‘Your photography is a record of your living for anyone who really sees.’ Paul Strand.
About a month ago, while Photo Review Issue 52 was still in the process of becoming the edition you now have before you, I briefly put down the editorial keyboard and took on the role of photographer for a research project being conducted in a remote corner of Death Valley National Monument in California.
The photographic task itself was repetitive and offered little scope for creativity, but then such is the nature of most fieldwork. My task was toplace a metre-stick oriented north-south, along with a compass and a GPS unit next to each of my subjects. The subjects in question were ordinary looking rocks that happened to be sitting on an almost perfectly flat dry lake bed known as the Racetrack Playa.
While a name like Racetrack Playa may bring to mind visions of half-crazed rocket car inventors hurtling at tremendous speed across vast salt flats somewhere in the desert wilderness of the American west, the objects moving on this particular racetrack were our humble rocks.
Something very odd has been going on at the Racetrack Playa for along time. The rocks are moving across the surface, leaving often quite obvious trails behind them in the clay surface of the playa. The trails are generally straight, but they sometimes turn at right angles or even show the rock makinga U-turn and coming back again. Oh, and just for fun, the rocks are all different shapes and range in size from a biggish paver to something weighing several hundred kilograms.
There are several theories as to what’s going on, but the lack of observational evidence means that we really don’t know for certain how the rocks move. No one has ever reported seeing them in motion. The study I was helping out on is going to try to find out what kind of conditions result in rock movement. And one thing you need to do in such circumstances is to establish as accurately as you can the position of a great many rocks.
When we returned to our campsite after a day spent recording rocks and their tracks, I grabbed the camera and climbed a nearby ridge. It was approaching dusk and the rugged beauty of this remote corner of one of America’s most famous parks was irresistible. I shot pictures until the last light had gone from the peaks.
Peaks just south of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Monument, California.
Although I’d had a camera in my hands all day, it wasn’t until that last half hour or so that it felt like I was really making pictures. Before then I’d just been taking them. As the great Ansel Adams said, ‘You don’t take a photograph, you make it.’
It seems to me that we now live in an age when everybody takes photographs ““ billions and billions of images – and yet only a tiny fraction of those picture-takers even try to make a photograph in the way Ansel Adams was talking about.
Although they could hardly be more diverse, our Inspirations photographers Paul Gummer, Jeff Moorfoot and Caitlin Worthington are all makers of photographs. As always, we select images that we feel are worthy of more than a quick glance. In each case our featured photographers’ work tells you something closeand intimate about their vision and, in an important sense, who they are.
As many of our readers will know, our technical editor Margaret Brown’s herself a photographer in the sense of one who makes rather than merelytakes, images. I think that in a very real way, her passion for photo making isa key part of what makes her so good at her work as a reviewer and explicatorof the tools and techniques of our beloved activity.
In this issue Margaret takes a look at Canon’s freshly-minted 5D Mark III, the new Pentax K-01, Fujifi lm’s retro look X Pro 1 (and a brace oflenses therefor), as well as new glass from Sigma, Panasonic’s TZ30, the Epson Artisan A3+ printer and the Spyder 4 colour management calibration system.
With the test bench cleared, Margaret turns her attention to the fine art of telephoto lens usage, copyright protection, photo book printing and managing your images when you’re travelling. Phew!
Having opened with a quote from a great photographer, I shall beg your indulgence and close with one as well:
‘Photography deals exquisitely with appearances, but nothing is whatit appears to be.’ – Duane Michals
This is Don’s Editorial from Photo Review Jun-Aug Issue 52.
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