Heading For Death Valley!
Today is Friday, tomorrow morning I’ll be in the car and driving to Death Valley. I go there every year about this time, alone, to create. I really enjoy this trip for both the location and the solitude. It’s where I recharge my creative batteries by blocking out the rest of the world and focusing on just one thing: seeing.
I’m just going to write my random thoughts as I embark on this trip, and as I’ve been writing three articles for the last two weeks, my mind is a muddle of thoughts. All semi-gelled and semi-fluid at the same time.
Location, does it matter? Theoretically it shouldn’t, I should be able to find a great shot in my bathroom. But the reality is that going somewhere new does seem to help us see anew and fresh. I don’t need a fantastic location like Yosemite which wears all it’s beauty close to the surface, just somewhere where my eyes can see it freshly.
Shooting alone or with others? I never can photograph with others present, I must be alone. When I have others with me I am constantly focused on if I’m inconveniencing them by staying out too long. Plus if there was someone with me I’d have to talk. I don’t want to talk on these trips, I just want to see and think.
Expectations. Sometimes when I go on these trips I have expectations that I must bring something great back or I’ll disappoint others. I need to lose any sense of obligation to others and only seek to please myself. If I come home and I didn’t find anything, then that’s okay. You cannot force creativity, in fact I think that this actually retards the process. Let it be. In truth if I come home with just one decent image, I’ll be as happy as a bird with a french fry!
Photographing where billions have photographed before. Yes, going to a widely photographed location such as Death Valley has its drawbacks, everything has been photographed a BILLION times. That is why I avoid the typically photographed spots or at least if I do go there, I try to photograph them differently. Remember that anyone can stand where Ansel Adams stood, frame the shot the same way and produce a nice shot. But in the end it will only be an weak imitation and is that really what you want to do, imitate others? The key is photographing with your vision, that’s what will make the images uniquely yours.
Isolation. I’ll be isolated for two weeks and I’ll love it. After these trips I always become more appreciative of people, a little friendlier and more centered. City life is grueling and not so good for the soul.
Mexican food. I’ll be stopping at every little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant, looking for that local hidden secret. Mexican food is the best!
What’s important in life? I was recently asked in an interview to describe my perfect day, here is what I said:
With my many years of experience, I’d answer this question much differently than I would have when I was younger! Strangely enough the perfect day may not involve photography at all. Despite how much I love photography, I do not love it more than my family or my life. Photography is not my life, but it is one of those special things that help me to enjoy life.
A perfect day would be spent with my family and new grandson. We would spend the morning walking around the cove, and then we would dive the La Jolla ecological reserve and finish up by picnicking on the grass overlooking the Cove. I’d then slip away and go do some long exposure work while relishing the feel of the warm sun on my face, listening to the sounds of the beach, enjoying the smells and just being grateful that I could enjoy it all. And oh yes, we’d have Mexican for dinner!
Death Valley is such a wonderful place and especially so in the winter; it’s isolated, uncrowded and seeming barren. I say “seemingly” because if you stop, sit and look you will see the truth. It just takes some patience and time to see. But that’s also true life, slowing down and taking the time to look will reveal much.
Goodbye. I hope I’ll be back in a few weeks.