Photographers, like many artists, are sweetly aware of that mythical siren calling from the inner voice of creativity that flows forth the images we’ve conceived in our minds. Like many landscape photographers, the excitement and exhilaration of discovering something new or sparking the creative embers into an image that was unquestionably already there but as yet undiscovered is something I believe keeps us coming back for more. The process of studying, researching the landscape and scouting various locations to bring inner reality to the finished print feels very new and different every time. That feeling of hope of creating from within in order to view from without is just as exciting now as it was when I started over twenty years ago.
I began photographing in 35mm black and white when I lived in Washington D.C. Roaming the streets and off beat tracks of this fascinating city hoping to capture something special. Something that no other photographer had visualized. It wasn’t enough to print what so many others had done before me, it had to evoke an inner sensation that would force me to stop, examine the possibilities, form an image in my mind and then go about trying to make it happen. This was the creative seed that had taken root and has grown vigorously all these years. It wasn’t long after, I graduated to large format. With the little money I had, I bought an old roughed up field camera and a used 90mm Schneider lens. I started to experiment with architectural photography, to help train my eye on the impact geometrical images had on my ability to visualize. The larger format demanded an even slower approach to visualizing that tremendously helped my ability to compose. I was taking much more time in developing an image in my mind than I ever did before. Often times frustrating but many times rewarding, the larger format, in the end, made my images more interesting, more ascetically pleasing to my eye.
The progression to concentrate solely on the landscape seemed a natural one. Perhaps because of the infinite number of angle and light conditions and the built in chaos from which creativity could spring. The years have since passed, many sheets of film exposed and the ability to craft an image of my minds eye has been polished but not to the extent I can be content. Lessons have been learned.
There are times when nature transcends our self imposed limited perceptions and grants us the rare opportunity to look beyond our perceived limitations. That is what is so enormously satisfying about landscape photography - or any creative endeavor for that matter. Nature is poignant enough in her own right, to tease us to push our personal envelopes so that our tapestry of personal images can reveal our true natures. In the beginning, for every few hundred images composed and printed, there is the one image created that is special to us. Exceeding anything we consciously tried to achieve, perhaps an unconscious choice guided by an inner purpose to excel. Every photographer I know has experienced this. We all have our favorite images and the story behind the image brings a special excitement to our voice as if remembering when our first born arrived.
Just south of Carmel, California, there is a corridor of coastline known as Big Sur. A place that draws me like no other location in the world. It’s easy to see why since the raw beauty alone is reason enough. The possibilities are endless in such an area where land meets water. Unique and unlike any other coastal location, there is an enormous ethereal energy that pervades the area. A number of years ago I shot, "Land’s End" in Big Sur. I was drawn to this particular shot by that voice which calls upon the feeling there is something there to go and search out. We’ve all felt it at one time or another. It’s a common thread among the creative. A feeling that warms over you, nudging your instincts to take a closer look. The moth drawn to the flame. To ignore would be akin to arrogance. Initially attracted to the angles of the jutting land and the colors illuminated by the setting sun, I naively underestimated the mental image, particularly the effect sunlight conditions would have on the swirling waters and how it would play out in the finished image. The pastel light combined with the turbulent, painterly effect of the water revealed a deeper sense of what I was trying to capture. I distinctly remember the first time I saw the developed image and how it was so much more than what I previously envisioned.
This is why I am a landscape photographer. Nature presents an opening to go beyond previous known abilities to envision, guiding and challenging to propel our creative capacity to infinitely more interesting and satisfying results. For me, the genuine process is really on an unconscious level. Equipment and technical ability only facilitate the end result. Like a batter at the plate visualizing a home run. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. Always coming back to push the envelope beyond anything accomplished before, to knock it out of the park more times than ever thought possible. The feeling never tires. As Publilus Syrus once wrote, "The eyes are not responsible when the mind does the seeing."