via Fstoppers : The largest single landscape print I have made to date is a ten-foot-wide panorama of the Painted Rock at Fort Irwin. Titled A Thousand Words Fall Short, I donated it to a Veterans’ clinic on the 4th of July. Printed on Fuji-crystal archival paper, front-mounted to 1/4″ museum acrylic with an anti-glare coating, and backed by a solid sheet of aluminum, it really caught and exalted the light in the humble hallway where I was honored to see it hanging a couple days ago.
The soldiers call the half-mile-long regal formation running alongside the road leading into Fort Irwin “the rock pile.” Each graduating platoon claims a rock and decorates it with elements including their insignia, the names of their platoon members and leaders, and phrases in Latin dating back to classical antiquity and the Roman Empire, celebrating martial courage, valor, and honor as old as civilization herself. I recognized “Veni, vidi, vici,” meaning “I came, I saw, I conquered”–a phrase attributed to the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar when he was reporting on one of his campaigns to the Senate. It was quite an honor to finally see the fine details writ large in the epic print as I photographed it hanging there on the wall in the clinic. To me, photography has always ultimately been about the epic print.
I have donated well over 100 pieces to area hospitals, and a few months back, after visiting the Veterans’ Clinic to see one of my other installations, I became inspired to drive out to Fort Irwin that very same day to shoot a massive panorama wherein one could enjoy and read the artistic details on all the painted rocks. For I had overheard one of the Veterans lamenting that in the current photograph they had on display, one couldn’t enjoy the details of the artwork, as it was, “all blurred out.”
And so, a few minutes after hearing that, (and after picking up my gear which was always on “standby”), I found myself once again heading East on I-15–the epic highway which had so often taken me on past Las Vegas to all the glorious sights and National Parks of the American West including Zion, Bryce Canyon, Page, the Grand Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, Monument Valley, the Colorado Plateau, Toroweep, the Wave, and the Grand Escalante Staircase, to name a few. I could hear Torweep’s 60-mile dirt road calling me on back:
But this time, I was heading on out to the desert to shoot a seven-shot panorama of the Painted Rock with a Nikon D810.
As I drove along on that beautiful day, I reflected how even the very worst days for a landscape photographer were far easier than an average day for a soldier. Sure, we were both out in the elements, but while a warm bed was at the most just a few days away for the landscape photographer, soldiers could be out in the field for weeks, months, and even years; far, far away from home, while often in harm’s way.
While I had to wake up at 4 am to catch a sunrise, I at least had the luxury of sleeping the night before. While beauty constantly greeted me along the long hikes in all her myriad forms, rain or shine, sleet or snow, the soldier often had to deal with IED’s and enemy fire. While a seemingly “bad day” could claim my camera or lens with a gust of wind or a minor slip on a wet rock, a soldier could lose far greater things transcending all those replaceable material possessions, which we so often value too much. The very roughest times I had ever experienced, when I was delayed overnight in the High Sierras without shelter as a winter storm moved in, would have been a Sunday picnic for many a soldier–a pleasant walk in the park.
And thus the emerging genre of “Woe is Me–Landscape Photography is so so Hard” rings a bit hollow. Google “landscape photography fail” and dozens of videos now show up, each one outdoing the previous one with “Woe-is-Meishness” (Yes! That is a word!).