Tuesday, August 3, 2010
50 Years After Travels With Charley
Packing his camera and an open mind, Randy Wells takes us on a road trip to rediscover Steinbeck’s America
Once research for a road trip is completed and the necessary transportation accomplished, the photographer must not only execute the planned photographs, but also remain available to chance encounters. For it’s in the moments in between where we most often make our best photographs. Being there is all-important, but being relaxed and open to serendipity can be just as crucial. In my case, I needed to become intimately familiar with Steinbeck’s book and his trail across America, and I needed to plan a way to capture his ideas in photographs that rang true with his words. Allowing enough time in the field to let the experience unfold naturally was vital to me. And at the last instant, something special or unexpected needed to transform the moment and make the photograph truly memorable. Too many times this last element was missing. Sometimes the answer was simply more.
Once research for a road trip is completed and the necessary transportation accomplished, the photographer must not only execute the planned photographs, but also remain available to chance encounters. For it’s in the moments in between where we most often make our best photographs.
It was in the primordial oasis of Grand Teton National Park where I experienced one of the more compelling moments of my journey. I had awoken very early one chilly fall morning from the comfort of my camper to capture first light on the Teton Range. At a popular boat landing along the Snake River, a perennial beaver pond formed a silent pool, which provided a picture-perfect reflection for the jagged monuments that rose abruptly from a valley floor uninterrupted for hundreds of miles to the east. The parking lot was empty when I arrived in the dark after traveling along a bumpy washboard road. I fixed a medium-focal-length zoom lens to my Canon camera and fastened it to my sturdy Gitzo tripod. I checked the battery, grabbed my bag and slowly made my way to the viewpoint I had visited several times before. I heard a gentle tinkling behind me. As the mist slowly parted on the brightening, rose-tinted river, I spotted a female moose upwind munching contentedly on the tall grass that fringed the ancient, bending stream. A quiet inner voice assured me that if I were to continue to my chosen viewpoint, the moose would eventually follow and provide a counterpoint to the majestic setting.
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