Blue Hour, Soapstone Prairie Open Space, Northern Colorado (Kodak Portra 160)
I went on one of my 4042n jaunts last Saturday, this time to SoapStone Prairie Open Space, a relatively new area at the extreme edge of Colorado. You can cross into Wyoming on one of the short backcountry trails. Having decided the goal for the day was to record honest images, I headed out with a pack full of Portra 160, some Ektar, some Delta and of course Tri-X.
Soapstone Prairie Morning, Extreme Northern Colorado (Kodak Portra 160)
What do I mean by honest images. I mean images of an area that don't happen for a split second once a month, then are gone. An honest image is an unpretentious image. An honest image represents what an area looks like 99.9% of the time, not .1% of the time, deceiving viewers into believing every minute of every day looks like magic hour. An honest image means heading out when nothing's flowering, nothing's blooming and nothing's having babies. An honest image is two does and a buck watching you work your way up the trail in grey-blue hour, wondering if you're there to kill them, and deciding your not.
The honest image means a natural color film. Not a digital camera. Not Velvia (though I do think honest images can be made on Velvia). The temptation with Velvia is to force it into the dishonest realm - to compromise it. Juice it. An honest image means no Photoshop monkey business. It means no pano's, no stitching, and for the love of all things good and right in the world, no HDR. An honest image means being intentional about the media you choose to record a scene that's chosen you. An honest image means no black and white conversions. It means no cropping your way to a good image. It means thinking in series, or working for the stand-alone, solitary shot that needs no caption, no tag line.
An honest image means medium format, 120 fine-grained, color negative film to capture every bit of nuance, every slight tonal variation, every bit of every square inch of everything in front of your fixed, focal-length (non-zooming) lens as you stand behind the tripod with the cable release in hand and trip the shutter. An honest image means waiting. It means looking intently for composition and it means missing. It means seeing a shot and not being able to frame it properly and passing it by, but allowing it to burn into your brain for next time.
Rawhide Power Plant, Northern Larimer County, Colorado
An honest image means it fits the subject matter. Northern Colorado and southern Wyoming aren't Disneyland. The land is muted, earthen hues. Greens, mauves, ochres, tans, cobalt blues, cadmium reds, burnt sienna's; big skies, small plants, ugly rocks and lots of wind. It's bright, sunny, high-altitude light out of dynamic range praying for a cloud to drift between the sun and the earth to make a shot. An honest image means driving for hours and stopping in the middle of an unmarked county dirt road to turn around to make a shot that you pray you can make before a car comes over the hill and... because with the wind blowing and the hood on your Carhartt up you can't hear anything more than 3 feet away. An honest image means getting dusty and dirty kneeling down in the the ditch. It means chasing your hat across the prairie when the wind takes it.
Near Red Mountain Open Space, Northern Larimer County, Colorado
An honest image means no trespassing. It means closing gates behind you and honoring the mandate to stay on the trail - and missing the shot you want because you did. An honest image begins an hour before sun up and ends an hour after sun down. It means a last tilt of the thermos of tepid, too-strong coffee for something to drink at the end of the day. An honest image means washboard roads, AM talk radio, bugs in the radiator and chipped windscreens. It means nearly running out of fuel and paying too much a gallon at the nearly closed, sporting good-convenient store-fast-food chain-delicatessen-truck stop-fuel mart that smells like burnt coffee and is out of TP.
An honest image means - above all else - joy. Peace. Solitude. Creative immersion. It means Discovery. An honest image is a very, very good thing.
Keywords: 120 film, 4042n, Colorado, Landumentaries, Mamiya, Portra, Soapstone Prairie, State Line, Wyoming, medium format, rural Colorado, rural Wyoming
Great post. Thanks for taking the time to publish your thoughts.
Something to be said for our Great Plains.....Don't get me wrong, Mountain images show granduer and strength and beauty...IMHO somewhat easy to describe.........Yet there is something that is difficult to tell someone about the vastness of the prairie...A road that literally lays like a ribbon across....wondering yet again, what is over the next rise in the road? Seeing the past by a lone tire, a corpse of an auto...an abandoned home/ranch/farm.....who were they? How long did they live there? Why did they leave? Do any of the relatives still exist? Are they aware of the history? Fabulous shots John. Thanks again for sharing.
This is fantastic, John, not just the photography, but also the commentary. Thank you for taking us on the journey with you.
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