A look back - "Current"

Current First - a word from our sponsor. Ok, so... maybe not from 'our sponsor'.

I'm traveling, and on a shoot today, so I wrote this post yesterday and scheduled the post for this morning.

If you hear of a photographer being eaten by an orca (killer whale), don't expect further blog posts:)

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I realized something, a while back.

I have a bunch of photographs on this website – but most of them (my ‘older’ ones, at least) have never had their story told.

So, from time to time, I’m going to revisit some of my favorite images, and share a little about them.

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'Current'

Today, I printed this image for the first time. What's more, I printed it large (relatively) - as a 24"x36" canvas wrap.

I know it is sacrilegious, akin to 'choosing your favorite child', but I'm going to say it anyway.

This is one of my favorite images.

It doesn't get the fanfare that some of my more 'grand' landscape images, or the "oooooh"s and "aaaaaaaaahhhhh"s that some of my wildlife images get.

But, none-the-less, I find that this image really encapsulates my inner vision.

November 26th, 2010

Bear Valley, Alaska.

If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.

~ Loran Eisely, The Immense Journey (1957)

I spend a large amount of my time in the field with my wife, and/or with our close friend, Scott Slone.

I think of Scott as a creative juggernaut. He has been a considerable source of inspiration in several facets of my artistic quest. When we first started shooting together, he was a a video guy. He was (and still is) a one-man online video production crew. He lives to promote Alaska through the visual medium. He's been running AlaskaHDTV for years, and the Alaska PodShow prior to that. Over the past 1-2 years though, I've witnessed an interesting (if not scary) transition. Two clarifications to go with that last sentence. Let me attack the 'transition' part first though. I used that description, rather than 'transformation', because I believe that he is still (primarily) a video guy. I think that's still his calling. Now to the 'scary' part - there are days that I truly hope that he still is a video guy.

Why?

He's good. Damn good.

He may have used a still camera earlier in life, but he's been a video guy for so long, it is how I've identified him. It's how I introduced him as well - "Hi so and so, this is Scott. He's a videographer."

But he recently transitioned a lot of his film work to smaller, lighter cameras with more lens flexibility. Namely, Canon dslr cameras (first a 7D, and more recently, a 5D Mk 2). This change in gear has had an interesting side effect. It's a still camera that also shoots video. So he's started taking photographs to compliment his video.

A lot of photographs.

Even he has said that it has improved his video work.

But it has also pushed me. As you'll see in an upcoming post (one that I'm currently hashing out), my photography is a selfish art.

That means I don't (normally) like outside influences. I don't like being driven to do a shot through another person's suggestion.

It's the same way with my writing. As soon as someone says "Dave, you should write about ____." I immediately shut down and throw that idea out the window. It has a (irrational?) way of ruining my creativity. But we'll touch more on that in the upcoming post.

But I watch Scott. He's creative, he's seeing things a new way (still images, versus motion), and he is every bit as passionate about his subject and his art as I am about mine.

We spent much of November 26th (the day this image was created) along the Turnagain Arm - running between Potter Marsh and Portage Lake.

I remember feeling that I was in a creative rut. Possibly near the start of my longest-running creative rut, if I have the timing right. Simply put, nothing really looked appealing to me when I looked through the viewfinder.

Seems very childish of me. I live in Alaska. Everything here is grand. But a severe creative mental block was standing in my way. One of the last spots we stopped, before heading home for the evening, was near a small bridge that divides Bear Valley from Portage Lake. There was fresh, powdery snow covering the early winter landscape - several inches of it. The sun was going to be setting behind us, it looked like we might even get some good alpenglow in the far reaches of Bear Valley.

But my creativity still had an overwhelming sense of malaise.

Scott had set up a shot from the bridge, overlooking a small stream and the mountains beyond. I walked over to stand next to him, my camera gear still in the back of the car.

He was on to something. The warm, reflected light was glancing off the stream below, with snow caps topping the rocks in the foreground.

A spark settled inside of me. A glimmer of something. An image.

I trotted back to the car to get my gear. Can a man 'trot'? I honestly don't know. I used it, get over it.

We made our way off the bridge, and down the embankment to get closer to the stream. I started by photographing some of the snow-topped stones at the edge of the stream, but I wasn't able to find a balanced composition.

What is really drawing your eye here, Dave? Pin it down to its most basic element, and start there.

The water. It had these luscious colors, an interesting pairing of a warm beige highlighting cool, steely blues.

The current was gentle here, so relaxing. That was my image. Out of the chaos that I couldn't seem to fight through - the bridge, the rocks, the snow-covered brush, the mountains in the back, my self-inflicted creative block - the one thing I needed was focus, and a soothing image.

I took several exposures before capturing the one you see here. My timing had to fail eighteen times in order to get the nineteenth shot. The ripples were exactly where I wanted them. Looking at the viewfinder, I noticed that I could easily create several smaller 'vignettes' out of just this one frame. It had great movement, great lines, lovely light.

But most importantly, it soothed my soul. Had I not taken the chance to see what Scott had seen, I would likely still be sitting in that truck, stewing in my own creative funk.

I took this image at 2:44 pm.

Some of the most creative people you will ever meet are children. Their imaginations are thriving! Their intellect hasn't had enough opportunity to box in their creative side yet. In many ways, Scott is like a kid (oh the stories I could tell...). What I mean is, with a still camera, he has found a new outlet of creativity. One not boxed in by his preconceptions of video capture. He's seeing things a whole new way, and it has had an infectious take on my work.

Luckily, as the quote says - there is magic in water. And in friendships. And in letting down your creative guard down long enough to see past your own shortcomings, and be inspired by a friend.

Cheers ~