Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Taking a Stroll?

I'm always in awe of folks who pursue photography like a Sunday stroll.  The camera is casually hanging from their neck as they meander from edge to edge of the path with a circumspect gaze.  They raise the shutter to their eye and squeeze off a few thoughtful frames.  Maybe adjust the zoom ring a tad, make another image and then wander on.

While I definitely find a zen place and am probably most personally at peace when I make photos, my approach has always been a bit different than that the strolling shooter.  I guess you could say it's a little more energized.   My choice of a sling style camera strap hints at that.  It always feels ready to go with the sling across my chest and camera hanging practically already in my hand.   I almost always break as sweat from carrying too much gear.  After all, you never know what you'll find and what you left in the car that could have really made the shot.

I was in Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada last week and there were several other photographers walking the path with me.  While they didn't have tripods (remember that break a sweat thing?), their gear said they weren't "casual shooters"... well outfitted with DSLRS and Canon L series glass.  We leap frogged each other down the trail, alternately stopping at various points to make pictures.  I started to notice that their approach was like they were riding a tour bus... see a sight, raise the camera, make the frame.  Somehow, I tend to be a little more activated when I make pictures and can never seem to keep it that simple.  I move around, don't always stay on the trail and tend to get dirty.

These pictures are a good example of how it works for me.  The first was made from on top of a rock about 6 feet over the trail.  The petroglyph was probably 15 feet up off the trail and I thought the image would be stronger if I could flatten the angle that the lens was pointing up.  I also like to show things like this in the context of their environment vs. just a close of up of a petroglyph, so I was looking for perspective that took in the landscape and showed off the stone art as well.  It's an ok picture... sort of "meh".  I have a nagging "not close enough" about the image.  All of the other folks who were there stopped on the trail six feet below me, craned their neck up and made a frame.  Maybe they were great images... who knows.  But something told me as I hopped off the boulder, none of us had this wrapped.

I continued down the trail and around the corner.  As I turned behind the fin of rock that this panel of petroglyphs was carved on, I saw a stone ramp that climbed up the slope and at the top there was a hole in the rock that seemed to lead though to the other side... exactly where the petroglyphs were.  I had to check it out.  I took my camera off the tripod and started scrambling.    In the image above, you can't see the hole because of the angle of the shot, but in the lower right side of the photograph, you can see a shadow that curves up and down like a small mountain top... the shadow is the space that allowed me a different perspective.  I crawled through and inched forward on the foot wide ledge.  I don't like heights much, but I hung out as far as I dared... about 12 feet in the air, I extending my camera out over the trail and squeezed off a few frames without looking in the viewfinder.  

Here's what I got.  The lack of foreground doesn't show how high it is, but I'm glad I made the effort.  It was a little scary and plenty dusty, but I much prefer this angle and being up close the very cool ancient rock art.  Next time you're on a Sunday stroll, consider getting a little more activated. Get up, get down, try a new perspective.  You never know what you'll capture!!!

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