I recently had one of my all-time best days of shooting. And of course, I was alone. I endured freezing rain, massive, powerful gusts of wind and shivered until the night turned to light. If this sounds torturous… well, that’s because to some degree it was. But at the same time it was invigorating, it was exciting and when the darkest midnight hues warmed to light, baby blue, it can be more than worth it.
In the days preceding this memorable shoot, I had been riding bikes in Moab with a friend. We had a beautiful campspot, with amazing views of the La Sal Mountains and we woke for each sunrise and sipped whiskey for each sunset. Life was good with my wonderful companion. But as I’d leave her shivering to set up my tripod, I couldn’t help but think how selfish I was being. After a few shots, the looming guilt would get to be too much and I would saunter back to her. Now, don’t get me wrong, I whole-heartedly enjoy her company (definitely more than my cold, stiff tripod). It’s a mind game: As an artist, creativity isn’t created, it’s cultivated. I must put all my energy, my attention, toward creating art. It’s a catch-22 really, because who doesn’t like sharing a moment? Especially one so grandiose as the sun breaking the horizon, casting orange rays through sublime blue hues? No one! Not even a landscape photographer.
Which brings me to my point. As photographers, are we out there to experience the light intrinsically? Or are we out there capturing that light to share with others? In the age of digitization, with Apps like Instagram and Facebook, we all live in a life of Insta-gratification as well. When we photographers get a good capture, we like to share it. And watch the likes grow (I admit, I don’t put all my shots on social media… in fact, my top selects will never be posted on social). But truly, why do we shiver through the night, gambling with the weather, forsaking our creature comforts?
In my ramble, I have found part of the answer. Yes, I shoot for the intrinsic value of being creative, of abandoning all thoughts of the outside world to fully engulf in my art medium. When I’m shooting – really shooting – everything else melts away. I think, reflecting now, that I hardly even remember those best days shooting. Not linearly, but more as a set of snapshots, a collection of the best moments. And sometimes those moments were never seen through a viewfinder (Ironically, I seem to remember those the most vividly).
I guess there’s no real answer to this question. I like to take pictures. It’s as simple as that. Sure it’s easier to forget everything but the camera in my hand when I’m alone, but some experiences are meant to be shared. I will most certainly continue exploring and taking pictures alone, when I don’t need to worry about being selfish, but sipping whiskey with a friend, watching the colors dance across the sky is an experience that cannot be captured.