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It all starts with a camera, as it so often seems to. In this particular case, the camera in question was the Fuji 6x17 panoramic. I do not usually succumb to kameralust but I admit to having a touch of it whenever I am around one of these beasts. So to scratch that itch, I had rented the camera in high expectation of taking it out to shoot a specific waterfall up around Mt. Adams one fine Fall day in the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately someone forgot to inform me that it was going to be pouring buckets that day. And I don't mean the little plastic buckets you give your kids when they are playing on the beach, but the big, industrial-strength kind of bucket. In other words, it was raining with an almost biblical severity. It was so wet, I was nervous even carrying the camera in its case for fear the case could not even resist the deluge. I have an aversion to getting $2000 cameras wet, particularly when I don't own them...
So... I did not get to shoot the camera nearly as much as I had anticipated. I basically did not shoot it at all. I made one fumbling exposure, balancing my cable release in one hand, desperately clinging to an umbrella with another. But by the time it came to drive home, I had made only that single exposure, not even half a roll on a camera that only needs four shots to burn an entire roll. But then on the drive back, necessity stepped in. See, I had a choice. I was pretty certain I was not going to shoot anymore that day, yet I still had three images left to toy with to finish the roll off before I returned it the next day. So I figured, I may as well experiment with some panning shots while driving down the wooded back highways of southern Washington. And this shot was the result, something that if the first half of my day had proven to be more successful, I may never have even have attempted. If I had come away with those successful images of the waterfall that I had hoped and planned to capture, that satisfaction may have caused me to drive right by this image of these trees. Oh, it would have still been there I think, but not for me.
Shifting gears only slightly, photography never fails to amaze me thus in that it constantly reminds me just how much there is out there to see. Even in the exact same spot, ten people will see ten different things usually. Or better yet, put one photographer in the same spot ten different times under ten different sets of circumstances (I have driven this stretch of highway dozens and dozens of times, never before making this image) and they will create ten different photographs. This is one of the reasons I photograph. Sometimes I think about the recording of my vision as a way of recording who I am. It is an odd thought to wonder where my negatives may end up in 100 years, who may be looking at them, and what will they think. What are they going to know about me? Or the places I went? The things I saw? Sometimes that is why I photograph at such a breakneck pace. I am not really concerned too much with slowing down now to do much with my images. I know if I poured more time and energy into it, I could probably market a decent number of these. And in some ways I do. But having to slow down to do this stuff means I am out shooting less. I am not only documenting these places and time less, but I am documenting myself less as well. And there is going to be a point at which age (hopefully it is age) or some other factor forces me to slow down. Where I am not going to be able to photograph to this degree any longer. When I no longer find myself driving through the pouring rain down a wooded highway with photographs-to-be the click of an imagination away. That is the point in time I am more concerned about.
I do not think of this in any sort of fatalistic or pessimistic fashion, it is just a realization that time and opportunity are finite, so I care to prioritize how I spend them. It is a unique gift each photographer has, to document not the world, but their world. For each image like this, there is a photographer without whom it would have been impossible for that image to exist. Or so I sometimes think.
The ghosts of us living
by Zeb Andrews
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