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« man & nature # 73 ~ color in the clouds | Main | civilized ku # 127 ~ A SURVEY »

man & nature # 72 ~ grasshopper

Ski trail with Indian Pass in the distance ~ Keene, NYclick to embiggen
Yesterday afternoon I ventured out to go moose spotting.

Over the last 5 years or so moose have returned to the Adirondacks. Their population has grown fairly quickly to a currently estimated number of 400-500. Since there is no top-predator for moose, namely the wolf, here in the Adirondacks, their number is expected to reach 2,000+ within the next 5 years.

As is to be expected, the return of the moose has been much too tempting for some moronic "top predators" with guns. The NYS DEC has recently charged 2 men, 1 from my home town, with killing a moose in the nearby town of Keene (where today's picture was made). It appears that moose have moved into that area in great numbers - many sightings are made there on a daily basis.

One can only hope that the Criminal Court in Keene will throw the book at 'em - up $2,000 in fines and 1 year in jail. IMO, they should also lose their license to hunt and their guns for an extended period of time. These jerks need to serve as an example that this kind of behavior simply will not be tolerated.

PS - my bet is that they will use the Sarah Palin made me do it defense.

That said, as I was making the 18 mile drive to Keene, I was pondering the idea of how I might choose to picture a moose. Since I have absolutely no desire to make a moose "portrait", I figured that I would picture it as just part of its environment. In any event, it was a moot point in as much as I returned home without spotting a moose. I had to console myself with making some pictures of other things and scenes (like the one presented here).

My interest is not so much to picture a moose as it is just to see one in the wild. Their return after a 160 years or more of absence is something that touches me in a rather profound manner. Amongst many considerations, it is a powerful indication of the natural world's ability to rebound, to repair itself, to right the wrongs inflicted upon it by humankind - something that we here in the US of A must commit ourselves to with a great deal of vigor.

What I found instructive about the idea of picturing a moose is the fact that I am not certain that I could make a picture of one that conveyed my feelings about their return. Maybe this is just because most fauna pictures that I have seen leave me rather unaffected - Nick Brandt's pictures being one notable exception.

All I know at this point is that I don't much care, one way or another, whether I ever picture a moose or not. This notion runs contrary to what I feel about most of the pictures I make - in most cases, I am much more "contemplative", "thoughtful", and "involved" with my pictures of people, places, and things than I am of them when I am actually experiencing (and picturing) them.

And, let be emphatic about it, I do not think/feel that the act of picturing is "getting in the way" of the actual experience. Not at all. Rather, I think/feel about it like this:

What we hope for from the artist is help in discovering the significance of a place. In this sense we would choose in most respects for thirty minutes with Edward Hopper’s painting Sunday Morning to thirty minutes on the street that was his subject; with Hopper’s vision we see more. ~ Robert Adams

BUT, I must admit that, over the past few years, I have been experiencing visions in my head of grasshopper-me sitting, legs folded in Zen-like contemplation (replete with robes, beads, and maybe some incense and soft sitar music off in the distance), in all of the spots from which I have been picturing - truly and deeply experiencing the moment. I feel that I am having these visions because I sense that I am missing something in real-time.

Do I have a character "deficiency"? Am I too "cool and distant" in the face of real life? Is my picturing activity an attempt to compensate for this personal "failing"? Am I trying to "connect" with real life with my pictures in manner that I can not attain "in the flesh"?

Truth be told, I simply don't have the answers to these questions.

What about you? How/ what do you feel about your relationship with the pictures you create?

Reader Comments (3)

I tend to go places and look at things when I have a camera in my hand that I would not pay attention to if I didn't have the camera with me. And I'm looking for different things, or rather I'm thinking about what I see differently: I see things more in terms of what they will look like as a photo than what they are, if that makes any sense.

But I find the way I look at the world without the camera changes when I spend a lot of time making photos. I'm glad that I am paying more attention but I have also been bothered by the way it feels like I am deconstructing everything. That might very well just be a failure in the way I go about making pictures but I don't want to go through life with the detached sense all the time. I want to be aware, yes, but I also want to be involved and to synthesize and experience the whole thing, not the relationships of these colors to those over there, or the way that building makes a diagonal against the trees, and so forth.

November 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTommy Williams

I think photography can intensify experience. The act of seeing, the act of selecting, the act of composing all intensify the experience. Just being there is also a way of experiencing, but it is unfocused, so maybe that is the inferior experience. I don't really think it's inferior, just different. I think the intensifying effect is why people fish, hunt, canoe, bird watch, etc. These things don't leave a cultural record though. With the photograph we get a second kind of intensified experience, the photograph as record and an experience in and of it's self.

I don't disagree with Adams, but I think the artist also transforms what is there, through art, into something significant.

I also find photographing changes the way I look at the world with out a camera. I'm trained in design so I take the visual design I see every where and deconstructing the world visually for granted. I did that without photography. But now I also see the photographic meanings in the landscapes around me. I start to notice how what I see fits into the different themes I'm pursuing, and how a photograph of what I'm seeing would create a certain mood, express or ask certain questions, things like that. I've begun to see that everything is a potential subject, that every thing can be examined, that every thing can be transformed by my camera and me into art.

November 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBill Gotz

My thoughts and dreams have often turned to picturing an adirondack moose as well. Jill, Beckett, and I hiked back to Moose Pond this past weekend (I believe where the NYT article referenced the scat dogs). I explained to Beck that we were going to see a moose...he is 3 weeks old today, so the significance was lost on him most likely, but Jill and I have actively sought out our first sighting for the past 2 years. The presence of moose here (having spotted them in the wild elsewhere such as Colorado and Idaho) is something that I cannot quite imagine and at the same time have been imagining since returning in 2006...if that makes any sense. The fact that their reintroduction was "denied" at one point due to local opinion (don't ask me), only to have moose take it upon themselves to return on their own (some biologists believe by swimming across Lake kidding)...well, this tells the history of the park better than any book ever could.

A spiritual awakening of the senses takes place for me while picturing...more than anything, it slows me down in the best of ways. Before I started to see and imagine things through a lens, I was all about traveling far and fast and seeing "big and bad" which I mean the biggest mountains and animals and risk...which is why I lived out of a truck in the Colorado foothils for 6 months and hiked the AT for 2 months straight, etc, etc.

Once I returned to the "real world" and now the park, combined with my discovery of photography as more than documentation, I was somehow reminded of the need to really "know" a place over time. Photography undoubtedly played a huge role in this changing relationship with the natural world and my ability to "slow down" and know a place intimately. I actually "see" in ways new to me. I really believe that.

And Mark, I do believe you would capture an adirondack moose in a way that would convey what you felt at that very moment...I believe you are honing in on a vision to the point of reaction as opposed to thought which actually preserves a fleeting moment like this in ways that would be impossible wihthout the 2 years of engaging with your photos AND the "wilds" and "not so wilds" of the park. It's a different kind of Art than Brandt' where he goes on safari and easily counts on seeing whatever animal he intends to shoot on a fairly reliable basis (his work is stunning and this is not meant to take away form it at all as I'm sure there are a ton of challenges he faces that affect his experience differently)...your glimpse of a moose, at this point in time, inside the blue line, would be akin to seeing and reacting to a phantom, and I don't think that is overstating it. By the way, I'm not sure you can separate yourself from your art anyway...but that's just me.


November 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJames

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