It was shortly after 2pm yesterday when Deb and I traveled the back way from The Mountain to Flippin. As we approached the descent into the narrow vale formed by Crooked Creek, I slowed so that we could take in the now-familiar view.
Checking my mirrors I saw nobody behind me, and there was nothing ahead. I eased the truck to a stop in the middle of the road. (We live in a place where we can do that, and you wish you did, too.) Deb and I picked up our phones and took a few photos of the scene, one of our favorites.
This is what we do, all the time. We photograph everything.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that. While running around the country in the motorhome we snapped tens of thousands of images, many of them appearing here. We continued after nesting in Ozarkansas, still bent on preserving moments in our American Life.
For me, at least, the practice goes back 40 years to a small Olympus camera and 35mm film. These days, cell-phone cameras are so ridiculously handy (and sharp) that I rarely pick up my digital SLR anymore — like anyone with a phone I can capture my memories, from the ordinary to the spectacular, any time I want to.
Deb and I have the advantage of being able to tag-team our shooting. We don’t have to pull off the road to take a photo — the passenger grabs the shot. That’s why you’ve seen so many images with Ernie’s wipers or the Ranger’s windshield, Mercy’s orange hood or Artie’s silver hood intruding at the lower edge of the frame, along with raindrops and random bugs on the glass.
That doesn’t bother us. I guess it’s become something of a trademark. The way we see it, whatever was in front of the lens when the photo was taken is part of the moment.
We look for odd subjects and unusual angles. I photograph signs. I have a thing for reflections. Deb likes closeups, especially in nature.
We take pictures of our food.
I’m not bashful about editing my images — both of the photos above, in fact, were massaged, one for clarity (to highlight the billboard) and the other for effect (blurring the background slightly to draw attention to the mirror). Often I’ll crop or straighten a photo. Most of the time my tweaking pursues the goal of presenting a scene the way we saw it — which usually is through polarized sunglasses, to be perfectly honest, so I try to bring out the same color saturation and contrast.
Not every photograph is a keeper, of course. Motion can frustrate even the best cell-phone cameras, including our Samsungs, and whether the subject’s moving or we are, fuzzy disappointment is part of the deal.
Back in my film days I got some great advice from a well-traveled photog. He observed that an amateur will burn a roll of 36 and expect every frame to be perfect, while a pro is happy if just one is usable. The lesson — keep the camera up and keep shooting.
It truly is a numbers game. Light, expression, position and other factors can change in an instant. Most great images are, in many ways, accidental, not calculated. The trick is to be taking photographs when the perfect moment happens. Keep shooting.
And so we do — all the time.
We’re pretty proud of the body of images we’ve captured. We know they’re not perfect or prizeworthy — but they do please us, and that’s enough.
(Today’s cover image was taken at Little Big Horn Battlefield on Thursday, August 26th, 2021. The rest are from the last 24 hours.)