The Creative Edge…With A Dose of Good Luck!

I know I have been delinquent since October of last year.  I apologize.  My teaching schedule has had me on the ropes for much of that time and even though working with students on some pretty incredible science and engineering projects leading up to the county science fair is creative, its just not the same as losing oneself behind the camera and producing a piece of art that just touches the soul.

To remedy my absence and get my creative photographic juices flowing again I decided on heading out to the happiest place on Earth.  No, not Disneyland….but Yosemite!  I could not think of any better place to immerse myself in inspirational beauty.

I usually come into the Park from the northern entrance, but this time I wanted to challenge myself to see the park differently, so I drove in via the southern entrance and Hwy 41 out of Fresno.  I think I might have only come through this way once, maybe twice in my life.  So seeing the park from this ascent really got my eye primed for looking at the park in a different way.  I left the Bay Area mid morning and hoped to get into the Valley for the late afternoon light and catch sunset.  It would be a quick jaunt, just one day, maybe stay later into the night for some star trail photography, but then, maybe not.  I would just let my luck fall where it may.

Normally coming in from the north, the road leads me to Valley View, which is down on the Merced River.  I almost always stop there to whet my lens an burn a sheet on El Capitan there, as sort of an homage to the Captain.  This time however the road brought me to Tunnel View which is about 500 feet higher in elevation giving a very different perspective on the Valley.  Thus I decided to stop there to warm up.

As I arrived there must have been what looked like 50 to 60 photographers all lined up on the overlook pad with tripods all interlocked!  As I walked up after parking and gathering my gear it sounded like crickets or cicada buzzing with all the shutters going off.  I almost gave up and walked off when I suddenly spied a fellow Bay Area photographer, Richard Wong.  He  was there right in the middle of the fray and I called to him.  He turned and was just as surprised as I was to meet each other there.  What were the chances!?  Looks like luck might have smiled on me.  We spoke for a bit and then he said “here, I’m done, take my spot, you wont get in otherwise”.  So as he slipped out, I wiggled my way in and started to set up.  Hopefully we would meet later in the park, but for now I had to work quickly as the light was just getting good and I did not want to throw away an opportunity to capture such a unique moment.

Working with the 4×5 is slow, but over the years it has become almost second nature to me and I could get a photo made in just under 5 minutes from dropping my backpack to tripping the shutter.  The resulting photo from this most fortuitous meeting is below.  One of my best Yosemite photos to date!

Best Yosemite Shot Ever!

As I was finishing up and starting to get packed up I started to reflect on the good fortune I had to get this spot among the hoard of photographers and I suddenly felt very generous and wanted to pass this opportunity forward.  I looked behind me to see if anyone was waiting photograph there as well when I suddenly saw another good friend of mine from the Bay Area, Gary Crabbe of Enlightened Images Photography!  What are the chances of seeing two good friends there on the same day!!?  I offered my spot to Gary and stepped aside.  As he got situated we spoke for a bit.  I asked that he let me know what he comes away with.  I did not see Richard again on the trip, not sure where he wandered off to, but Gary did share with me his view, another stunning view from Yosemite, if I do say so myself.

Sometimes getting the creative edge in photography is being at the right place at the right time, and meeting up with the right people too.

Till next time, Peace.

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Just Another Day In The Park

As I started to write this post, about two weeks ago, nearly a third of winter had passed and barely a drop of rain had fallen here in California. This is troubling because if it does not rain in the low lands it is not going to be snowing in the high country. While the rain is important, its the snow pack in the higher elevations that fill our water reservoirs and keep the perennial creeks and rivers flowing. This year it has snowed once or twice leaving behind a negligible amount of snow on the ground.

The high country of the Sierra Nevada is normally unreachable by this time into winter by virtue of the hundreds of inches of snow that block roads and by the continuous storms that make snow plowing a futile effort. This year however, a new record has been set for the Tioga Road remaining open into winter. The previous record of January 1st set in 2006 has been put to rest and it has extended late into January.  This strange winter has also created an interesting and fairly unique opportunity to photograph places and events in the high country in winter normally not accessible.

Full Moon

Full Moon

The full moon this month fell on January 8th.  The full moon always rises as the sun is setting and this is a very nice time to add the moon to the landscape in photos.  Actually its better to make a photo with the rising moon a day or two before the moon is full due to the contrast variation between the land and moon at sunset.  On the day of the full moon, the sky and land will have darkened sufficiently such that to photograph both in a single exposure and retain detail in both the land and moon is nearly impossible.  However, the moon lags the sun by 45 to 50 minutes each day, so the day before the full moon the moon will rise about 45 minutes before sunset giving the opportunity to photograph the rising moon with sufficient light on the land as well.

The other interesting fact is that in January, the full moon rises just to the right of Half Dome in Yosemite when viewed from locations near Glacier Point.  In a normal winter, reaching Glacier Point is a monumental task as one has to either ski or snow shoe in for miles.  Not something that is done very often.  However this year the roads in the high country are still open, the full moon was rising, and access to these locations was incredibly easy.  Put all three of these circumstances together and you have the possibility for some interesting photo opportunities.

Knowing this, I presented the scenario to my 4 assistants two days before the full moon to hear there opinions on a one day excursion to the Yosemite High Country where we would hike in to the top of Sentinel Dome, a location west of Half Dome, like Glacier Point, but about 800 feet higher in elevation to see and photograph the rising full moon over Half Dome.  The consensus was a resounding yes!  So we started making plans for the trip, what we would need to bring, who would carry what and planned out our timetable.  We would leave on Saturday no later than 10 am, giving us enough time to reach the trail head and make the short 1.2 mile hike to the top of Sentinel Dome with enough time to set up the cameras.  Mind you, our youngest companion is only 5 years old.

I planned on making a couple of panoramic photos, one using the DSLR and one using the large format camera.  So rather than having to switch out cameras on one tripod, I opted to bring two tripods.  I would carry one and my oldest assistant, 14 years old would carry the second, along with extra water and food.  My second assistant, 12 years old, would carry extra warm clothing, water and some food.  The other two assistants, kept the hike lively.

Needless to say, we missed our departure deadline by one hour.  This cut into the schedule in a not so serious way as long as we did not have to make to many stops along the way…however we did, twice for bathroom breaks and once for gas.  As we made our way up the west side of the Sierra Nevada the absence of snow was very apparent and brought nothing but disappointment to my four assistants who secretly were hoping to find snow everywhere, after all it was winter.  Once we did reach an elevation of about 6000 feet we started seeing remnant ice fields from some snow storms in late autumn that have now turned into giant fields of frozen snow.  However to the occupants of a moving car, it looked white, it was on the ground, it had to be snow and the beseeching started. “Please!, Please!. Pleeeaseeeee!!….stop! we’ll do anything, Pleeaseeee!”  Icy patch after icy patch, the crescendo of pleading increased.  We finally reached the trail head at an elevation of about 7700 ft at around 3pm.  We still had close to one hour to reach the summit, I thought we were in good shape.

As soon as the assistants saw the ice fields they rushed to them with all abandon. It only took about 4 slips of the feet out from under them to realize it really was not snow and they came back with both their heads on straight and eyes on the prize of summitting Sentinel Dome.  This ate about 30 minutes of time before we were out on the trail.  The trail to Sentinel Dome is not a difficult one.  Elevation gain is only about 350 feet and it only gets steep once we reach the final ascent on the north side of the dome.  Along the trail there are two locations where Sentinel Dome can be seen completely and it was at the first location that my my youngest assistant, hand in my hand, asks “what is that?”  I replied, “that is the mountain we are going to climb, we are going up to the top”.  Suddenly she says, “Baba, I’m scared”  All her intrepidness seemed to vanish into thin air.  I reassured her that it would be ok.  She insisted that she did not know how to climb a mountain, but I continued to reassure here that she could hold my hand the whole way up and that we were not going to “rock climb”  Somehow I felt she really did not believe me.  Just before reaching the base of the granite dome, she started to give up out of tiredness and decided to just sit there in the middle of the trail.  After a little coaxing I manage to get her to continue.  The other assistants were already ahead of us and once she saw them ascending the dome, my little one suddenly became over exuberant and started after them.

It was as if I had not existed and this mountain was nothing more than a mole hill to her.  They all charged up the dome ahead of me.  I was about 50 feet from the summit, when my second oldest came rushing back down yelling “the moon is rising, hurry take a picture!”.  It was too late of course, I had missed the rising. Rather than trying to scramble and set up the camera on the slope I continued to the top and once there set everything up.  I started with the large format camera while the moon was still relatively close to the horizon.  I set it up, focused, metered and determined the filtering needed to hold the sky back while still keeping detail in the trees now in the shadow of Sentinel Dome.  I planned on using back shifts to create a two frame panoramic.  With this technique, I would only need to focus once and as long as I did not move the rear standard forwards or back, focus would stay the same.  Once I finished with the larger camera, I switched to the DSLR.  I planned out a sweeping panorama using my 80-200 mm lens set at 80 mm.  Even at 80mm the angle of view was quite tight so it required three vertical passes.  I made 36 separate exposures, twelve in three rows.  By the time I had finished all of this, the wind had started to pick up and with it the wind chill kicked in fiercely.  The air temperature was around 40°F and with that brisk wind, possibly 15 mph, the temperature suddenly felt like it was below freezing.

Sentinel Dome and Moon Rise Panoram

Moonrise over Half Dome

My assistants started to complainof the cold and found a small impression on the dome and all huddled in it to shield themselves from the wind.  Rather than risking anyone getting really cold, I packed up and we started down just as the the light was starting to become golden in color.  I sensed that the sky was going to ignite with color however reason won out and we found ourselves on the trail and heading down hill.  Once below the tree line the wind was non-existent and everyone was happy again.  Just before reaching the trial head we crossed over a wooden foot bridge that spans over a small unnamed tributary creek that feeds into Sentinel Creek.  The creek is not more than about 10 feet wide and it was completely frozen over.  The creek was a ribbon of ice meandering through the trees, each cascade, with all its ripples and splashes, caught frozen in time. It was too much for them to bear, they just had to walk out onto it.  At first they did so with an ample amount of care, which slowly eroded away and it led them to only find themselves flat on their backs on the icy surface.  This lasted for about 5 minutes with me bellowing out loud in both laughter and admonition to come back off the ice.

We all reached our vehicle in one piece and with our spirits soaring.  We made a quick trip down to Washburn Point, where I made two more photos of little Yosemite Valley under the light of the full moon and fading dusk light and then it was down to the Valley for something warm to eat before heading home.

Washburn Point at Dusk under Moonlight

Dusk at Washburn Point

On the short trip down to the Valley, we started recounting our hike and realized that my youngest assistant suddenly became the record holder in our clan as the youngest to summit Sentinel Dome, at 5 years old.  Not to be outdone, the others started to boast of their own records.  My next youngest holds the record of most number of times to Yosemite before age one.  He in fact visited Yosemite three times before reaching the ripe old age of one year.  Then my oldest of course holds the record for longest hike as a toddler, 4.5 miles at the age of 4 years.  My second oldest holds the record for many things in our clan none of which are for our outdoor escapades.

We arrived home just over 13 hours from the time we left.  We spent about as much time at 8000 feet as we would have on any of our local outings and yet somehow it was not just another day in the park.  We accomplished something great together, as a unit, and discovered things about ourselves and shared an experience, laughter, and each other.  I think we fell in love that day, with each other, with Sentinel Dome, and with Mother Earth.  I don’t know about  my assistants, but to me I feel like every step we took that day forged a stronger bond between the five of us, a bond, God Willing, that will hold us together for many moons to come. It also has seemed to light a desire in us that keeps calling us back to the mountains.

I encourage all of you to go out and do something epic with someone you want to get close to, as epic as you dare, or perhaps maybe even just with Mother Earth. She just might show you the time of your life and lasso your heart.

Peace.

 

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I Found My Dream Girl

Last week on Veteran’s Day I was not scheduled to teach anywhere as most schools close for that day.  I waited patiently as I watched my online schedule for any last minute additions.  When 6 pm rolled around and nothing showed up, I made a snap decision to return to Yosemite Valley to catch the last bit of autumn color in the Valley.

I gather up my entourage of four kids and packed up a day lunch, water and some warm clothing and we hit the road.  Four hours later we found our selves playing in the remnant snow at 6000 feet elevation around Crane Flat from the storm that passed through a few days earlier.  Once the fingers on my children’s hands had sufficiently numbed we continued on our way dropping down in to the Valley.  All four were now very excited to be in the mountains once again.  As we rounded the bend on Highway 120 leading down to the first view of El Capitan and Half Dome, my youngest son suddenly exclaims, “I have found my dream girl!” With astonishment the rest of the kids look at him in wonderment asking what in the world he is talking about.  I had an inkling about what he meant and then he clarified his statement to the rest confirming my thoughts.

He said “the Earth is a girl right?  We do call her Mother Earth.  She is beautiful. She never complains.  She feeds us and gives us to drink.  And she is always ready to accept us when we want to play.  She is my dream girl”

Well my son, mine too…mine too.

Dream Girl

Dream Girl

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Postcards From Paradise

Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

The first full day of photography has come to a close.  After 12 hours in the field we can finally take some rest.  It rained on us, the wind blew a bit, and the sun even shined on us a few times.  Through it all we kept the shutters blazing and the film burning and pixels popping, we could not have asked for better conditions.

Tunnel View

Tunnel View Morning

The rain that fell today was not substantial, more actually fell over night and we awoke to a wonderland of saturated color.  The day started out somewhat dull at Tunnel View, and when we arrived about half an hour before sunrise there were few people there.  Within three or four clicks of our shutters, suddenly the place was overrun by nearly 50, yes 50 photographers!  It was getting a bit crowded and since the sun had risen and the light difficult to capture, we decided to move on to the color before everyone else did.  That was a good move.

Pohono Color

Color!

We worked here until our stomachs said “feed me” so we took a break to power up and then we continued on our search for color which took us into the Ansel Adams gallery first.  There we looked at some amazing photography from Ansel Adams as well as some stunning work by others, the most impressive of which came from photographer Charles Cramer.

We then made our move into the El Capitan Meadow where the sun played hide and seek with us and won, as we could catch its rays to our satisfaction.

Moving on we found ourselves working along the Merced River where we not only found some amazing color among the Dogwoods, but they were showered in the sweetest warm light that just rendered the trees into something that I can only describe as delectable.

Sweetness

Sugar Coated for your Eyes

We worked there until we could no longer see through the camera viewfinder and headed back into the valley.  As we approached our lodge, we saw the slightest hint of twilight still dancing in among the the clouds and decided it was worth the effort to make one more photo.  I am glad we did.  The camera can sometimes see much better than we can.

Twilight

Last Dance

So for another night, I bid you good night and Wish You Were Here!

Peace.

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The Happiest Place on Earth

The Happiest Place on Earth

The Gates to Happy

Finally here again after two years.  Yosemite Valley has to be the happiest palce on Earth.  As soon as you drop into the valley and move past the Merced River and over Pohono Bridge the colors of autumn in the valley enthrall your eyes. Then as you meander along the gentle road passing through big leaf maple groves and sugar pine the grandeur of the largest monolithic piece of granite in the world greets you and your heart skips a beat in the shadow of its greatness before it settles into a state of tranquility certain in the fact that you are now home.

I will be posting each evening over the next few nights on what I find here this time around.  Stay tuned, the happy can only get better!

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The Cynical Eye

I just finished teaching a class on leaf shapes to a pre-K class of children. I teach kids almost everyday and the topics run the gamut from earth science to physics to photography. Some days things move along so smoothly and other days it is a real struggle to just get through one hour of instruction. Today was one of those days. The children were nearly clueless about trees, had no answers about why a tree was of any benefit, even the teacher who asked for the class thought she was going to have trouble because there were no trees near the school to gather leaves from – her excuse was that the school was in a light industrial area of San Jose and there were no trees. On the contrary, on my way out, I must have counted at least 10 different trees species!

On my way to today’s lesson and on the way back to my studio I drove past two radar gun speed traps with police officers pulling cars over from the side of the road. On my way back I thought I was being pulled over as an officer jumped out in front of me and started waving to pull over. Relieved was I when he pointed to a car behind me and in another lane. With my heart racing I had to calm myself down and was a bit overwhelmed by the world that we have made for ourselves.

I guess I should not be surprised.  We move along in our mechanized vehicles at breakneck speeds never taking the time to just look at any of the natural wonders that surround us.  Actually you can’t while in our sound proof rolling isolation chambers, because if we take our eyes off the road for any reason, even for a split second, we will end up splattered across the roadway in a million pieces!

We have all but completely isolated ourselves from the natural world.  We watch “Sunrise Earth” on cable television in HD instead of actually going out in the morning to watch the sun actually come up over the horizon in RD (thats Real Definition).  We tell time by the artificial circular motion of arms on a clock, or worse yet by reading a digital display of numbers on an LCD screen.  Not ever once asking what do those numbers really mean, or why do the hands on the clock actually spin in the “clockwise” direction, there is a reason for this!  Not to mention the further-removed-from-reality construct of Daylight Saving Time.  We have created an artificial world for ourselves and the longer we immerse ourselves in it, the more artificial we become.

It is well known that if we keep company with people who are ill with a communicable disease, we can become infected with that same disease.  The same is true with spiritual diseases of the heart.  Keep company with people who are misers, arrogant, and angry and don’t be surprised to find yourself acting miserly, arrogant and full of rage as well.  But these diseases have known cures and so while they are troubling, they are not with out a resolution.  What I fear is the time we spend keeping company with all the artificial non-living manufactured things that consume our time.  Will that time spent with machines make us less human?  Will we start to act in the heartless, emotionless, repetitive manner of a machine?

It is very easy to fall into this trap of seeing the world with a cynical eye.  I fall into it from time to time and it concerns me.  It is not a place that I like to be.  When it does happen, I know at that point that I have been apart from the natural world too long.  My heart races in turmoil and needs to find tranquility and peace, even if for only a short time.  Later today, I will be doing just that – finding a natural place where I can just reconnect with the real world and find some tranquility camera by my side or not.  It€™s time.  I invite you to do the same.

Tranquility, Peace, Stillness, Dog Lake, Yosemite

Tranquility

Peace.

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Lost Without You

It amazes me how fast time progresses. Another month has gone by since my last post. In that time I tried to catch up on what has been going on photographically on some forums and other websites. I found myself reading some articles written by Joseph Holmes on high end digital and the ins and outs of putting together a medium format digital camera system and dealing with quality control issues as well as the importance of critical focus with such high end imaging equipment. Afterwards I felt like my endeavors in photography were not up to par, lacking, or somehow inferior.

In the past month I also made one trip in search of spring wildflower blooms. I only made two 4×5 photos, and neither was of flowers. I felt like I had missed spring. Then after reading up on high-end medium format digital, I felt like my meager attempts were just that.

And yet in the past month I sold several photos, all of which were made with the 4×5 except for one, which was made using a 10 MP DSLR camera. Each was exceptional in composition: Emerald Pool, Redwood Glow, Rippled Reflection, Autumn Meadow, Before The Heat, and The Test Of Time. Each photo is moving and each moved the patron who purchased them emotionally.

Then this evening, I went out moon sighting, as I do each month, with a 12 MP Nikon D2x digital camera in hand and a prime 400mm f/5.6 manual focus Nikon lens from the late 1980′s era. No thoughts of inadequacy entered my mind once them imagery began to excite my eyes.

Watching the sun go down across the San Francisco Bay among the haze and clouds and sea birds passing by whipped through the sky by a brisk frigid wind, I recalled reading an article years ago written by Galen Rowell who said (I paraphrase), no matter how often you see the same setting sun, something clicks inside and gets one into the business of making photos and nothing else matters. It was not the most exceptional sunset I had ever witnessed, but one that certainly set the mood for what I was to find.

Once the sun did set, the search in the western sky for that thin crescent moon began. After a while, I wondered if I would see it at all this night as the moon was only 23 hours old past conjunction and would only be 1.5% illuminated – a difficult moon to see at best. After about 20 minutes of not seeing it, my attention was diverted downwards to the exposed mud of the Hayward shoreline estuary on the east side of the San Francisco bay.

Visually very exciting with the various textures and cracks, the mud became an interesting subject. What made it even more exciting was that the unusual lighting provided by the remaining blue skylight reflected off the drier more bleached areas of the mud giving a surreal feel to the photograph.

Finally, about half an hour after the sun vanished I looked up and saw a small sliver of light appearing in the sky among the clouds. And again, the subtleties of that light came through and with a camera that pales in comparison to what the highest quality digital equipment can produce. Another moving image of the new moon was made.

This moon was incredibly fine. I lost it in the sky several times after seeing it. I was very happy to have seen it and record its appearance. But I think what impressed me more was that the camera was able to capture subtleties that my eye could not see as I looked on. In this photo, one can just barely make out the entire outline of the moon. The difference in the luminosity of the sky and the disk of the moon is so small that even in Photoshop the luminosity channel of the L*a*b color space only sees a 1% change, and in some spots not even that, as the cursor is moved across the outline of the moon.

Is this a perfect photo technically? No. It suffers from digital noise. It is not as sharp as it could be, although more than acceptable given that the large telephoto lens I was using was shaking quite a bit in that brisk wind. But it leads me to the question of inadequacy. What makes a camera system inadequate? Again, thinking about how I felt after reading those articles on high-end medium format digital camera systems, I began to think that the equipment I had and used was not up to snuff in producing great photos. But no more than 1 year ago, the Nikon D2x was the Nikon flagship camera, and it is a fine camera. Just a little bit over three years ago, nothing in the digital world could even touch the quality of 4×5 film. And according to Joseph Holmes, assembling a top of the line digital medium format camera system is non-trivial. Along with the high resolutions capable of such large sensors and computer designed digital lenses comes what appears to be real issue of quality control. And as outlined in his articles, in some cases, the results are quite poor given what they are capable of. In addition, ones technique behind such cameras becomes ultra-critcal as Micheal Reichmann wrote about on the Luminous-Lanscape article on the Phase One P65+.

This is all fine as it shows that digital equipment is reaching a pinnacle in capturing true to life images. But I have to ask myself, to what end? Do we need all that resolution? Do we need to concern ourselves, as photographers, about focus being one micron (0.000001 meters or 1/1000th of a millimeter) off? Does it matter for the web where unfortunately most of the digital photos end up? I suppose it comes with the advances in technology that we put this technology to the test, but in the end I think it does not amount to a hill of beans when the final photograph produced has little or no emotional value to the patron.

I am not privy to the sales information of other working fine art photographers, but I do wonder how many prints they sell of any given photograph made with such high-end expensive equipment. I know the argument of price vs. value is what gets thrown around when the price tag of such high end systems are brought up, but can they ever recoup the cost of the equipment?

Six years ago during the spring wildflower bloom in Gorman California, I was fortunate enough to have witnessed and photographed that epic bloom. At that time I toted two 35mm cameras, a Nikon F3 and a Nikon F4s, and a barrage of manual focus prime focal length lenses. Digital photography was just making its in-roads and the quality was just about to surpass that of 35mm film. On Easter Sunday morning of 2003 I found myself astounded at that bloom that covered the Gorman Hills. The number of people, photographers and wildflower enthusiasts alike, that had ignored the No Trespassing signs and climbed all over those hills was astounding. I did not however and was very frustrated at not being able to make a photo of just the flowers without having one or more people in the frame. Frustrated, I packed up my gear and proceeded to leave. At the freeway exit there at Gorman, I discovered a dirt road that paralleled Hwy 5 on the west side of the freeway and proceeded down that road. I was now quite a bit away from the hills themselves and had a much wider view. I attached the 400mm telephoto lens to my F4s and started to take intimate photos of the hills. The photo below was one that I came home with.

After The Rain

After The Rain

It has been my number one best selling image from the very first time I showed it. It was not unusual for a large 20×30 inch print to be sold each and every week, and sometimes two per week. Now take a look at a 100% crop of the detail found in a 20×30 enlargement.

It is absolutely nothing to brag about, in fact it is down right ugly. But it has not stopped patrons from marveling at the bloom depicted, amazed by all the color, and moved to unexplainable tears in some cases. But I can’t count the number of times that patrons have compared the 20×30 print to that of the work of Monet. And while I cannot make a claim that even pales next to Monet’s exceptional work, this photograph has been purchased by nearly 250 different patrons over the past six years. This one photo has literally paid off nearly every piece of photographic equipment that I own.

Now if this was not enough, my second best selling photograph, Another Time, again made using 35mm equipment, is poorly focused in the foreground, not by much, but in a 16×24 enlargement it is noticeable to photographers. And yet a framed 16×24 enlargement of that very photograph hangs in the office of the Archbishop William J. Levada in the Vatican in Italy! It was purchased and given to him as a going away gift in 2005 when he moved from San Francisco to the Vatican. He remarked at the time, with tears in his eyes, that it was the most moving photo of Yosemite that he had seen and being a native Californian, Yosemite was his most favorite place and visited there often and that he would be hanging this in his new office. This photo has sold over 120 times since it was made in November of 2001.

Now I am not recounting all of these stories and remarking on the quality of a D2x and old lenses to boast or make anyone believe that my work is anyway exceptional compared to others, in fact I am humbled by the work of many landscape photographers. On the contrary I am trying to point out that photographic equipment will only take a photographer so far. I am not saying that a lowly point and shoot camera can ever take the place of any high-end camera, nor am I saying that a good photo can be made using any camera. But what I want to point out is that as photographers we would not be lost without all of this new cutting edge technology. Yes the technology is remarkable. Yes incredible photos are being made with it. Yes it is stretching the envelope of what is capable. But it has to be in the hands of a capable artist for anything moving to come out of it that will be of any real worth to those who view it. And before you go out and take a second mortgage on your house to finance a top of the line digital medium or large format system, think about the last photo you made and what moved you to make it. Think about the resulting photograph and where it ended up. Was it on paper or did it end up on some web page? Did it move you as an image later the way it moved you when you first saw the scene? Did it move others in the way that it moved you?

Galen Rowell once said I like to feel that all my best photographs had strong personal visions and that a photograph that doesn’t have a personal vision or doesn’t communicate emotion fails“. That is how I feel about photography as well and it is where I concentrate my energy now, and not on producing lifeless technically perfect images. A camera, no matter how advanced, cannot translate my vision and emotions alone without my artistic ability. And with out that then I would be lost.

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