Here’s a couple shots from our last trip to Moab, shot on the Olympus XA.
Tracks Through Rock – 2005
One of the Cool things about the Moab area is how easy it is to get completely away from civilization. Not far from town, there are panoramic vistas where you can see no sign that humans have ever been there. So it struck me when we were on a hike when we crossed this railroad track. Almost the converse of the Moab experience, this seemed like a grandiose mark of humanity out in the wilderness. The vertical lines betray the sheer force with which the rock was cleared out to make way for the tracks. On the trail, we encountered a couple who asked if we thought the canyon the tracks passed through was the work of humans. I was slightly floored at the absurdity of the question.
As for the picture, you’ll note that the frame is not visible around the image, meaning I had to crop it, since I wasn’t holding the camera straight. I don’t like cropping images. Call it a compulsive desire not to discard any image information. It also means I wasn’t shooting carefully. 35mm negatives have a limited resolution, as does the XA’s lens, so to maximize that I really need to compose the image in the viewfinder. Aside from that the presence of the frame as defined by the camera keeps the camera itself in the image. Photography is not a literal representation of reality, but rather reality as rendered through a particular instrument, and I don’t want to pretend otherwise. In fact, that’s one of the things I like about it. Cropping for me is like trying to dive into the image and remove the process that created it. When you do that, you’re more apt to focus on the shortcomings of the medium.
View Down Long Canyon – 2005
See the difference? By abstracting the view with the frame and recalling the process of image creation, I think this shot brings you closer to the reality of the moment when the image was taken.
I may end up going back into Photoshop and seeing if I can make the snow-capped peaks in the background pop a bit more. Those peaks must be 50 miles from where I was standing, and I’d like to get a sense of that scale.
I’m not sure I’ve captured the feeling of standing on that cliff, several hundred feet from the creek below. Suffice it to say that I did not get any closer to that edge than what you see here; it was terrifying and exhilarating in that way that only the wilderness can be. In Utah as with Colorado, you frequently get a sense of the indifferent lethality of nature that I never got growing up in Iowa. Not that nature feels malevolent, just the overwhelming feeling that you should not feel so different from the bug you stepped on that morning, you can go at any moment, in just as arbitrary a fashion. A few more steps, and there would be no hope for you. In a few months, the desert would swallow you whole, and there would be no trace of you left. Perhaps people who are hostile to the environment have had an epiphany like this and rebel against it. I find it enlightening and liberating. The danger here is very obvious, as opposed to the danger so often hidden in human intentions. The rules here may seem arbitrary, but they’re very clear, and subject to precious little negotiation. The first rules humans to which humans had to adhere were those imposed by nature, and most of those rules still stand today. Anyway I’m not sure I captured that.
Both of these images were shot on Tri-X Pan, the film to which I’ve retreated while I regain my footing. I’ve been learning a lot about the scanning and exposure control process lately, which I hope will produce some sharper results.