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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Capturing Southwest Light

Larry Lindahl explores his desert home in search of the unexpected

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Red Rocks beneath a sunset at storm’s break, with Mount Wilson and Shiprock in the distance.
Clearly, Lindahl’s successes with his Pentax far outweigh the negatives. He’s happy shooting film for as long as it will have him.

“There’s a rich depth and authenticity of color in film,” he says. “I compare it to the recorded music I grew up with. With analog recordings, there’s an organic quality to the sound that digital doesn’t contain. Good or bad, it’s a feeling to the sound, and with photography, at some point I think the super-sharp, hyper-reality of digital is beyond what the human eye actually experiences.

“When will I begin shooting landscapes in digital?” Lindahl asks, rhetorically. “The writing is on the wall, as the stories of Kodachrome and Polaroid going extinct have so clearly demonstrated. Who knows? Velvia may disappear next. So the time is very near for me to go completely digital.”

Lindahl currently does provide his Velvia chromes with “new life” in the digital darkroom, although instead of thinking as a painter with an infinite palette of special effects at his fingertips, he has taken the Ansel Adams approach of meticulously perfecting reality in every image without forsaking reality.

Palatki ruins of the Sinagua ancient Indian culture near Sedona, Arizona.
“I enjoy seeing what information has been hidden in the images and what I can get out of a scan,” Lindahl says. “The philosophy that Ansel Adams had was that the negative was the score and the print the performance. He made landscape photography into an art because of his darkroom work. The Kodachrome era missed that opportunity. We’re in an exciting age for photographers.”

Although the emotional connection with the landscape is paramount for Lindahl, he doesn’t disregard technique as just a bare necessity. Rather, he fully understands the way equipment shapes his experience, whether he’s photographing a mountain or skiing down it. But he doesn’t seem likely to let equipment concerns and technical limitations unduly influence his experience of the landscape or the reason he makes his photographs as he does.

“Often, I like to just go exploring to find a photogenic subject,” he says. “It’s a great excuse to go hiking all day. If it’s wildflower season, you know you’re going to find something somewhere. But I also like to set myself up for the purposefully unexpected. One summer I went out in the worst monsoon rainstorms every chance I could. I would gear up and just head straight into the approaching black storm. It meant being extremely uncomfortable for a while, and then I witnessed sandstone cliffs shedding waterfalls and watched red rocks shine purple when the storm broke. Waterfalls are exhilarating in a small, tight, side canyon, and they may only last half an hour.”

Adds Lindahl, “But when it’s over, and it’s captured inside the camera, the reward is well worth the effort.”

To see more of Larry Lindahl’s photography, visit www.larrylindahl.com.

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