Why not let the Llama carry the other 60 lbs.?
Why not let the Llama carry the other 60 lbs.?
Because it's way too much weight. If you carried 160 pounds, then you'd find things closer to photograph. Trust me.
First, I read in an essay somewhere (maybe someone recognizes this and can name the author) that sometimes the best photographs are the ones we don't take.
James this has been said by Mr Andere Kertesz, although not to me personally...
For me those days when I'm FINALLY in the right place at the right time with the camera and nothing else to do but take photos are both rare and exhilirating. Those are the days I keep going for. The last thing I would do is spoil that rare freedom by putting quota's on myself. That's what I'm escaping from. Finally just getting to the pretty places is the cake. Bringing back a pic or two is the icing. Sometimes the cake is all you need. I know everyone works differenly, and you perhaps have to consider the large investment and effort more than I might. My wife is wishing for a Christmas tree so I'm going into the hills with a chain saw, and the Deardorff. I've got a new to me 21cm Heliar that I want to try on something. I tend to steal the best pictures. F8 and be there works for this stuff too. What if you wake up some day and realize "all the stuff I did when I was pushing too hard is no good because I was pushing too hard"....and you have to start over? You wouldn't be the first.
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949
I've concluded that my greatest impediment to picture taking is myself. For example, I've been working in a spot recently. The first few times there, I saw pictures everywhere. After some time, I saw the same pictures I'd made again and again. My mind refused to let me be open to a new experience of the place. I would go there (and don't ask me how I know this, but I know I have more pictures to make there) but I would end up at the same viewpoints again. The human mind is a funny thing - memory comes elbowing its way in saying, "Here, I know how to make sense of this - let me show you." And I think putting pressure on oneself only makes it worse because now your mind is even more furiously trying to make sense of things for you.
As the Zen saying goes, "In order to pour tea into a teacup, you need to empty the teacup first." Or something to that effect. Getting myself to shut up and listen is hard but I think there are ways to do it. Just walking around and observing and feeling, I think are key. I notice that my really satisfying photographs involve an experience first, and then a slow realization that I should photograph it. And to have an experience, one needs to empty one's mind first. No judgments, no pre-conceptions, but just looking and being open. I know it sounds metaphysical but actually I think the experience is almost a bodily response rather than some abstract kind of thing.
my personal approach is to set a goal of getting ONE good photo in a six day trip. if i get two, it's a miracle. if i never take my camera out of my pack for the whole six days, that's fine too; my 4x5 has made many trips with me without ever leaving my pack.
~chris jordan (Seattle)
What an interesting bunch of responses. I'm Just sitting in .... -jeff buckels (albuquerque)
You've already gotten a lot of great responses about not trying to force the ima ges by using a self-imposed quota. Great advice by all. I can't think of anyth ing to add there that hasn't already be stated eloquently by others.
However, one area I would like to comment on is the amount of weight you're carr ying. 160 lbs.!!!!! Man, I couldn't come up with 160 lbs. of gear if I took ev erything I owned - twice! The heaviest pack I've ever carried was a little over 70 lbs. and for last several years, I've gotten my pack weight down to 45 - 50 lbs. for a typical 4 - 6 day trip. That includes all my food, clothing, tent, c amping equipment AND a complete large format system with four lenses and 80 shee ts of film. And, I often travel solo, so I must carry everything I need - no sh aring the load with other campers.
One of the reasons I go into the backcountry is to get away from "civilization" and get more in touch with nature. I know it sounds cliche', but it's true. Th e less of civilization I carry with me into the backcountry, the less there is b etween me and nature.
It is also very liberating to not be burdened with a ton of heavy gear. I can c over more ground in less time and still end up with more energy left for photogr aphy. Once I get to my chosen campsite, I drop the heavy pack and set-off to do some exploring with a light daypack with the camera gear in it. The total weigh t of this daypack, including one box of Readyloads, a full water bottle, a light jacket and a snack is about 10 - 12 lbs. (and I also carry my 3 lb. 5 oz. tripo d/head in my hand). This feels lighter than air after hauling a heavy pack all day. It let's me scamble around and actually enjoy myself without the burden of a ton of heavy gear. And, I don't find my ultralight 4x5 system to be too limi ting in any way. After all, it's not what's one the tripod that's important, it 's what's in front of it, and to a much greater degree, what's standing behind i t. More gear doesn't ncessarily make a better photographer, but certainly a mor e weary one after a day on the trail.
I'm not advocating a reckless disregard for your personal safety by leaving behi nd essential survival gear. I still carry my first aid kit, appropriate food, c lothing and shelter in case the weather turns nasty. We all have different pref erences and different opinions of what constitutes an enjoyable backcountry expe rience, but you might want to at least try going lightweight one time to see how you like it. If not, you can always go back to your heavier set-up. Or, think of it this way... if you can get your total weight down to "only" 100 lbs. the llama can carry everything and you'll be free to walk about completely unburden ed.
I agree completely with all of the above responses. Art and Production or art are very different things. Vincent Van Gough (sp?), for all of his great talent, produced fewer than 100 (I think it was actually less than 60) paintings. And sold only one in his lifetime - to his art dealer brother, Theo. Would he have been a better or more recognized painter if he had produced more images? Probably not.
I occasionally give myself a personnal assignment. I. E. take only one lens and work that lens to it's maximun usefullness and possibility. OR Find the image you want. Note the distance and divide by 2. Take the shot. Divide by 2 again. Take the shot. OR Make very large pictures of very small things. (Large format negs of weeds blown up 4 or 5 times are great - makes people look at the beauty in the small world that they step on.)
Steve's Basic Photo Laws:
1. Follow the path. 2. Turn around occasionally - the view is different. 3. Don't stay on the path. 4. Take breadcrumbs. To find your way back to the path.
I have to agree that 160 lbs. of gear is pretty astounding, unless you're shooting 20x24" glass plates and lighting up the landscape with studio strobes. I mean, Kenro Izu travels with about 100 lbs. of equipment shooting ultra-large format (14x17" or some such non-conventional size, I think). Lois Connor managed with her 7x17" in China strapped to the back of a bicycle. What all is poor Hershey carrying?