Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Making Choices & the Shooting Process


On a good morning or evening I can shoot between 150 and 400 images. This part of the image-making process is utter joy as the whole effort is directed at opening possibilities and perfecting them as conditions constantly change. I am my own companion and there is always more to see. If it is a site I know well, as I shoot I'll plan ahead to follow sun and clouds, but primary focus is on expanding the possibilities of the moment, on standing at the edge.

At some point I must take those images back to my computer and go through them all. If I feel the shoot was good, and I had found my shooting self erupting with ooohs or even ahhhhs, I'm eager to see the results, though sometimes shoots that felt weak turn out much better than expected, and good shoots don't always pan out. However, the best review is done at some remove from actual shooting and then begins the task of selecting one or two images, from the, possibly 400, that I consider worth finishing.

Selecting is the lonliest part of the job. I'm not out to make a slide show; I'm hoping to have one image that will remain memorable, that I'd like to think has gotten hold of some essence or has an expressive purpose beyond the unframed reality. On a good shoot I am always on the edge of my seat with expectation. The view is always opening. At selection time my task is to eliminate possibilities, settling on the one best choice.

I had walked about half of the sheep's pasture when I shot this image. I've learned that I don't know what things really will look like until I stand the ground, but I knew as I shifted my tripod slightly and made final adjustments for this image that I had found the one best spot to pull the barns of Kallstrom into the compositional relationships I had been striving for. I knew after I clicked the shutter I would move on to another idea. So it was with some pleasure that I later reviewed this shot and confirmed my initial judgement - Oooooh! Aaaaah! The one best choice was clear.

Then I came to the shots taken a few minutes later after I had climbed a few more steps up the hill, and sheep flooded into where I had stood earlier and I zoomed. The towers were no longer optimized but sheep had changed the equation, and my reaction was that their presence had superseded the mere balance of towers. Normally, today's TODAY'S would have remained in my computer archive, unfunished, merely an abandoned possibility, an unnecessary redundancy.

Reviewing to make choices is a lonely activity filled with uncertainties, and it would be wonderful to always have someone at my elbow to stop me and say, "Wait, don't dismiss that one so quickly," - another pair of eyes, another sensibility to sit by me through the long hours of reviewing each day's shoot would be a great aid in helping me to see more. How many times I have come back to a shot months or even a year or two later that I had completely overlooked. Tomorrow I'm off to Maine for a week-long photo workshop where, hopefully, we will all be looking over each other's shoulders and helping us see that work more clearly.

In the meantime I'm left wondering if this shut is merely a redundancy after "The Joker," and "Sentries of Time," or does it offer something all its own, not captured there?