I just returned from Big Bend National Park. I made photographs: film and digital. I have not yet processed any of the pictures. One cannot go to a place like Big Bend and not make some pictures. I had some more revelations about my own work while doing so, however.
I wrote the following as a blog post several months ago, but never posted it. So, here it is now. In a few more days, I’ll post more specifics about the Big Bend and its epiphanies.
I am not a landscape photographer. This is not really that dramatic a revelation or realization. It simply dawned on me quite a while back that I should stop trying.
Admit it. Those of us that use film cameras and shoot black and white film have at one time (or many) done that big sweeping landscape. We may have actually been where Saint Ansel was (that view of Half Dome from Glacier Point, for instance). Or, we looked at something as grand as the Grand Canyon, or as common as the woods behind our own house. But we took a picture of it, because that’s what one does.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve done it hundreds (thousands?) of times.
It really came home to me after visiting Iceland in September of 2013. It was a purposeful photographic trip with several other photographers. Had a great time. Came home with well over 300 negatives and over 400 digital images. They were mostly fine, but I looked at the photographs as a group and thought: “meh.”
Several months later, May 2014, I took a 25 day driving trip from Texas through New Mexico and Arizona to California and back. Several national parks, natural wonders, cities, vistas, and again, hundreds of photographs. But these didn’t “meh” me as much.
Why? Because I was not trying so hard. And, (this is important) I was not trying to photograph “New Mexico”, or “California”. I was just making pictures of what I saw that interested me, and sometimes that may have been the landscape. It was even Half Dome for a couple of days.
Iceland can be a photographer’s dream. Hard to take a picture that isn’t exciting. But of the hundreds of images I took while there, this is my favorite:
It does not say Iceland.
You know, like:
I have exhibited two photographs from the Western US trip:
Neither are landscapes (obviously), but were taken at a national park. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I will continue to take photographs that can only be classified as landscapes, but only when they present themselves to me on their own.