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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mauna Loa View


“Presence” to the land goes far beyond a statement of location

When you let all that raw power inside you, it’s dramatic. The camera work plays second fiddle to the surprise of it, the power and majesty of it.

Aldo Leopold, father of the national forest wilderness system, once titled a book chapter “Thinking Like a Mountain.” I love that phrase. It makes me feel I belong to the land.

On Mauna Loa, I found myself thinking like the mountain. I had to. What, I wondered, does it want from me? How can I be of service to this wonderful place? Because the visual was nothing like I had expected. I was on top of it, in the middle of it, completely respecting it and way beyond merely using it as something to capture on film.

I also find important the American Indian’s traditional respect for the earth—and all that exists upon it. By sensing that every plant, rock, cloud, tree, stream and mountain has its own sacred quality, our images become so much more.

So, in these sacred places, you give them time. You invite them inside you. You feel their insistence on existence in your heart. It’s an important process for creating.

Indians have a phrase for it: to walk in someone else’s moccasins. In places like Mauna Loa, you walk in the land, and it walks inside you.

Let your subject have the space it needs. You spent all the hard work and planning and money and desire to get there. Now just stop.

Put your ego and purpose aside.
Listen.
Breathe.
Open up.
Feel the earth.
Respect everything that comes to you—an urge, an impulse, a sense of the magical. Then start photographing.

If you can do that every time you go out, even for just a little while, you’ll find the sacred spirit in the land.

David Muench’s youthful vigor and spirit have evolved his mastery with the 4x5 view camera to include 35mm film and, most recently, digital SLR shooting of which he says, “I feel I’m doing some of my best work right now.” Over the course of some five decades, his work has been celebrated in more than 50 exhibit-format books such as Plateau Light and Eternal Desert, as well as innumerable exhibits and permanent installations. See more of his images at www.muenchphotography.com.

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