Life Is A Blur

SO…. SLOW DOWN AND LIVE A LITTLE.

One day, before you know it, you will reach the time of reckoning. You will sit at the edge of your bed and you will think about your life; whether it was fulfilling, lackluster, or somewhere in between. In today’s world it is easy to get lost in the endless feeds of content creation we call social media. A long list of stories that only a small handful of your “followers” actually give a damn about. We forget to be present, we forget to be ourselves, we attempt to create “content” that will resonate with the masses and get us a momentary spot of recognition before we are swallowed up by the endless tide of incoming posts.

I used to chase followers, thinking that they were important to build my career, until I had a small epiphany. They are called “followers” for a reason, to follow. If they controlled my path in life and photography, they would be called leaders… and I would be a slave to their demands.

I remember a time when I would spend hours in a dark room creating a tangible photographic print that could be held and viewed as a 3 dimensional piece of art. Nowadays, a vast majority of my images never leave the computer screen. They sit in a catalog of a thousand images on a hard drive in a place weirdly reminiscent of the island of forgotten toys from the classic Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer tale. Those images had their moment on the endless social media train, some of which received momentary glory before being tossed aside for the next new image. Now they collect digital dust and may never be seen again.

What does this all have to do with a photography blog post and reaching the inevitable end of the road?

Last week, as I sat in Yellowstone National Park staring at a sunset that was so beautiful it practically rendered me speechless, I had an epiphany. I realized I was constantly trying to create content for the next social media post instead of creating work for myself, work that resonated with me. Because I had been creating work for the momentary pleasure of strangers, I had stopped seeing and enjoying for myself. It had become a wash, rinse, repeat cycle form of creation and I wasn’t getting any joy from the incredibly beautiful scene playing out in front of me. The pungent smell of the sulphuric gases fuming from the geysers, the interaction of steam and cloud, of light and shadow; I was viewing the scene as if I were behind a screen. I wasn’t present in the moment. I was too focused on “content creation”, and that is a travesty.

So in that moment I stopped shooting wildly, walked away from a mediocre composition, took a deep breath and studied the interactions occurring in front of me. I felt the warm steam as the south eastwardly blowing wind pushed the water vapors towards me and up over the hillside behind. I watched the light dance across the shallow pools of water on the delicate surface of the geyser basin. I listened to the water as it bubbled up through the geyser pools, steadily releasing sulphuric gases into the atmosphere. I reminded myself I was standing on the worlds largest volcanic hotspot, and of the power it held beneath the surface.

I set my camera back up and took one photograph. Just one.

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

As a photographer I made the decision that I want my images to resonate with me first, with the experience and feeling I had within that moment. I want my images to speak to me, to make me feel, to wonder. Like the artists’ work I adorned my walls with as a budding adult, I want my images to inspire me. If I can create images that provoke those feelings within me, then those same images are bound to provoke the same sense of wonder in others.

Let’s tie this all back into this posts title.

Life is a blur, so slow down, be present, and experience the subtle nuances of the many places you will find yourself as you write your life story. If you are an artist, create for yourself first, your creations will speak louder, and in turn get noticed by those that matter. You will feel more fulfilled at the end of the day and when your judgement day comes you can say, “ I experienced my life, and in doing so, created something meaningful, something lasting. I was present each and every day and made true connections with others, and with the planet around me. I lived.”

In that moment, I reignited the fire of exploration, discovery, and creation within me and am excited to slow down and experience the many, many events and places that will shape me as I continue to get older.

I don't know what to write about

Sometimes writer’s block can be just as bad as a creative block. For me this often happens when I come home with some awesome images I want to share with everyone, but don’t have a cohesive story to tell. I spent the last week in Moab, Utah (one of my top 3 favorite places in the United States), and experienced more stormy weather, and some serious heat for May. I slept out of the back of our SUV and didn’t eat much, ran into some friends from North Carolina, and genuinely roughed it for a little while. I woke up early to get to my photo locations and stayed up late to make sure I captured the last bits of light as they faded over the horizon, but I still feel as though I don’t have much of a story to go with these images.

So…

I’ll let the photographs do the talking.

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

© Andrew Lockwood 2019

Capturing Canyonlands

I spent the last few days chasing light and dodging lightning in Canyonlands National Park.

As I hiked around the Needles District, the ever present pop-up thunderstorm made exploring the wide open spaces a challenge. Despite those pesky storms, I managed to find a few good windows when the light was at its best.

For a few years now I have wanted to capture the essence of the desert in Utah, but every time I came home with images, I felt they fell short. So with perfect wildflower conditions this season, I have made it a point to seek out the best wildflower pockets around Utah, and attempt to capture the elusive desert image. I captured the below image as the final moments of sunset caught a low hanging rain cloud just above the cliffs of Indian Creek. I had scouted a runoff wash earlier and found a composition I believed would make for a beautiful sunset if the light began to go nuts. As usual, that composition didn’t work out, but luckily just down the wash, another fishhook cactus was in bloom and I was able to compose a composition before the light disappeared ( a matter of 3 minutes).

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Many people think of deserts as arid wastelands, and while some certainly are, most are incredibly diverse and dynamic landscapes. My wife captured 38 different species of wildflowers on her phone over a 4 day period. I managed to capture one. But to me this one image is the culmination of a lot of preparation and research, lack of creature comforts (i.e. showers, toilets, beds), time and calorie consuming leg work. Any more images I capture of the phenomenal display of desert wildflowers this year will only be icing on the cake.

Speaking of cake,

check out the smooth glazing on this geyser formation near the Green River. At sunset the waters change a myriad of different hues thanks to reflected light from the sky.

The finely layered pools of the geyser allow for endless intimate compositions. I could have spent multiple days exploring the 60 foot area picking out detail after detail. Here is a more traditional landscape image of the location. You can see the finely tiered layers as they rise towards the geyser.

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After I was done playing in the pools I headed to the Needles District and sought out the first image in this post.

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Once in the Needles District, I hiked out to Chesler Park to get closer to the unique formations. Although the light wasn’t perfect, I managed to come away with a few good shots that I am proud of, including one panorama from right after a heavy downpour as the sun set behind the clouds.

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Needing to get back to civilization before someone mistook me for a new species of desert primate, I reluctantly packed up my belongings (now coated with a layer of red earth) and began the trek back to Salt Lake City. I made a few stops along the way. One to an arch near Moab which is now all over the internet, a roadside petroglyph, and another lesser known location (which will remain anonymous) that required some decent rock crawling and low gears.

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What A Trip!! I think I returned home with quite a few keepers. Im heading to Arches next, to continue my wildflower search, so check back next Tuesday (21st) for a trip report.

All images © Andrew Lockwood 2019

Knowing When To Give Up

You drive 6 hrs to a location you want to photograph the next morning.

All of your planning and weather apps say it’s going to be the best sunrise of the 21st century.

You sleep curled up in your car, and forego breakfast so you can be on the trail quickly.

You hike out into the wilderness at 5:00 am with a headlamp while the world is still dark.

You spend an hour canvasing the area for that perfect composition.

You find it and set up your camera.

As the sun begins to rise you anticipate how beautiful this image is going to be.

The sun comes up and,

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The light begins to “pop off” and illuminate the scene behind you…

Knowing when to give up on a composition is an important lesson for photographers. Analyzing the scene and knowing a few variables will allow you to make an informed decision about whether anything will materialize within your composition. Noticing there were very few clouds above my subject, and seeing how the light was flooding the scene behind me, I made a quick decision to adjust my composition to the other side of this hoodoo.

Thankfully I had scouted a few different compositions in case this very scenario were to happen, and I was able to quickly set up before the beautiful morning light disappeared. It’s important not to get glued to any one composition since variables in weather can affect your image’s outcome. When shooting sunrises and sunsets where it’s important to have a good base of high clouds, I tend to try and find 4 solid compositions; one facing north, one south, one east, and one west. This way when the light begins to go nuts and I’m in the wrong spot, I don’t have to forfeit the morning photoshoot and can still get a great image.

Below is the image I captured once I adjusted to the scenario unfolding around me.

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As you can see, by paying attention to my surroundings, and giving up on the other composition, I was able to create a far greater image. After I had this image in the bag, I was able to play around a bit with some other compositions I had in mind.

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The Grand Canyon: A photographer's paradise.

As outdoor photographers we strive to bring the incredible beauty that we witness in the natural world to our viewers. Sometimes even the greatest photograph cannot do a place justice. Such is the case with the Grand Canyon. Words are hard to describe it, and a photo is worth a thousand words, and yet I still find myself struggling to convey the immensity of this place.

The Grand Canyon is listed as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Perhaps this is because to believe in its immensity, one must see it in person.

I only spent two days on the rim of the canyon, and I can honestly say that there is a lifetime of exploration here. On my first evening I walked along the south rim, to Hermits Rest (the last stop on the shuttle) in search of a composition I had yet to see online. I knew I wanted to see the Colorado River below, and capture the rays of light from the setting sun as they flooded into the canyon. I have never been to a national park as crowded ( Zion National Park was a close second) and navigating the throng of people was difficult at times. I managed to find a secluded spot between two shuttle stops, that I thought would give me the best chance of the image I was looking for. We set up shop and waited (and waited). When the light finally got good, I took two images. The first image I took was the layers of rock as they receded into the distance. The second image I took of the Colorado River as the sun began to set.

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The following morning, I woke up for sunrise and wandered out to see what I could find. I didn’t stray far knowing I had to leave for home shortly after sunrise, so I wandered along Mather Point behind the visitor center. I was surprised at the lack of people out. I had always heard that sunrise in the Grand Canyon can be a busy affair. I had the majority of the area to myself and didn’t feel crowded as I set up a composition. There were beautiful lenticular clouds above the canyon as the sun began to rise. A pinkish orange glow began to light the scene in front of me, and I took two more photos. One capturing the lenticular clouds and the vastness of the Grand Canyon, the other a close-up of a light ray as it fell into the canyon.

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As I begin blogging more frequently, I hope to bring discussion into the forefront of the blog.

Which of these four images is your favorite, why? Don’t like any of them? I want to hear about that also.

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