(© Ian Plant) Photography is more than just making pretty pictures—it is a way to document our constantly changing world. Driven by the unrelenting arrow of time, each moment is a unique slice of reality that will never be repeated again. As photographers, we keep a sacred trust, recording the passage of time and preserving that which may be lost.
I made this photo of a Lake Superior sea arch in Tettegouche State Park two years ago. Last year, the arch collapsed. The arch had stood for thousands of years, and then one day it simply fell into the water. Now it is gone forever; preserved only in the fleeting memories of those who have seen it, and in photographs such as this one.
Our world is constantly in motion, and nature is ever-changing. The arch isn’t the first thing I have photographed that disappeared shortly thereafter. And it won’t be the last. Some things are destroyed by human activity; others come and go with the natural cycle of destruction and rebirth. I draw two lessons from this:
One, every time someone makes a photograph, they are recording something that will never be seen again. Sure, a subject such as Half Dome may stay around for millions of years, but the moment you make a photograph is fleeting and will never be repeated—and who knows, some terrible natural disaster may strike at any time, reducing even mighty Half Dome to rubble.
Second, never procrastinate when it comes to photography. I don’t know how many times I have said “I’ll come back next year to get this shot.” Too often, “next year” doesn’t happen—I never make it back, or if I do, something has changed making the shot different or impossible.
The bottom line is simple: get out there and shoot, because you never know what you might be missing.
You can see more of my Lake Superior images in my Great Lakes Gallery on my website.