In a matter of a few days, I had traveled from Navajoland to Page, Arizona to Idaho Falls, Idaho and back to Navajoland for a particular slot canyon image. The image above is a photo of a 120 roll of film from my Fuji 617 panoramic camera.
Using film has taught me a couple very important aspects when approaching photography. In fact, one of my favorite words of wisdom comes from none other than Ansel Adams. “More important than the current state of photographic materials, however, is the individuals approach to photography.”
From the other master, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once but the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee.
Being limited with the resources of film has ultimately taught me to slow down and to use each exposure wisely.
Just like the roll of 120 film on top, I only had the chance to generate 4 high quality photographs in a matter of a few days. I was absolutely happy with the results.
The temptation to photograph everything and fill up 128 gig’s of a memory card has never been my approach. I would say a very large influence I had was the fact that growing up on the Navajo Reservation, our resources were also limited.
Such as the amount of water that was available, food, fuel and everything else. We were taught to use everything as best as we can since we lived a few hours from the nearest super store of any kind.
Though I have a couple digital camera’s, even with those film systems, my exposures are very low. (Unless I’m working on something like timelapse. By the way, 2015 is going to rock with some pret-t-t-t-y cool timelapse!)
Becoming a 2 Gig Champ is a really fun exercise because it limits the photographer to “really” seek out for what he/she is looking for. Anytime I go on a road trip, I always pack my Native American flute. Playing this flute out in the middle of nowhere allows me to sit on a vista or a sand dune and in an enjoyable manner, wait for the light.
During the waiting time, I scan and see so many things. I’m able to convey, through words, the details within the composition.
Knowing you and I are limited on a morning photograph session is like hunting. My father recently returned from his Mule Deer hunt and he had the opportunity to get some good meat!
It took a single round to bring the Mule Deer down. My father never hunts for antler size nor for anything related to trophies. No offense to anyone but in our home, you’ll never find the antlers of any deer.
The Navajo way is to say a prayer and leave the unique and sacred parts of the animal where he or she onced roam. It is our way to honor the animal. Again, one’s approach will become better if he has an approach to execute high image quality.
Each year on my film systems, I generate way less than 50 photographs. 4×5 film and 8×10 film is very, very expensive when considering the cost factor of processing – but worth it.
A good portion of my income is generated from the sales of my large framed images. Most of my photographs measure at least 24″ or 30″ in it’s shortest length.
Since I print and use exquisite Italian or hardwood mouldings, every exposure has to be approached in a total different manner. Sometimes I get into this serious mode of purely zoning in. I don’t like being in “that zone”.
I seem to be so zoned in I forget what’s going on around me.
Thankfully, the light and land conditions aren’t always top notch.
Each month I place over 4,000 miles to travel the West in hopes to return with an exposure. Most times I return home empty handed in terms of film to process. I always return with more knowledge about why I didn’t generate a photograph. Again, I’m very happy with that.
It’s like WD-40. Thirty Nine of the formula’s could not displace water. But the 40th scientific formula was able to do so. Hence the name WD for ‘Water Displacement’ and 40 for the 40th attempt.
Knowing the end goal in mind and working backwards will allow your senses to hone in on a particular image. You’re eyes will be heightened and like a hunt, stalk that particular opportunity that will provide for you, your family and if applicable, your clients.
You’ll be able to convey a better message through imagery or text pertaining to the image itself. The value of that particular exposure will skyrocket because of the energy you invested into it.
From this approach, the quality vs. quantity ratio changes. I’ve seen it in my own images. I’ve seen the change in my landscape photography workshop attendee’s. One exercise I have everyone do is take one of my 2 or 4 gig SD or CF memory cards on a morning of one of my workshops.
You’ll be surprised how many attitude’s change. It’s a fun exercise and it induces a different approach than what one may be accustomed to.
Again, this is my approach. I know it won’t work for many.
The fun thing is you can try it with any camera you have.
Go out on a sunrise session or anywhere.
Limit yourself by a memory card or an internal promise to only create 5 or 10 photographs. See what your results look like.
With the 1st photograph of my 3 exposures on top of this page, there is the image on the right. The full exposure is the image below:
Try becoming that 2 or 4 Gig champ. (NOTE: I only use 4 because it is so hard to find 2 gig memory cards. Most times, the 2 gig cards are more expensive than the average 16 gig memory card…. Go figure.)
I host exclusive landscape photography workshops on Navajoland and at these workshops, I showcase in the field other examples that have enabled me to consistently generate high quality fine art images.
Since I am Navajo, I have access to places most ‘non-Navajo’ photographers don’t.
The workshops are beyond being at the right place at the right time.
It also isn’t an overwhelming ‘learn every trick in Photoshop’ event either.
My photography isn’t like building a Ferrari by hand.
It’s simple. It’s a system. It’s beyond creating a photograph because after all, we will visit my beloved homelands; Navajoland.
If you have interest in reading more about what I do and what will be covered, click here to read about my next available workshop in March of 2015.