Secret Spots

Many moons ago, when I used to swim through surf with a camera, I learned the value of secret spots. I also learned that there are no more secret spots. What makes them secret is the knowledge of when and where to be to take best advantage of the location, the weather and the light.

Late afternoon, winter swell along the Orange County coast.

Late afternoon, winter swell along the Orange County coast.

Some spots might be considered right in your backyard. Others might take a little bit of effort to find. The ones that require an adventure are almost always the most rewarding. The effort put into learning those locations, learning their light, learning their weather, always, always pays off. For me, sharing those locations with my clients, and my family, is really what this job is all about.

Early morning, Indian Peaks Wilderness area.

Early morning, Indian Peaks Wilderness area.

Sometimes, Mother Nature swings your way and sometimes, she doesn’t. She isn’t as predictable up here in Colorado as she was along the Southern California coast but, I enjoy that unpredictability so much more. This image is from one of my ‘secret’ spots. Next to RMNP and the San Juans, this is one of my favorite places to be.

High alpine fly fishing as the storm clouds roll in.

High alpine fly fishing as the storm clouds roll in.

If you know it, I’m stoked for you. if you don’t, go find it. Explore and enjoy.

Fleeting moments

The world is full of unnoticed moments. Things happen. Beautiful things. Gone in an instant. Never noticed.

I think this is where my love for photography originates. No. I know that’s where it originates.

You could call them fleeting moments. I call them the moments between the moments. They are the ones with the fuzzy edges. The ones you knew happened but can’t describe. It could be the last kiss a father gives his daughter before walking down the aisle on her wedding day. It could be the crash of a wave on a lonely beach. 

These moments are why I fell so hard for surf photography in Southern California.

It was a challenge. Find the moment in the midst of that wonderful watery chaos. So many variables. So many visuals to separate. Then focus. Put the world in slow motion and focus. Find that singular moment that is the essence of a breaking wave. The beauty within the chaos.

I pulled that challenge out of the sea. Rinsed it. Dried it. Applied it to my other photographic work. Weddings. Families. Street.

Even without a camera in hand, I am looking. Making mental photographs. Mental images that I can use later for inspiration.

Looking for that next moment. Studying the world. People watching. 

It’s fascinating. Never boring. There’s always something new. Constant discovery.

When I work with families, these moments are endless. Children are masters at stringing them together. Everything in the world excites them and it’s infectious. 

Weddings are different. Emotions and nerves are on high alert. There are a lot of moving pieces. A little bit of chaos. Organized chaos. Lots of visuals to separate and prioritize. The most important moments are the ones in between. The fuzzy ones. 

That’s why I am there. 

Capturing those fleeting moments. Building a story. 

The story is what’s important. It’s what allows you to remember. The moments are what immerse you. They bring the story to life.

That’s why I love this job. Finding the moments. Building a story. Presenting it to a client. Seeing their reaction. 

Preserving their memories through moments.

For the Love of Film

Life moves fast. It is getting faster. The entire Internet is in our pocket. Knowledge, for pleasure or purpose, is very nearly instantaneous. People take immediacy for granted. The average number of images uploaded to Instagram per day is around 50 million. Take a second to let that sink in. 50 million. Per day. Average.

That’s a whole lot of instant gratification.

That’s a whole lot of images created on impulse. Created to be seen for a few brief seconds then swiped past.

Created but not seen. Not truly seen. Not by the creator nor the recipient.

Film changes all of that. 

Film is a process. Not that the act of making an image, digital or otherwise, isn’t a process. Film is just a different process. A slower one. A more involved one.

I started photography with film. I continued with film long after many of my compatriots had switched to digital full time. Part of my hesitation was that I wasn’t happy with the available cameras or the software. The other part was my love with the process. I just wasn’t ready to give it up.

Eventually I did. Though not completely. I couldn’t because I loved the process.

The darkroom was the only part of the process that I let fade. Soon it will be back but I’ll save that for another day.

There is a very well defined act in shooting film. A tangible one. One that lets you feel, literally feel, the image being created. You handle the film in the canister. You touch the emulsion as you load the camera. Then again when you develop it into negatives. Finally, you have contact when you make the print. That image is part of you.

The darkroom is magic.

Sure all that stuff above is mechanical. Mostly done by muscle memory. It was the fast part of the process. The part that needed to be done with just a tad of urgency. Shooting weddings on film teaches you that awfully quickly.

The part where things slow is the physical act of pressing the shutter. 35mm gives you 36 frames. In 120, 645 gives 16. 6x6 drops you to 12. 6x7, only 10. 4x5 and 8x10, you get one. One frame. It isn’t instant. It isn’t infinite. Every frame needs to count. Needs to mean something. 

It’s okay if it only means something to you. Not every frame needs to be shared.

On my desk sit three 35mm cameras of varying ages. A Minolta SRT303b. A Canon F-1. The Lake Placid Olympic edition no less. A Nikon FM. 

In one bag, you’ll find a Hasselblad 500 C/M as well as a Mamiya 645afd. In another bag, my EOS 1v HS, a camera that became attached to my hip and has seen many adventures in far flung corners of the globe. Like a good Timex, it’s taken a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.

In the fridge are boxes of my favorite films in both 120 and 35. Portra. Ektar. Velvia. Provia. And a newcomer, CineStill, which definitely needs a 120 size. Back on my desk you’ll find various flavors of Ilford. HP5, PanF, FP4 and Delta. In between those is the odd roll of TriX.

I use those cameras for personal work. I use them with clients too. Not often enough but I do.

I use them when I need a creative recharge. When things need to slow down. When I need to see.

To really see.

Each frame needs to count. Needs to count just for me. Shadows. Light. Dark. Color. Faces. People. I use them when I need to study.

They are my Zen moment.

Because I am still enamored with the process, I treat my digital cameras just like the film ones. In my head, there is no LCD. Just like there is no spoon. Did I just date myself?

Go find an old camera. Check the garage sales, KEH, eBay, wherever. Load up a roll of film and find a place to sit. To watch. To study. To breathe.

When everything lines up, press the shutter. Slowly. With purpose. Listen. Wind. Then wait.

Find your Zen moment. The next image.

Revel in the process.

Bear Creek trail, Telluride, CO. Hasselblad 500 w/ 80mm lens. Kodak Ektar 100.

Bear Creek trail, Telluride, CO. Hasselblad 500 w/ 80mm lens. Kodak Ektar 100.