Saturday, December 15, 2018

Has photography turned into destructive Instagratography?




  I love the outdoors, and beautiful landscapes.  I also love photographing and sharing them.  But what have I done? Lately there have been many articles about how landscape photography has morphed into an obsessive destructive past time. Posting images online and revealing their locations have brought a flood of "me too's",  resulting in an ever increasing visitation and copycatting conundrum.

   Time was that early photographers shared their work with publications and politicians to affect a change in perception and policy.  Works from Ansel Adams, Phillip Hyde, and Katie Lee come to mind. Adams once wrote: “Wilderness is rapidly becoming one of those aspects of the American dream which is more of the past than of the present."  A sentiment shared by many, and dating back to even the earliest days of this country. John Muir wrote around the turn of the century: "The battle for conservation must go on endlessly. It is part of the universal warfare between right and wrong."

  They both were fundamental members of the Sierra Club, one of the premier organizations that helped battle development and promote conservation of the American wilderness.  Phillip Hyde worked with Adams and the Sierra Club and was instrumental at helping protect Dinosaur National Monument, the Grand Canyon,  Canyon de Chelly, Canyonlands, and many others with his photography. Philip Hyde adamantly stated that his reason for being a photographer was to "share the beauty of nature and encourage the preservation of wild places."


    A couple of years ago I attended an exposition at a local art gallery West of the Moon.  It depicted images of a young Katie Lee in tasteful, yet risque nudes in and around Glenn Canyon prior to the dam construction and subsequent flooding starting in the late 1960s.  Her photos, made by Tad Nichols, raised awareness of the beauty and cultural heritage that would be lost once the reservoir filled to capacity by the 80s.  Sadly the dam was built regardless, and ironically has since lost most of it's virility due to constant siphoning and drought that seems to plague the American West as of late. Her images stand as a testament of what was loved, and lost, raising the stakes even higher.

For better or for worse, I wanted my photography to make such an impact.  I love wilderness, and landscapes.  It seemed only natural that I would photograph them and share the images in hopes it would instill the appreciation and awe that I possessed with my audience. With such a noble motivation, and brilliant shoulders to stand upon, what could possibly go wrong?


   A year or so ago, I was in Chaco Canyon National Park exploring ancient ruins of the Ancestral Puebloan people.  Here was a vibrant culture that had created an incredible hub for trade and agriculture, laid to ruin by the effects of tribalism and climate change. I was fascinated by the striking parallels. Having studied and visited there in college over a decade ago, I was excited to return.  I was also driving a four wheel drive campervan, that I had newly built. Having driven a '76 VW campmobile for the past 15 years, I wasn't a stranger to vanlife, even before it was a hashtag thing.   I was extremely excited to share my accomplishments and exploits in vanning and photography, so I joined a forum of like-minded individuals. 

   It was in that forum that I had shared a trip report of an adventure I had driving the rough road to Alstrom Point overlooking Lake Powell.  I had seen a triptych of Gunsight Butte at an art show, and now with my uber-capable camping machine couldn't wait to "me too."  Sure, I did that too, and wrote about and shared it on that forum.   A year later I found myself in the Chaco Canyon campground standing next to another adventure van speaking to it's owner.  I soon realized we both were members on the forum, and after having exchanged each other's 'handle' we recognized each other. I discovered that he and his wife had just completed the same Alstrom Point trip and used my trip report as their guide. 



  At first I was flattered. Then I thought, if that guy had seen my post, how many other people have seen the post?   Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by a guy starting a tourism website and was asked if he could share my trip report on his website. There was my answer, and hastily, I agreed.  Now most people would relish in the attention, and use it to further promote themselves in a "look at me" sort of way.  Instead I started to become remorseful.  I began to think, "Oh God, what have I done?"  I've helped proliferate visitation to a remote and gorgeous location that can't possibly support the added numbers of "me too's."   
   
   
This issue isn't just affecting my conscience.  It is becoming an ubiquitous issue effecting landscapes around the world. Photography has morphed into a social media frenzy of bucket list check boxes.  Visitation to locations such as Horseshoe Bend outside of Page, Arizona has been increasing exponentially from when I visited in 2011. It has jumped from less than a thousand people a day to nearly six thousand in a mere seven years. Now there are plans for a visitor center, and parking for 450 vehicles. Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism  has recently requested people stop geotagging and posting images of the area, saying “Every time someone captures stunning scenery and tags the exact location, crowds follow.” New Zealand's Roys Peak, and the famous tree in Lake Wanaka are yet another example. Aaron Fleming, an operations director at the New Zealand Department of Conservation, says tourists are getting fixated on reproducing the same photos found on Instagram.
“One of the biggest challenges park managers face worldwide is the power of social media to create new visitor destinations at short notice.”  The internet is sparking lines of people queuing up to imitate and take all the same photos. Tripod holes have been replaced with geotagged social smart phone holes.


   People's inclination of seeing an image and attempting to duplicate it has been around since the days of Da Vinci.   It was even taught to budding artists, sparking some really convincing forgeries.   But there comes a time when an artist has to strike out on their own to make more original and personal works of art. Same goes with shooting icons.  Shooting icons are great.  The places are beautiful and inspiring, and they make amazing images. But don't try and shoot forgeries. Try to look at the scene differently. Get creative. Make it personal. Go somewhere else. 

   But what about those that have no concern for making art? What are we to do about those that inundate these beautiful places just to see how many likes they can get on their social media account?   I shudder at the thought. It makes me want to crawl into a hole and pull the hole in after me.

   So you want to see that amazing place in person. That's fine I'm all for it. Like Mark Twain says "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." But let's not be a lemming.  Let's not stand in a queue waiting to take the same photo over and over. And especially let's not geotag it, Instagram it, or love it to death.  

Sources:
anseladams.com/ansel-adams-the-role-of-the-artist-in-the-environmental-movement
nps.gov/jomu/learn/historyculture/people
vault.sierraclub.org/history/philip-hyde
library.nau.edu/speccoll/blog/2017/12/katie-lee-goddess-of-glen-canyon-1919-2017
petapixel.com/2018/11/05/how-geotagged-photos-are-harming-natural-landmarks/
petapixel.com/2018/11/30/jackson-hole-stop-tagging-locations/
theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/07/instacrammed-the-big-fib-at-the-heart-of-new-zealand-picture-perfect-peaks

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Alpine Imaging at Long Line Pilates Open Studio


Have you ever wanted to see what Wade and Kristi are up to?  We are both proud of our accomplishments and would like to share our passions with you.  This is why we decided to create an event that does just that.  It's been two years since I've had an event showcasing my work. Kristi is even more shy, as she hasn't ever had an Open Studio event.  She is an incredible teacher, and her clients are some of the most loyal I've ever seen.  Somehow art and exercise just go together. Get a jump on your New Years Resolution, or holiday gift giving and join us at Long Line Pilates for an Open Studio and Exhibit reception. 


Canvas wraps, Metal Prints, Framed Prints, Matted Prints are all for your perusal. Elevate your life with emotive art.  Try out the Reformer, hop on the Cadillac, stretch your back on the Ladder Barrel.   You might just discover some endorphins you never knew you had.  You'll love you for it.



Friday, June 22, 2018

Concentric Circles


“In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.”
Alfred Stieglitz

While on my way to the last Moab Photography Symposium I took some side trips.  One of the places I had to visit was Bears Ears National Monument.   This venerable place is one recently brought to light by the political wrangling of certain law ‘takers’.  I thought this almost unknown area was deserving of a closer look.

When I go out on a photo foray I am not only looking for the obvious photo, but one of more subtlety. True I am not prejudiced of where my camera is pointed, though it must attract my eye or call my attention. 

This image caught my eye, and my attention. Not at all what I expected to capture at the bottom of this deep Utah canyon.   The weather had been unsettled for days now, and I had experienced rain, wind and hail early that morning.  Not being deterred I ventured out regardless.  The rain hadn’t quite stopped, and was actually very welcome in an area that is typically quite thirsty. 

I found this poor moth struggling in a small pool of water, with rain still trickling down.
I made this image, and it has called me to think.  I have spent the last several weeks thinking about what it means to me.

Not only was I able to capture the concentric circles I captured my own imagination. I saw not only an image, but a metaphor.   A metaphor of struggle.  This thing called life, is replete with struggles, and the ripples of our efforts radiate from within.  Sometimes we don’t know of the ripples and the effect they have on others until they reach the shore and rebound back to us.  There are other ripples here too.  Ones created by the rain drops, echoing the struggle of the earth.  The volume is turned down here, for the voice of man has made itself too loud.  Looking closer even yet, there are raindrops on the wings of the moth. Perhaps the burden of what our stewardship to the earth has to bear.

There is something else here. Reflection. The canyon walls are reflecting in the image, creating a ying/yang impression. Since graduating from school I’ve had to endure some 25 years or more working in a corporate environment. It seems the only way to get ahead is to sit in some cubicle furiously typing, talking, and dealing with some snippy people.  A means to an end, as they say.  A means to my end, I say.

I had this same conversation many times with my late father. He always was concerned with security, and encouraged me to hold out as long as I could.  His passing has been almost two years, but within this time I’ve done some reflection. Is this who I was? Was this who I wanted to be?  There has to be an end to this relentless trail. Nobody is going to build a statue of me for subjecting myself to that Sisyphean uphill battle. I had the chance to live the creative path while in school. Pursuing theatre, and writing was where I saw myself at the time.  I chose the consistent and stable path instead.  Now I feel the need to circle around and return to the creative path. It’s been three months now and I am just starting to feel a little better.

What’s more, there is depth. There is clarity. You can see straight to the bottom, and an old decaying leaf. Sometimes you cannot see the bottom through the reflection, other times you just don’t want to see the bottom.  It’s not always a pretty sight. Or it could just easily be the end that you see.  Either way it is there if you choose to see it.

There is a lot going on in such a simple image. This is what it means to me. There may be more if you choose to see it.  What is it that you see?

Muley Point


At the beginning of the month I had the privilege of attending the last Moab Photography Symposium with Bruce Hucko, Guy Tal, Colleen Miniuk-Sperry and Rafael Rojas. What an incredible and emotional experience.
I took this shot on the way to the Symposium, overlooking the Goosenecks of the San Juan and Monument Valley in the distance.
Some of you may be aware that I have retired from my first career, and have now moved on to focus on Photography. Keep checking in and viewing my upcoming adventures. Peace!

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 My Year in Photos

2017 was a busy year for me, full of adventure and hard work. As is my tradition, let's take a look at some of the significant photos taken this year.

Horseshoe Sunrise, Horseshoe Mesa Grand Canyon



Angel's Gate From Horseshoe Mesa, Grand Canyon


Dow Springs, Coconino National Forest



White Pocket, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument
Star Trails at White Pocket, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

Buckskin Gulch, Paria Canyon Wilderness

Doors. Chaco Canyon National Park

Bisti Badlands Bisti Wilderness New Mexico
Bisti Beret
The Rhino, Bisti Wilderness
White Pocket Lines, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument
Point Sublime, Grand Canyon National Park

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hokokam Star Party


Remnants of an ancient American Indian tribe, these petroglyphs sit atop a hill in the Saguaro National Park outside of Tucson. The Hohokam tribe existed there between 200 and 1400 AD.

My girlfriend and I spent an evening there watching a meteor shower and making some long exposures over the Thanksgiving holiday.

It remains unknown what the etchings mean, but I imagine it to be a representation of the earth spinning within the stars.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Petrified Forest


I have to thank Arizona Highways for their issue on the Petrified Forest National park. Having lived in Arizona, and only an hour and a half away, I have not until now visited the National Park. I have driven by it a number of times, but this last spring break I made the decision to stop for the evening and following morning to see what it is all about. We arrived just before closing, and sunset which is typically the best time to do landscape photography. They close at sunset and as there is no camping within the park we couldn't dally. From the main entrance and visitor's center you don't get a glimpse of any petrified wood right away. Instead you follow the road along a rim with pull-outs and wide views of the Painted Desert.

Painted Desert Sunset


Petrified Forest is one of the few parks where you can take your pets off the road and onto their trails. We did just that as we circled one of the Ancient Puebloan ruin sites. Not much to see there except some remnants of a few foundations. Anxious to keep moving before the sun is completely down we made our way to a relic of Old Route 66, a 1932 Studebaker. The exhibit was installed in 2006, which includes the donated antique vehicle positioned along the old Route 66 road bed. From the pull-out you can see remnants of some telephone poles and make out where the road once carried cars from Chicago to LA.

1932 Studebaker


Not much to see after dark, so we headed out of the park, and slept in a free campground adjacent to one of the rock shops. Free also means no facilities. If you go be prepared to "hold it" until the park opens the next morning at 7. The visitor's center is always a treat, and full of interesting fossils, petrified wood samples and information on the creation of the petrified wood from the Pliocene era. Basically the forest pre-dates the ancient dinosaurs at about 200 million years old.

Petrified Trees Fractured


The area was once a large rain forest on the ancient land mass Pangaea, at that time located approximately along the equator. Volcanic ash layered on top of the fallen trees, then covered by an ancient river system and its sediment preserved the wood by turning it into a quartz like substance. Erosion eventually uncovered the trees. Shifting sand and earth cracked the trees much like a broken piece of chalk would if dropped. This enables you to see a cross-section of the crystalline wood.

Petrified Wood Cross Section


The variety of colors are produced by impurities in the quartz, such as iron, carbon, and manganese. Large cracks in the wood developed and encased large jewel-like crystals of clear quartz, purple amethyst, yellow citrine, and smoky quartz. If you have any interest in history, geology, or dinosaurs, then this park is a jewel in and of itself. As far as I know it is one of the most unique and geologically interesting parks on earth. If you ever find yourself around Holbrook, Arizona take the time to discover Petrified Forest National Park.

Ancient Araucaroid Petrified Tree