Leaning Rock, Grapevine Hills, Big Bend National Park
Leaning Rock, Grapevine Hills, Big Bend National Park
People sometimes seek out wilderness for the demands it makes upon them. For the exercise of personal responsibility it requires. Wild undeveloped places allow us to use our evolutionary gifts.

Most of us live in cities where the natural environment is controlled as much as possible. About the only things uncontrolled are weather and geological processes. Wilderness is out of our control. We encounter wild places at our peril.

Quite large areas of the planet remain as wilderness. That does not mean that any part of the world is truly unknown. Satellites measure and catalog the earth in great detail. Still, in spite of our technologies wilderness exists unmodified by humans.

Being in the wild gives me with a feeling of exhilaration. Some of my earliest memories are of times spent in the mountains with my grandfather. He gave me a great gift of respect for the wild world.

Under Leaning Rock, Grapevine Hills, Big Bend National Park
Under Leaning Rock, Grapevine Hills, Big Bend National Park

Learning to see

When I got my first camera I snapped pictures of everything in front of me. I was surprised to discover the camera captured a different view of the world than my eyes. It was interesting to see what the camera saw. There was no real consideration of subject matter and not much attention paid to framing. Just point and shoot. Of course my pictures were uninteresting to say the least. Most of them were blurred or angled with the subject half out of the frame if it was there at all. They were just random images of nothing in particular.

That prompted me to start buying photography books. After reading several (dozen) I discovered that they all gave the same rudimentary advice accompanied by beautiful images made by the author. I don’t want to sound cynical but most of the books were about showcasing pretty pictures not helping the reader. The lesson I took from self help photography books is that people are desperate to get their images into print and are willing to sacrifice your money to do so.

My next stop was online to the photography forums. It turns out these places are also populated by people who are desperate to get their images in front of an audience. That was a step forward because I was desperate to do the same thing. Good or bad someone should admire my hard work. It turned out the forums were far more useful in learning photography than self help books. The reason is that they contain a high percentage of bad photography. It was easier for me to analyze bad images made by someone else rather than my own. Over time that made me a better self editor and my images improved. I also met plenty of nice people and made a few friends. Overall contributing to online forums has been an great experience.

Now having shot twenty thousand images more or less in the past few years I’m still learning to see. My goal is to be more selective about what I capture with my camera. I shoot slower and try to visualize a finished image before pressing the shutter. I’ve also spent time learning other essential skills such as image post processing and printing. There is still much to learn and enjoy along the way to becoming a competent photographer.

Seeing through Mexican eyes

Ghost Camera_1My journey with photography began around the turn of the millennium. Almost immediately after picking up a camera I discovered the work of twentieth century Mexican photographers. They opened my eyes to the possibilities of making images that are both excellent and full of personal expression.

For some reason I did not feel the same connection with most North American and European photographers that I have with the Mexican masters. Regardless anyone can appreciate great work.

I will mention two individuals for now. There are many to investigate but this is a good place to start. Have a look at the work of Manuel Alvarez Bravo and his student Graciela Iturbide.