I had a life-changing injury this year. In late March, my lower back reached the tipping point and I had a painful ride to the hospital in the back of an ambulance. To make a long story short, when you’re a thirty-eight year old avid photographer/hiker/backpacker/climber and you’re told that you should no longer carry weight due to your injury, you’d like to be put out of your misery immediately. It’s probably no surprise that my photography took a hit. Pain was a principal part of each day, affecting my creativity and desire to do much else besides find relief for it.
The Old Ridge Route was made about 12-16 weeks after the injury (one herniated and two bulged discs). My good friend and fellow photographer Steve Cole was with me when we rode the ridgetop on Liebre Mountain this day. I was still at a point where I was not yet comfortable with walking great distances, so we worked closely to the car, stopping at points to enjoy the vistas and glorious skies and to make photographs. Beautiful cirrus continually moved across the sky, the breezes blew, and I was elated to be out and once again enjoying the landscape.
I ordinarily do not make a lot of negatives during an outing, but I made a lot of negatives this day. The light and atmosphere were perfect, and my disposition had improved greatly as my back repaired itself. Just being able to get outside and see grasses, trees, and sky was pure joy. It was a great recipe for making photographs, and I “cooked” a lot of them. I was reminded of how much I enjoy the act of making photographs, especially when they’re made without preconceived ideas or intentions – making photographs for the fun of it. It’s easy to lose sight of this when one is focused on producing and marketing a body of work.
The refinement of seeing that comes with making photographs regularly can be a double-edged sword. One can tend to work in patterns, repeating ideas, designs, and compositions. On this day – following many days of rest and recovery – I just made photographs because it felt good, and I really didn’t think much about the outcome of the negatives. In fact, I could have just set up the camera and fired the shutter without exposing film and I would have been just as happy.
The end result of this outing is a handful of photographs that to me are successful. I’m not sure which of them I will ever print and show, but that’s irrelevant. Most importantly, I can view The Old Ridge Route and be instantly reminded of how great a day it was. No one else may ever be able to see that in this photograph, but that’s the magic of photography.