I spend a lot of time these days in one of several badlands in the San Juan Basin. These images are from a tour I led recently in the Bisti Wilderness. I normally take a tripod whenever I go out photographing, but recently I have been leaving it at home when I lead tours.
The main reason is that I want to be able to devote my time to my clients and the time involved with setting up my tripod every time I make an image is a distraction.
Also, shooting handheld puts me in another frame of mind, one where I have more freedom to shoot from the hip. I think it also has an an positive effect on my creative vision.
At one point, I saw my client down in the rocks looking around for a shot and was able to capture this image of him processing the scene. If I had to fiddle with my tripod, I doubt the image would be as spontaneous.
I’ve also found that I make images that I would normally pass up. This one is an example; at first glance, I wasn’t really that impressed by this scene, but, I did like the cracks in the foreground. I’m glad I decided to make this photo, after spending time processing the image, it’s grown on me.
This petrified log is half exposed in a small wash in a remote section of the Bisti Wilderness. There are several other relatively large logs in this same area. Actually, I’ve taken this photo before, but I like the light much better in this version.
As we were packing up to leave in the parking area, this group of riders approached us. I called them over and we shared some water with them, then they posed with their horses.
It was a fitting end to the tour and my clients were overjoyed.
In my last post, I commented on how we, as a species, are responsible for the degradation of our environment, and how we are the only species that has the capability to affect such an assault. That being said, I would also like to acknowledge our status as a part of the natural world in which we live. We need only accept our place to begin a process by which we become more attuned to the ebb and flow of the cycles that are a necessary part of life on our wondrous planet.
It occurs to me that since we really are one with the world around us, why should I as a photographer of nature be reluctant to include the human element in my images. After all, I have photographed people in natural settings for environmental portraits. So, it is a short leap to accept the subjects of those portraits as elements of the landscape they inhabit, rather than taking the opposite view that the scene is just a backdrop for the portrait.
This first image is one that I made several years ago. I was photographing a friend of mine who wanted some photos for her website. Halli is a yoga instructor, so I immediately visualized what became this image of her in a half lotus pose with this wonderful waterfall behind her. The waterfall, the whole environment, is certainly more than just a backdrop here. It is an integral part of the image; it suggests the power inherent in our connection to the natural world, if we can just be receptive. The technical challenge here was to have Halli remain still through the long exposure required to render the moving water as a silky curtain. Luckily, due to her training, she had no problem remaining focused and still while the shutter was open.
This image was made at Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu, NM. Robin and I were out exploring the area and she disappeared into this cabin. I noticed her moving around inside and asked her to pose in the window. The missing pane served as a frame and the glass in the remaining panes reflected the surrounding landscape. The result is a portrait that not only captures her essence, but also reveals the source of her tranquility in this moment.