You only get one chance. You have one journey through life; you cannot repeat even one moment or retrace one footstep. It seems that we are meant to inhabit and live everything that comes toward us. – John O’Donohue
I am now slightly more than halfway through the three awarded residencies for this year (Rocky Mountains, Petrified Forest, and Homestead) and it is probably time for a little reflection on what I have accomplished and what opportunities I may be missing. A private week long workshop/residency at Sorrel River Ranch in Moab, UT next week will give me a shot as some scenes in Professor Valley, as well as another shot at Arches. (Big Cypress Swamp in Florida is scheduled for early next year.)
I left home on August 8: What have I accomplished in the last 6 weeks?
I have taken approximately 4500 photographs primarily distributed between the two parks with residencies and several nearby parks (Arches, Mesa Verde, Canyon de Chelly). I have driven 4600 miles, spent $655 on gas and almost $3000 in total.
Geographically and culturally I have developed at least a superficial understanding for parts of Colorado and Arizona, and a slightly deeper feeling for two major national parks, particularly the smaller Petrified Forest. Looking at pictographs of the various southwestern Pueblo peoples I have felt some of the mystery, their generally peaceful way of life, and a little sensibility for their culture. A visit to the Georgia O’Keefe museum in Santa Fe was interesting and really points out that I should spend much more time studying art in general and not just photography.
My Rocky Mountain project, to compare current scenes to archival photographs of the same scenes from the time of the Park’s dedication, found nothing major: basically the Park has been successful in preserving the environment and habitats, but was interesting to me personally. I will prepare a report for the Park on the project based on the powerpoint presentation I gave as part of my public interaction deliverable. Participation in the BioBlitz and some discussion with folks from iLCP was exciting, and Clay Bolt’s “Meet Your Neighbor” is a possible future direction for at least a part of my photography. Reviewing the RMNP images, I think that I have developed a reasonable body of work representative of the season, this particular year, and the more readily accessible areas. What is missing but was at least theoretically possible, is a much better survey of fauna and flora, and views from some of the higher individual peaks, although I did find the alpine/tundra areas impressive and photographed several times, I still feel it is superficial, but also limited by the season. I am preparing an “ecological composite” image for the Park, but I am not really satisfied with its artistic merits (comments on the work in progress below are welcome) and will probably offer the Park a choice of some individual images as the required submission for one piece of art.
Colors and shapes dominate my photography at Petrified Forest. Yesterday evening in the Painted Desert, the contrast between the blue sky, red butte, and nearly black shadow was very striking. The layering of eroded cliffs at Blue Mesa and dawn across the desert are all valuable personal experiences. Perhaps the most urgent need is to evaluate what I need to add to the Petrified Forest work while I still have the chance. I would like to capture at least some wildlife. I think I also want to do more work from the desert floor, rather than looking down from the canyon rims.
Professionally, I was in the right place at the right time to participate with a reporter and picture editor from a major eastern urban newspaper on an article on colors that might lead to some photo credits and a little cash. There may be an opportunity for a guest submission to an Albuquerque gallery and an article about my residency was published in the Estes Park Gazette. Adding additional residencies to my resume is a good thing (acceptance seems to range from less than 10% at RMNP up to at least 25%) as is adding extensively to the geographic extent of my portfolio.
(Take these map locations with a grain of salt. Although taken with a Nikon GPS directly connected to my camera, it showed locations in Montana and South Dakota, places I haven’t been.)
Over the next five days, I need to spend more time talking to Park Rangers and getting ideas on what I have missed. Comments on what I have done, what you would like to see, and your ideas are welcome.