Monday, April 27, 2009

Kill the critical beast inside you

Kristi and I went to Connecticut last fall to see her Grandparents and work on a couple of projects. She was working on her book ( and I wanted to do some photography work. It was one of the best vacations I've taken in my entire life.

It was the first time I had traveled long-distance to shoot a location. I prepped for weeks and made sure everything was in order. I made a list of the things I wanted to accomplish, researched possible subjects, thought long and hard about the kind of images I wanted to shoot. I checked and double-checked my gear. Once on location I went to work in my single-minded mode. I bracketed, metered, analyzed, and checked the histogram on every shot. I got on my knees, shot from the waist, climbed on boulders, hopped fences and laid flat on the ground. When I didn't like a shot I did it again. And again. And again. Then went back the next day in different lighting conditions. I shot an average of 500 images a day for 6 days straight.

At night I downloaded, stacked, categorized, compared f-stops and shutter speeds, depth of field and focal lengths. I junked the bad ones and kept the good ones. By the end of the trip I was bogged down with a mountain of photos and I found myself choosing between the best of several images that were essentially the same and all quite good. I finally archived them all and didn't take the time to filter them down to a handful of the very best.

On the very fist day of shooting, before I was engulfed in the mechanics of photography, I walked down a set of abandoned railroad tracks in an alley between two red-brick factories in Collinsville, CT. The Connecticut river was a stones throw away, pouring over a low head dam that drove the turbines that powered the now vacant Collinsville Axe factory. The trees were putting on fall colors. It was a photographers dream.

I headed for an old stone tunnel that ran under the factory and opened in a grove of trees next to the river. On the way I passed the old weigh station, now a studio apartment but vacant at the time. A couch, kitchen chair, heater and other signs of life were left on the deck. It caught my attention, so I stopped, I raised my camera, composed and shot a single, spontaneous image and kept walking. I didn't over-think it or ask a bunch of silly questions about the subject or let my techno-critical side kick in. It was a creative moment and I let it be what it was and moved on. I think it was the only time during the trip I did it.

And it's my favorite image from the entire trip.