Monday, February 17, 2014

What's In A Name

A photographer friend of mine and I were heading out to hike and photograph in Havasupai and we had hours to chat on the drive ahead of us.   He asked me why I called my blog "Wandering On The Edge".  Wandering, something I've done my whole life. Wandering, running away, exploring, leaving, hiking and backpacking.  Destiny has dictated a constant forward motion and I call myself a romantic wanderer.  I see meaning and purpose in every journey and I see light and composition in every scene.  I related to my photographer friend that  every trip I take, adventure I set out on, there has aways been a lesson involve.  It's how I've come to view my photography now. A series of lessons. 

The Edge:  There's often a bit of edginess involved in the undertaking. I head out alone most of the time in secluded landscapes and there is often an element of fear involved.  Sometimes it's the obvious stupid human tricks, straddling cactus, mistaking a javelina for my dog, followed by wild cats, dodging snakes, survivalists living on the fringe, the black nights, the sound you hear outside the tent in the middle of the night, falling off ledges, falling in moving water.  The unknown, that's the edge and I'm strangely drawn to it. 

Sometimes the lessons are practical and sometimes they are profound. I wrote one time about my first trip into the Narrows of Zion. I'd planned it 3 times but twice the conditions weren't safe for a solo hike but the third time I headed in.  I had the canyon to myself for hours as I hiked in the early darkness of a summer morning. I had the most intense life-altering experience. I walked out almost 11 hours later a different person. 

A transformative experience so perfect in its timing and condition. All the while being fully cognizant that I was in the middle of a moment in time that would render me changed.  I would often stop and look behind me as though I knew I was leaving  a part of me behind. It was almost as if I'd entered a different awareness. I'd experienced an extreme sense of clarity and understanding. A feeling that every single moment of my life had purpose and had lead me right to the place I was standing.  A memory of myself as a child flipping through National Geographic and wanting to be where I was at this moment, then realizing, I was there.  That child and I were one and the same, time seemed static.  An absolutely powerful and euphoric experience.   Photography compels this type of journey and beckons me to that edge. 

I'll sometimes notice the shift in my work and question the meaning later. This has been the case recently in that my images have now included people.  Not just normal people, but people hugely dwarfed by the landscape. Something I'd been opposed to doing in the past. I've stood for long periods trying to shoot the landscape all the while mumbling unkind words  to my camera about a certain hiker who wouldn't get out of my grid quick enough. 

An emerging fascination now with large scale landscapes and minuscule humans. On my recent trip to Death Valley, I thought about this in detail. I wandered around for 5 days and most of the time the landscapes  were totally devoid of any hikers.  One morning in Golden Canyon, I'd climbed way up into a side canyon and viewed a hiker miles away in the badlands and was transfixed by the scene and captured one of my favorite images from the trip. 

Later, editing my images of Artist's Palette, a lone hiker stood atop one of canyons and I even find myself emotional as I write about it. A female figure, stands so small and barely significant in the image among terrain millions of years old. You can't mistake just how small we are when you view the image but the emotional impact of the human figure is huge. 

The minuscule human in the landscape is me, metaphorically speaking. Photographing this  became a way for me to understand my own significance.  We are small, frail and limited.  These magnificent landscapes will long outlive us. We are not unlike a firefly illuminating the night a flicker at a time. To us, that flicker is a lifetime of family and friends, love and laughter, legacy and memories.  

 Burn brightly.