step away from the camera

Steptoe Butte

First, I am now well settled on the West Coast – time to get back to work and thank you for hanging in there with me.  Second, you don’t need to be a long-time follower of this blog to know that this photograph is a departure from what I typically share.  There was a lesson in this one for me.

This was shot from Steptoe Butte, overlooking the Palouse, In Washington.  Since this was my first visit to the area, I arrived two hours prior to sunset – and had the place entirely to myself.  The silence was astounding.  As sunset approached, other photographers started arriving and setting up their cameras and tripods.  I already knew I would likely not be shooting – no real foreground to work with, the hills quickly falling into shadow, sunsets alone too cliche for me as a photographer and artist.  But as a person, these clouds fascinated me, shifting and moving in front of one another, the light bouncing off their edges, that column of rain.  I saw several bolts of lightning in that column, though not enough to be able to catch it in a photograph.

I’m enjoying the show when another photographer disrupts the mood.  He stands a good distance away but he’s talking on his cell phone so loudly that I hear every word.  He’s an instructor, his students somewhere up the hill behind us.  I had a number of thoughts about the situation, none complimentary.  The sun set, his students began to gather their things.  The instructor is still talking on his cell phone.  He says – Well, there’s no miracle that’s going to happen here tonight, I should pack up.

I was dumbfounded.  I understand photography is many things to different people.  For me, though, photography is primarily about feeling delight, awe and amazement at what I experience.  Would I love to come back, every time, with something for my portfolio?  Absolutely.  Am I just a little disappointed when I don’t?  Sure, I am human.  I love this art and the rush I feel when everything falls into place.  But that does not happen every time, or even most times.

And yet, I can and do still enjoy the experience of something like this.  I took this photograph seconds after he announced there would be no miracle this night.  In fact, I took it because he determined there was no miracle before him as if to prove just how wrong he was.  Is my photograph art?  Not to my mind.  Was this sunset glorious?  Most definitely.

I hope that, if I ever witness something like this and judge it not miraculous, someone will say to me – Step away from the camera.

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