Painted Desert

Painted Desert

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A C750-UZ top 40

So, my camera has basically died. The Olympus C-750 Ultra Zoom that I got something like ten years ago. All of the pictures of mine you have seen on this blog were taken with this 4 megapixel camera from the turn of the century.

It still takes pictures, but I can't change it from the Auto setting, and there's that crack in the middle of the lens that often made it look like people had a holy light shining out of their crotch.

So I have bought a new camera. But in memory of the years of wonderful pictures that the old camera brought me, I have compiled this list of the top 40 photos I took with it. Obviously this is somewhat arbitrary, and I wish it was worth the trouble to get other people to vote on what the top 40 really are, because I have very particular tastes and I'm probably keeping from you lots of photos that normal people would like very much but I don't. However, here are the photos. Please click on any you wish for a larger version.

A dewy-winged cicada on top of a trash container somewhere in the Midwest. Possibly the only photo I have of anything in the Midwest.

Chimney Rock, near my geology field camp in Shell, WY.

An upright piece of petrified wood in the wilderness, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ.

A cleft in the rock in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ.

Me with guitar.

A shot from Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park, MT.

A figure is dwarfed by the walls of the Great Wash, Capitol Reef National Park, UT.

Lots of little turtles for sale at a street fair, New London, CT.

Driving through the north part of Zion National Park, UT.

Backpacking in the Painted Desert, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ.

Sledding in Groton, CT.

White Sands National Monument in NM.

View from Sun Point, Glacier National Park, MT.

Collared lizard with spider on its chin, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ.

Morning glory on my balcony, New London, CT.

Canoer, Lake Ogontz, NH.

Cattle graze under the Bighorn Mountains, WY.

Sunset in the badlands, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ.

Candlestick Mesa, Canyonlands National Park, UT.

The Needles, Canyonlands National Park, UT.

A friend's pet crayfish.

Elk, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO.

Snails on a rock, Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Charles at Jackson Lake, Grand Teton National Park, WY.

A poppy outside my apartment, New London, CT.

Heading to work, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ.

Jess and friends, Green Mountain, CO.

Mountain biking in Sedona, AZ.

White Sands National Monument, NM.

Me and some other field camp students, Wind River Mountains, WY.

Sunset in the badlands, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ.

A clay head I made that is about 1 inch long.

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ.

Sunset at Chiricahua National Monument, AZ.

Midday in the badlands, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ.

Sunset at Ocean Beach Park, New London, CT.

The Rattlesnake. Dinosaur National Monument, UT.

A beluga whale up close, Mystic Aquarium, CT.

Logan Pass, Glacier National Park, MT.

Friends' shadows, Arches National Park, UT.

There are some interesting trends in these photos. One is location--I have broken down the locations of the 40 photos by state, below:

AZ: 11
CO: 2
CT: 8
MT: 3
NH: 1
NM: 2
OH: 1
PR: 1
RI: 1
UT: 6
WY: 4

Obviously, Arizona and Connecticut are the most beautiful states. Actually, I consider Utah the most beautiful state, but Petrified Forest National Park (AZ) is one of my favorite places on the planet, and I'm sure this has some correlation to the number of photos. As for Connecticut, I did live there for longer than anywhere else (yet).

Indoor photos: 3
Outdoor photos: 37

Not sure there's anything special about that. Perhaps 37 out of 40 of everyone's best photos are taken outdoors.

Outdoor photos taken in the morning: 3
Midday: 16
Evening: 18
Night: 0

It's hard not to take a good picture in late afternoon or evening light. But I think when I'm on vacation I'm more likely to be out and about during midday than anything else, so that accounts for all the midday ones.

Photos taken at home: 10
While traveling: 30

Despite the fact that for the past few years I've spent, I dunno, "only" 1/3 of the year traveling or otherwise away from home, 3/4 of my good pictures are from those periods. Part of that may be that I'm more likely to be carrying my camera when I'm traveling, but, plainly put, the nicest things to photograph tend to be "out there," not close to home.

Photos without people: 31
Photos with people: 9
Portraits: 0

I know I've taken at least one portrait, which was actually pretty good, but in general it's not something that even occurs to me. Taking pictures of people! People exist to provide a sense of scale in landscapes.

I think about what makes pictures good and I think about how so many of the nice pictures I've taken could have been taken by anybody. Were probably taken by other people who happened to be there at the same time as me. This photo, say, required the least amount of skill:

There's nothing special about the light, the weather... or even, from a particular point of view, the scenery, which probably looked like this on and off all summer. Thousands of people probably have this same exact photo. The only element of skill is that I made sure the horizon was (sort of) horizontal. It is very pretty, though, all the same.

Most of the nice photos I have incorporate a small element of skill in them, though, I suppose, in that I chose to take them between the hours of 5 and 9 PM when it's hard to take a bad picture of anything remotely pretty. Sometimes I even waited until the shadows of clouds were artfully arranged. And I guess I make some decisions about how to frame the photo--what to include in or exclude from the frame--and how to crop it later.

And then there are the photos in which I just got very lucky about what I stumbled on, like the snails, the lizard, the snake. In a way, anybody could have taken those too. But I suppose not everybody chooses to hike the backcountry of national parks or wander for hours along a deserted Puerto Rican beach.

But the only photos I really consider to have taken skill are the few that incorporate all those elements--light, framing, being in the right place at the right time--and also having seen a photo opportunity that was not completely obvious to everyone there. So of all the photos above I think the last one was, perhaps, the only one that really required skill.

Unique among all the moments I've captured above, this one was gone after only a second. (Even The Rattlesnake stuck around for a few minutes!)

Anyone can take amazing photos without an ounce of skill, if you follow three rules:

1. Have a camera that is at least pretty good quality and represents colors pretty accurately.
2. Put the time and money into traveling to see amazing things, things that make you say "wow" before you even remember you have a camera.
3. Take photos of these things in the low-angle light of morning or evening.

That's all you need. Obviously really great photographers often get stunning pictures without needing to follow rules 2 and 3. But they have skill. We may not!

But, my readers, I am curious: out of all the photos presented today, which is your favorite?


Bigbird183 said...

I love all your photos. But I made the morning glory my desktop background. :)

Óscar Navarro said...

You are very lucky to have the chance to enjoy that wonderful landscapes. Go take more pictures and share them with us that can't be there!

Mom said...

View from Sun Point, Glacier National Park, MT. is my favorite. You KNOW how much I love Glacier! Next are chimney rock, white sands and, of course, Ocean Beach at sunset with the ferry - I keep the copy you gave me on my headboard.

All of your photos are wonderful!



Spinning Girl said...

Loved this -- the photos and your narrative. I love the visually stunning landscapes but the one I reacted to the most was the collared lizard with spider. I'm a huge arachnophobe, but that's not why ... it is creepy and beautiful at the same time. Also, you don't see the spider at first glance, so when you realize what you are seeing, it gives a mighty shiver down the spine. :)

greg said...

Rest in peace, old Olympus. It was you and this camera that got me back into photography. One of the many reasons for which I continue to adore you.

kris said...

Chimney rock!