If photography were difficult in the true sense – that the creation of a simple photograph would entail as much time and effort as the production of a good watercolor or etching – there would be a vast improvement in total output. The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster. –Ansel Adams
It is not surprising in this day and age so many flock to places that have been glorified by various media sources. These places are known for being wild, historic, cultural, adventurous, sparsely populated, over populated, or simply have a great view of a wonderful landscape. Ease of travel has certainly opened up the World to us. It is not uncommon for many to travel thousands of miles each year to experience these unique areas. I have yet to be convinced this is a good thing when it comes to creativity, art, or personal expression. And as Ansel puts it, often leads to creative disaster. I have experienced this first hand, and seem to be constantly reminding myself, just because I can make a photograph does not mean that I should.
When it comes to travel photography I participate in the same manner I participate in wildlife photography, opportunistically. That is to say, if i am present and the opportunity presents itself I am more than happy to enjoy the moment and celebrate with a possible photograph. I do not actively seek the travel methodology or mindset. To venture to far off lands is exciting without question. For most these are short lived trips, possible done a few times in a lifetime. Total time spent learning about, understanding, and allowing a place to impact ones well being is short. Many times very short. I would much rather know a place well, very well. There is a connection that takes place between us and our surroundings. This connection requires at minimum, time and requires much more than opportunistic visits. Days, weeks, months, or possibly calling it home is when opportunity becomes reality allowing for personal connection. Photographs, to be of significance must live in this personal connection space.
I always find it somewhat odd to the point of narcissistic when I read articles, posts, or notifications, about the great “photography” trip that a person has planned. Highlighted with the locations, possibly an itinerary, planned sights, objects, or places that are on the “hit list” or in hopes of experiencing. A very social way of sharing ones daily life. Not inherently bad, just somewhat boisterous. What seems to accompany these planned ventures many times is the ubiquitous “gear list”. Photo gear listed like a grocery list of must haves, want to have, and can haves. Cameras, lenses, memory cards, memory card readers, tripods, filters, extra batteries, bags, more bags, cables, cleaning supplies, weather gear, and on and on and on…
I honestly do not understand the sharing of possible gear that one wishes to take on a trip. It is always a large number of items that they must somehow, through shear will power whittle down to a manageable amount to travel with. And ultimately will always end up wanting (think they need) a piece of gear they did not bring. If I wanted to make a trip as impersonal or as un-photographically successful as possible this seems to be what my approach would be. Yet many find this a necessary step in what they insist is a photographic travel plan.
We each have our own way of doing things without doubt. What works for one person may not come close to working for the next. But when we challenge our creative endeavors with unnecessary distraction this seems to be moving in the wrong direction regardless of how one approaches any adventure. It leaves me to wonder if the purpose of these gear conundrums is truly for the sake of photography or an attempt to place importance on things other than photography. Namely, motivations.
I would categories such examples of these gear conundrums as a simpletons approach. Not only to creativity, but life in general. Shallow observations of self satisfaction with little or no regard to personal significance, essence of spirit, or compassionate understanding, that should be foremost in meaningful work. Then again, it is always possible meaningful work is not the intent. Many simply want to get the most bang for their buck. There is nothing wrong with that approach. Unless photography is the bang you are looking for. Then the dilemma of the gear grocery list seems to be much more of a distraction than helpful approach.
Many approach photography as a gear first activity, hobby, even profession. For them it is about the right gear, the needed gear, the variety of gear, even the newest gear. Consumerism exists in every nook and cranny of society today. Even with the temptations all around we still have a choice in what we deem important when it comes to our creative work.
My hope is for photography to completely separated from gear. As other forms of creative art are separate from tools used in their creation. One does not wonder what brushed Michelangelo used when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or what chisel he used when sculpting Pietà. Why then do many feel the need to make clear the equipment they use when creating a photograph. My only thought would be, they have little intent on creating any photographs. They simply want to take lots of pictures, or use cool tools.
The world of full of pictures. To the point of extreme excess. These are for the most part personal memories of places experienced. A fine thing to have. Memories are important. They help to shape, mold, and form our thoughts, emotions, even our personalities. You may feel the need for many more pictures in your life. A sort of verification of a life experienced. But are the pictures the verification? Or, are they simply tokens that are used as a reminder of life experiences? Will you enjoy them for what they are or for the gear you used when creating them? One things seems apparent. Photographs are important, gear is not.
“Never forget that all the great photographs in history were made with more primitive camera equipment than you currently own.” – Brooks Jensen
Late Wiinters View | ©Brad Mangas
Art & Fear
What Photography Has Taught Me
What good is time if I remain anchored and am not transported by it into new experiences; and what good are new experiences if they they do not lead to new knowledge, new understanding, new sensations, new skills and new ideas? -Guy Tal
I have no idea where the first month of 2016 has went. I must have dropped it right at the end of 2015 because for the life of me I can not find it. The last 4-6 weeks have been stuck in the mud for sure. Not for any particular reason and not particularly productive as well. I could try to convince myself it has just been a relaxing period but I’m not sure that is true. Maybe just a down cycle in daily routines.
I have not actually neglected things. If you follow me on facebook you will see regular posts. It seems to be a quick way to touch base with the rest of the world. January Print Of The Month was made available so there has been good use of time. I am slightly distraught about one thing, that would be the lack of what feels like winter. I think until my neck of the woods are completely blanketed in snow it just doesn’t feel like winter to me. Now the holidays have come and gone and I am not real sure I can recapture the mood even if snow did cover the lands.
I have made it out a couple of times each week over the last over the last month. Right now it is the season of mostly brown in the grasslands. I am drawn towards water for some reason in the winter, or what I hope to be frozen waters. A few trips to nearby lakes and reservoirs have been fun but again not tremendously productive photograph wise.
I am beginning to see something ever so slightly emerge from this slow period. For the last few years I have become more interested in, for the lack of better words, the smaller landscape. This seems to take place during the winter months. And not even landscapes as such but small scenes, possibly more of a pattern or abstract nature. Not real sure what it is because I still have looked forward to the wonder sunsets winter provides and have seen some nice ones the last couple of weeks. Most of my creative adventure time has been searching for things I normally don’t seek out but just happen to find along the way. I love patterns in ice, leaves frozen in ice, these are some of the things I have been on the lookout for since any measurable amount of snow has eluded this area. My time has been more of observing such things with a few photographs thrown in here and there.
In setting here contemplating my recent here and there, nonchalant attitude, a couple of things strike me very severely. First, I am not sure I want to just do things on a here and there basis. Second, I don’t have all that many more years if all I am going to do is drag my feet. This “time” thing is wickedly honest. It does not stop for anything or anyone. Whether your climbing mountains or napping on a Sunday afternoon old man time keeps right on moving. I wish when I slept or just set around being lazy time would stop so I would have more years in search of pleasurable things when I chose to do them. Not that sleeping or goofing off can’t be pleasurable, but it does depend on what you want to accomplish in life. Or at least have a chance to experience. Plus one more brutally honest thing about time. We never know when ours will be up. I’m not real sure if I should think about it more or less. It doesn’t really matter anyway. What matters is what we do when we have it.
I knew when I started writing a new post here a few thoughts would pop into my mind. Funny how that works. I always think I don’t have much to write simply because I can not think of anything specific. Then, when I begin things I never thought of seem to magically pop into my head. I believe it may be that way with many who struggle with creative endeavors. It’s hard to get started because you either have no ideas to begin with or too many ideas to know where to start. I think I will keep chugging along like the little engine. Slow and steady has it’s merits. Just as long as I keep it at a minimum of slow, and not stuck.
Late day light dancing across a section of the tallgrass prairie. ©Brad Mangas
Happy October! I believe October may be my favorite month. It has seemed that way most of my life. There may be many reasons reaching way back to my childhood. As most of my time was spent outdoors certain months just seemed more pleasant than other to be outside. Here in the Midwest October is the month of plenty. Plenty of activities celebrating the beginning of the Autumn season, wonderful weather, trees, shrubs and most all flora life doing their thing and turning spectacular colors of every kind! It’s as if Mother Nature puts on a final show letting us know she still has it.
I will be increasing my time again as well in nature. The opportunities will be limitless for a short time. I know that is a personal mindset and opportunities are always limitless if you want them to be. I must be more influenced by color than I may realize. The colors of Autumn seem to get my juices flowing on high again. Every year I get excited when I see the first sign of the change.
I may get a little overloaded in the coming weeks. The beginning is just starting. This shows up (for myself anyway) in the grasses. The deep greens slowly fade and make way for the golden colors to take over. Sumac is always a good sign. The prairies are full of mostly Smooth Sumac in these parts. There are a couple other varieties but the smooth always stands out with it leaves becoming the deepest most brilliant red of maybe anything in nature. As always my camera will soon be focusing on lots and lots of sumac.
I have done a little prairie cruising lately to start getting the feel of the lands and rate of Autumns progression. It will help in planning a few extended stays into some areas. I will mention briefly that in a few weeks I am going to be in a place I have never visited in Autumn, The Smoky Mountains! Whaoo! I will be there for a week during what typically is peak color time. I hope I can handle it. It may overload my circuits as well as my cameras memory cards! I have already started looking at areas to explore while there.
A few road trips the last couple of weeks have led me through some familiar areas. Mostly Pottawatomie County. Being my home stomping grounds I seem to gravitate to that area. Not much in the way of color changes yet but bean fields and hay fields I came across looked great. I drove up a familiar road that I find myself on quite often towards the end of the day. It one of those road that is just relaxing to slowly meander on. I decided to stop as the sun was setting and enjoy a nice view across one of the fields and make a few captures of the setting sun as it made it’s way slowly behind the distant Flint Hills. There is never a bad time to do such things and it is always great when Mother Nature helps paint the sky along with few extra splashes of color are thrown in.
© Brad Mangas
Purchase this print
I’m a little late in getting some info out that I have been wanting to share for awhile, and that is an image that was selected to be used as a wall mural in the Kansas Museum of History. In May of this year I was contacted by the Director of the Kansas Museum of History about a new display they were going to install in the main entry area of the gallery. They were looking for 7 images that depicted Kansas and Kansas history to be used as a wall mural. 6 of these images would be displayed in a postcard format over a main wall mural. The wall mural was to be 38 feet wide by 12 feet high and span a 3 angled wall! They inquired about an image of mine of the Flint Hills and wanted this to be the 38 feet by 12 wall mural. Well, needless to say I was quite pleased with the opportunity to be represented in the museum as well as having a photograph used at such an enormous size!
The image they chose is titled “Wild Blue Yonder” click that link to see it. This image was taken in May of 2009 in Geary County, Kansas. I was fortunate enough to be in the beautiful Flint Hills shortly after the spring burns had taken place and the new prairie grasses had began their regrowth. This along with some of the early wildflowers that spring up during this time, most notably in this shot, Wild Blue Indigo. I was also very fortunate to have the cooperation of a beautiful Kansas sky at this moment. All in all it has always been one of my favorite pictures and one of the most popular with viewers as well.
One of the issues that concerned me with the use of this image was first, it was taken with a 10mp dslr, the Canon XTi which I had at that time. Secondly it was going to be cropped heavily so to show only the distant hills and sky. This seemed to be a problem since the main subject of the image at least the main focal point when taking this is the blue indigo in the very near foreground, literally only about 2 feet away. That is what is focused on and the far distant hills slowly faded from focus. It was shot with a Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens which is a very good lens with good resolution. But the part that was going to be enlarge tremendously was and is not in sharp focus. This concerned me. Of course I look at things like this with not only a photographers eye but now with the creators eye! Would it be as good as I wanted? Could it be enlarged that much and still hold up in things like detail, contrast, color, and just general great appearance? I was not sure.
After I had spoken with Chris Prouty the exhibit designer and my contact person I voiced my concerns and wish to make sure this would reproduce in a very good way. I submitted the image to him and he in turn got it to the printer who would be not only enlarging it but printing it on what is basically rolls of vinyl wallpaper. The printing would be done by a company in Shawnee Mission Kansas, Dimensional Innovations. They would be in position to make a final determination on the enlarged reproduction quality.
Well like many things, most of the issues were simply the unknown to me and when work was done things turned out to be just fine. Actually better than fine. This snapshot here that I took last month when I finally made it out to the museum to see this for myself by no way does it justice. It is truly a wonderful scene and the Kansas Museum of History done a great job in truly making you feel like you have just walked into a bit of Kansas history when viewing this.
You can see noted Kansas figures standing among the winding yellow brick road all leading back to the flint hills and additional Kansas scenes depicted on the postcard. It is really quite a nicely laid out scene.
I was not able to see Chris on my visit that day but plan on returning just to say hi and thank him and the Kansas Museum of History and Kansas Historical Society for doing such a great job in not only showing the beauty and history of our great state but for also giving me the opportunity to be part of it. Thank you all.
Kansas Museum of History