Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Of old dogs, new tricks and the freedom to connect—digitally speaking

Looking at Cannon Beach from Ecola State Park, Oregon, under storm light.

I’ve been at this game for a while, but in truth, I feel I’m doing some of my best work right now. Shooting with these amazing new digital cameras, I find I can be more spontaneous, more immediate and reactive, and so, get closer spiritually and visually to what I’m feeling and seeing.

All my experience comes quickly to mind and hand when I’m in a place, trying to connect the near to the far, to connect the viewer to the power of the landscape. And it’s more alive in a way now, more intense and sudden, because I can use the digital camera’s quick responsiveness to match my own response to the subject.

Wherever I go, I’m looking for what I call natural connections between past and present, between presence felt and presence remembered.

In earlier columns, I’ve talked about my desire to motivate you to look at the natural world and involve yourself in the subject; to become a part of it; to let it speak to you, then through you with your images.

For much of my career, I’ve used the 4x5 view camera. It’s a wonderful tool that helps create stunning imagery. But you spend much time setting up the tripod, making sure the camera doesn’t fall off the head, then ducking under the dark cloth to compose and focus a composition on the ground glass—upside down, at that.

I’ve seen photographers spend too much time struggling with their equipment. “It’s not responding the way I want,” they’ll say. “It’s too heavy; you have to be so careful; it fell on the rocks,” and so on.

I want technical considerations to be a sidebar at most for what I’m feeling at the moment: how to capture the changing light, or drop down a foot lower for a whole new outlook without a lot of work.

Digital cameras have delivered me, to some degree, from all that technical distraction. The immediacy of handheld shooting is a delight. It’s easier to creatively react to the unpredictable.


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