getting into the little details of things, waiting for the light, and a breeze empty of sounds and artificial smells. It is over, so from here on out, I am back to the streets again. I'm going to miss more than the breeze, more than the colors, the heat, the air.

There is a special experience, being in nature, if only as a tourist, that we are starting to lack in daily life. When inside the hustle of the cities, we have taken nature into our own hands, the umbilical to the rest of the living world severed, kept around only to suit our needs and hungers. There will be a time one day where I retreat, and try a more peaceful life out in the mountains or desert. But until then, I must spread the word, and share the importance of these things, and these places. If only some will listen, if only a few minds are changed, then it will be worth it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The high plains

Here is a special place in my heart. Like a love that is unrequited, I come in and out like a drifter, though I wish to live here, I wish to die here. There are colors that come together unlike in any place I have ever seen. If I dream anymore, I dream of walking in this place, over sandy mounds, climbing through and between ancient oceans to reveal the next canyon, the next desert, the next plain.

Love like a sunset, love like a cloud, passing over, passing time. It makes no sense to be here, but I gravitate anyway. It is a shame that I could not stay longer, yet it would be a shame to learn of every crevice and cacti, meet every one of the few living creatures, what would I do if I knew all of her intricacies? Would I leave forever, would I never look back? Would I be satisfied with just an image of her to hold, until the next time I can be there? Satisfied, but not happy.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Square is the new circle

Crop is now a more free flowing tool than a format given to all of my pictures. Normally, how we crop is guided by the shape and size of the camera sensor. In this case, however, each group of images that are stitched together are capable of becoming their own entity, guided by subject, not by viewfinder.

There is a long history of the square format, and I personally have little experience with the size and proportions as an image. The square, being even sided, is much more difficult to work with than 3x2, 4x5, or any other rectilinear size.

Especially for landscape, a wider view is much more typical. It is helpful then, when using the square as a window into reality, to have strong verticals or horizontals. The human eye is much more likely to rest happy in the center of the frame, to be satisfied that it has traversed the distance across corners, without really covering the ground. The format is then, a more challenging one, and I intend to learn to use it much more frequently, since I think it lends to a curiosity in the viewer: have we seen any squares lately? Nobody uses this shape in photographs anymore! Our history and frame of reference for such a shape has gone the way of the film camera, lost, except to those of us around to remember, and to revive those old memories.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Land of fire and spit (part 2)

In the morning we pass by forests full of narrow trunked, straight lodgepole and white pines. Light flickers between the tall posts, and the road winds around mountains and gorge. Over the Divide, and into a great basin of boiling matter, steaming earth and spit. As you round the last hillside before the geyser basin, even in August, cool mornings generate steam until it fills the air hundreds of feet off the ground.

Inside the giant caldera, inside the crater of a supervolcano, giant plumes of water and steam violently erupt all around us. Here is mother nature, our great mother, in her most ancient of dreams. Here it is like it was in the beginning. Bacterial mats cover acidic earth, large animals congregate for warmth and security. A large eco-system of species can be seen interacting in their natural habitat.

There is little I can do to show justice to this place. While beautiful, rich in life and color, it is one of the most visited parks in our country. It was harder for me here, more than anywhere else I have been so far this summer, to keep the human element away from the image. More to come, and more to be said of this place later...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Prehistoric beasts, land of fire and spit (part 1)

I can't help but look at these creatures and imagine a time long ago, where large mammals roamed the vast plains and wildernesses, tromping about, bulky, stupid, watchful of large predators with saber-toothed incisors. They are ugly, misshapen, horny, dirty, creatures from a primordial lagoon, all set in the Land of Fire and Spit.

Charging from out of nowhere, I was fearful of the beasts for the second time in my life. Once I was surrounded on a hillside, perched for a sunset spot, waiting among a herd of Bison in Lamar Valley. They moved around me on an outcropping of rock, where I sat with a false sense of security.

This time groups from the herd broke off and began charging full gallop down the hill toward us, as we photographed swimmers from the shore. We ran, scattered, reached a safe distance, and resumed photographing. In these moments, passion, excitement and the rush overwhelm your technical abilities, and you are there to see and to record, all in one. If the actual image did not work, the experience will always be there for me.

Yellowstone is a place out of the age of fire, the long lost era of eons ago, of my childhood fantasy. If given the "Happy Life Home", I would imagine a veldt much like this place. Where the last wild wolves hunt together, where grizzly mothers raise cubs. Yellowstone is a trip back in time, from another era, established as a place that will hopefully never get more developed than it already is.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Ferris Wheel

In the middle of the open west, in the most open of the western states, the carnival brings me back to a place like home. If I forget that the background is mountain topped, if I squint a little when a cowboy (real life boots and spurs, just fell off the horse) walks down the rows of rides and attractions, I am reminded of not one place but anyplace. The carnival is its own community, self sustaining, traveling, pulsing entity. Once night falls, it is a world all on its own.

There is a strange energy, such an overwhelming, frequently changing mixture of things. Children run, gape, cry, full of cotton candy, merriment, and popcorn. Preteens chase each other, full of anxieties they can't understand. Adult children are reminded through the younger generation what it was like to have an imagination. Full of beer, melting iced cream, and funnel cake. What a pulse, what an energy, what a cosmic hole the carnival is in the middle of our lives.

There is an entirely separate but also meaningful pulse of the carnies, the operators, the vendors. There is a loss of imagination, a loss of cheer, a grim smirk behind the rest of the smiles and cheers. Their cheers are taxing, their way of life worn on the sleeve and in their skin, but also hidden well from the children and the happy customers. What masks we wear, what fun, what enjoyment, what a dichotomy! I am reminded of my home, so far away, Coney Island, and the place where the ocean meets the land. I dove in, headlong, imagining a different place, a small piece of home, a small piece of everywhere.