Ladies and Gentlemen, Damen und Herren, Madame et Monsieur I have a special announcement to make. Beginning tomorrow I will be off on a photography trip and will not be posting until I return. Before you draw a huge breath of relief you should know that I will be back and ready for business as usual around the 4th of July. So enjoy your summer vacation, be good to one another, that means no fighting, and remember, weep not for me my loyal readers, the truth is I’ll never leave you…(with apologies to ALW) and I’ll talk to you soon.
OK I admit it. I’m one of those hairy-legged, rough-coated, cuss word wielding photographers who happens to be male. The kind that chewed tobacco just so he’d have something to spit when he was talking to the boys. As such I was occasionally viewed by members of the opposite sex, females in other words, of being somewhat coarse, I know, I know, I don’t understand it either, but it has happened. I am constantly amazed by this reaction.
Their main problem, women I mean, seems to be that I don’t have a ‘softer side’, one that has feelings. That I don’t ‘listen’, I listen, I’m listening while I ask them to please move the hell over you’re blocking my shot, and that hurts my feelings. That’s another thing I don’t understand, I have feelings. When I get punched in the face by another photographer because I said something about his ancestry that he didn’t like, I hurt. When I drop a $2000.00 lens on the ground and break it right in two and I don’t know if my insurance premiums are up to date, I feel despair. When I see that another photographer has spit tobacco juice all over my new camera bag, and as I am smacking him as hard as I can with my new $1800.00 graphite and carbon fiber tripod, I get angry. How can they say I don’t have feelings.
This is what causes problems between the sexes, this constant state of ‘failure to communicate’. Cool Hand Luke perfectly epitomized this situation for me when his warden was saying “What we have here is a failure to communicate”. Luke understood, it was the warden that didn’t understand. What Luke was trying to communicate was he just didn’t give a damn. This is something guys understand and relate to completely, and unfortunately it is something that the female side of the equation doesn’t get. It’s just lucky we can breed or otherwise I would fear for the human race.
So as an attempt to offer an olive branch and show that I, and I suspect other male photographers too, have a gentler, softer side if you will, I am presenting this image I made of a flower. I took this after carefully looking around to see if there were any other male photographers in the area, and when there wasn’t I quickly made this photo. I keep it in a folder named ‘Not very interesting stuff shot by mistake’ so if any of the guys are looking in my files they won’t find it. I don’t need that kind of drama right now. I think it totally refutes the argument women have with me of not having any feelings and demonstrates that I am a deeply caring and sensitive individual by nature, and all of you that disagree with that should just back off, know what I mean?
I don’t care what you think, I mean I think we can calmly discuss this and arrive at a point where we truly understand each other and can live in harmony. It is kind of a pretty picture isn’t it? I just love the way the dew glistens on the delicately shaded petals…Wait, Did I just say that out loud? Oh man, well maybe just women will read the post today, if not I’ll just say my evil twin brother wrote it, yeah that’ll work.
First off I’d spend a lot of time just looking around, checking out what’s going on, see who’s doing what and generally keeping up with the daily grind out here in wolf land. If you don’t know where the elk are and more importantly where your buddies are, you are not going to be eating warm elk meat this evening. You are going to be shivering your tail off in the snow and hungry to boot.
The next thing I’d be doing is making sure I always kept my wolf face on. Looking like I mean business, squinting a little keeping that Eastwood thing going, the ladies dig that stuff, but staying cool at the same time. It also keeps that young son of a bitch, Render, from getting too cocky. You got to watch the young ones, they’re always hungry and I don’t like the way he’s been sniffing around Misdemeanor either.
Also I’d be working on my image, keeping all that PR going about ‘Wolves are Good’ and having a positive image like what’s-his-name, the one in Dancing with Wolves, man, dead space in my head, I need some protein, oh yeah, Two Socks, that’s it. Now there’s a wolf that’s done some good for the community. I understand he got plenty of bones for that gig, and a t-shirt with this picture on it too. That’s cool.
The other thing I would most definitely do is have the batteries charged in my GPS so I knew exactly where the park boundaries were at all times. It is getting dangerous out there. I heard there were two wolves from that DunRoamin pack that left the building and now no one has heard from them since, not a peep. They’re a different bunch up there in the north end, they name their kids weird and I heard they would even eat Bighorn sheep when they could catch them. The story goes that Ray Everett and Curtis Leroy, two of their better take down guys, went off the res to find mulies but came across some Herefords instead, (first rule in Wolf Law, first one, never, ever, even think about cows) and wolves being wolves, especially dumb ones like these two, probably did what they should never have done. We don’t even talk about it down here. And cow owners being cow owners probably did what they do and that is follow the ‘3 S’ rule which is Shoot – Shovel – and Shut Up. There is plenty to eat around here so teach the young ones like Coppola said, ‘Never Get Out of the Boat’ because there are tigers out there.
Finally I would pack into each day every ounce of joy I could into just being a wolf, spending time with Misdemeanor, nuzzling the pups, especially that little fat one that likes to bite my tail, hanging out with the buds, figuring out the best way to bring that elk down so you don’t get kicked in the jaw like Drooler did, and just letting the incredible experience of life wash over you. That’s what I’d do if I was a wolf.
click to enlarge
Back in 1875 when I was in my mid 40’s I bought my first digital camera. In those days digital cameras were a lot different from how they are now. They were roughly the size of a toaster, an eight slice toaster, the lens weighed 82 lbs. and the strap to carry them was at least three inches wide and made out of buffalo hide. The battery was larger than a cow and was hauled around in a small oxcart. The only way you could get anywhere in those days with all your ‘gear’, as we called it then, was by riding a horse. That often became impractical because the weight of the camera would cause the horse to fall, get bloated, expel huge amounts of unpleasant gas and then you would have to shoot it. All in all a costly way to travel.
Or you could walk with all your ‘gear’ on your back, but given what happened to horses when you tried that, that was just stupid. So that left trains. Trains were good because they solved all the problems of other modes of travel and you could stand in the club car and smoke cigars, shoot at buffalo, play cards and when nature dictated it you could whiz off the back of the last Pullman car, a singularly unique experience. This was primarily a guy thing but still, very civilized at the time.
The camera I purchased was state of the art as it could capture color which fortunately was abundant not to mention plentiful and could easily fit onto the images that were made. As luck would have it the railroad cars were also colorful, and stationary much of the time, which made my job much easier.
Prior to the invention of the camera images were much harder to produce as it involved a lot of smearing of paint on a canvas, not losing the lids to your paint jars, remembering where you left your brushes, and all the complicated crap of making images which was generally fraught with complications anyway. With the camera however all of that changed. You simply chose a subject, placed four to six concrete blocks in a semi-circle, constructed a small but sturdy scaffold, bolted your camera to the primary crossbeam, attempted to get the subjects attention if you were shooting people, covered everything with a large tarp of thick sweaty canvas, removed the cast iron cover from in front of the lens and pressed the shutter. Much easier. If you were particularly adept you could often make a many as three different images in a week. My personal record was four but unfortunately that resulted in the untimely death of one of my assistants, a frail young man that was responsible for the care and transportation of the concrete blocks. Everything worked out for the best however as I was able to replace him with a strong Polish lad that could carry all of the blocks under one arm plus drag the canvas. A much better situation. I guess that’s why they called them ‘the good old days’.
The photo above was made over a four-day period when I was traveling from Durango to Silverton to make images for inclusion in an advertisement for the Great Western Railroad and Screendoor Factory. As it happened the Great Western Railroad didn’t have cars like these, not to mention scenery of any kind and ran trains to places no one wanted to go, so they were eager to get photos that they hoped would lure travelers onto their trains thereby staving off financial ruin. Not the soundest of plans but then things were different back then and a job was a job.
Sharing these photos with you has brought back a flood of memories of the ‘good old days’ which although basically untrue are fondly remembered none the less. One needs to enjoy their memories while they can lest they fade away. If by some terrible mischance you don’t have any memories of your own feel free to borrow some of mine or better yet just make up new ones. It makes each day brighter.
Say there, we wondering what you’re doing here. We’ve had trouble down here lately and the trouble makers looked a lot like you. So what if you’ve never been here before, you look like the last batch and you all look the same to us anyway. Do you know anybody here? No, we don’t have anyone named Tyrone. What is it you want exactly? Pictures! We don’t need no stinking pictures. Just two nights ago we had wolves down here trying to get at our little ones and the day before that one of you actually tried to pet us. Pet us! We don’t like to get petted. And from the looks of you I don’t think we like you either. You may just want to move on now, and take that black box you’ve got around your neck with you. We don’t care if you’re friendly, we’re not. Yeah well that fifty dollar park pass isn’t going to get you anything but a horn up your … yeah that’s it, run, run fast and don’t come back. Go down and talk to the elk, they like it, but we don’t want to see you back here again. Tell the ranger, you think we care? Yeah well the same to you and by the way you run funny too.
Elk by their nature are not solitary animals. Especially cow elk. Bulls on the other hand will be loners, certainly during the rut and often afterwards. Cows though need the herd. They need the companionship and support of the others to feel safe.
Often they will drift away from the herd for short times, lying alone in the tall grass soaking up the sun, or standing in the river enjoying the feel of the cool water gliding past them, but always in sight of the others. One of the exceptions to this rule will be during calving time when they go off into the forest to find a solitary and they hope secret place to have their calves. As soon as the calf is able to travel however they return to the herd and it’s welcoming acceptance.
This cow had been enjoying the warmth of the sun, lying in the tall grass dozing as the herd slowly moved downriver. She hadn’t noticed that she was being left alone and as the rest of the herd slowly went around the bend and out of sight she jumped up anxious and nearly frantic at being left behind.
As a photographer one of your jobs is to tell the story that you see through your lens. Its more than pretty colors and good light, it’s the intangible thing that you see in the image that makes you want to know more. Did she catch up to the herd? Was it the herd she was looking at or the wolf pack coming down the river bank hoping to find a lone cow in a vulnerable position. In this case all’s well that ends well, she did reunite with the herd and was secure for now. Nature tells us many stories and teaches us many lessons. This was one that had a happy ending.
I’m kind of mad at Europe right now. They’re always going on about how old everything is over there and how we don’t have anything ‘old’ because we’re such a young upstart place with no history and as such we don’t account for much. Well I call BullPucky on that. They might have some castles and aqueducts and old beer joints but they don’t have this. I was there, in Europe, I looked around and I didn’t see anything like this. I saw a bunch of old churches and I can tell you, making them big and old isn’t the same. You walk around here and you can feel the old just seeping out of the stone. I’m very sure, confident in fact, that our stone, besides being prettier, is a lot older than their old stone, plus it’s put in better places. They, the Europeans, stick their old joints out in a field or on a rock next to a river and call it the best. I say, anybody can pile up rocks out in a field and just because it was done a long time ago when they didn’t have anything better to do anyway, doesn’t make it the coolest. But you take those Anasazi guys who had to crawl up sheer cliffs holding their rocks in their teeth so they could hang on with both hands and make something like this, well it makes me proud to be an American.
So the next time you see one of those glossy brochures saying “Come on over , we got really old stuff to look at” I say, “Hey! look right here in our own backyard. Our old stuff is neater and probably older and you don’t have to go through customs with them dumping your bag out so they can look through your stuff either”.
There’s old stuff in practically every state in the Union. Even in Wisconsin where I’m from we had an old bar that had been around since the 1930’s called the ‘Blue Side of Nowhere’ where you could get a hamburger and a shot and a beer and a fist fight for under five bucks! Remember we got history and some old things that were ‘Made In America’ long before those uppity Europeans made theirs and thought they were so high and mighty. And if you think about it they don’t have one old thing that was ‘Made in America’, that’s got to tell you something right there. Just because their accents sound cool in the movies doesn’t make them any better than us, except for maybe Jean Paul Belmondo, and Dame Judi Dench because she was so good in Sky fall, and Jean Reno in The Professional but that doesn’t make up for all those years of listening to their bragging about how old everything was there. It helps some, but not enough. Plus you’ve got to remember some of those people thought that Jerry Lewis was funny. How can you take them seriously?
So before you get sucked in by some fancy brochure trying to lure you over to Europe to look at their supposedly old stuff, think about our old stuff right here in the good ol’ USA and spend those Eurodollars where they’ll do some good.