Friday, August 21, 2009

Icons In The Parking Lots

No one ever said you have to put 100 pounds of gear on your back and trek miles and miles to get "the" shot. Maybe Ansel Adams had to in order to get the iconic shot of Yosemite Valley, with El Captain to the left, Half Dome all the way down the valley and Bridal Vail Falls pouring down on the right, but we don't. For Adams it was more a matter of timing rather than placement. I'm not sure if the "Tunnel Parking Lot" was in Yosemite when he took his shots of the valley. If it was (and I'm sure it was before his death) you can put your tripod legs on the exact spot Ansel Adams had his tripod set up and click away. I have "my version" of the shot, but it was taken back in the analog days and (to tell you the truth) I haven't the foggiest idea where it might be. We visited Yosemite in March (1995???) and had to get in using the south entrance. The north entrance access road had been blocked by a rock slide. We passed the outer marker for the park and were getting excited to see the valley. We hadn't done due diligence about what to expect on the roads into the park, so when we came upon the tunnel we didn't think too much of it. Once through the tunnel everything changed. We then understood what the fuss was about with the line of cars stacked up waiting to get through the tunnel. Pull off to the left and you're, literally, in a parking lot overlooking the entire valley. You can practically throw a camera up in the air and get a good shot. What's that got to do with today's images? Hit the "read more" and we'll talk about it.

It's kind of obvious that today's images aren't from Yosemite. The pano is a shot of a set of bridges in the Newburyport, New Hampshire area. It's not from a parking lot, but pretty close. The smaller image is a blowup of the far left side of the pano. It shows the bridge abutment on Route 95 as it passes this area. I drove past on the highway many times thinking to myself that there had to be a shot there, somewhere. The "somewhere" was a small park just over the south bridge. I had no idea it was there and, from looking at the north shore with it's private homes, didn't hold much hope of finding access to the waterfront. The "distance" between the parking lot and the riverbank probably wasn't more than 50 feet.
The image of Pemiquid Light in the banner of this blog is a "standard" shot that's been taken thousands of times. The extreme colors of the scene put my spin on the image. I gave a gallery print of the "straight" version of the image to a couple of friends who had been interested in my work. They ooh'd and aah'd when I gave the prints to them and Googled Maine Lighthouses after I had gone. Next time I ran into one of the pair I got a finger wagged in my face and the basic question was "is that really you're shot?". Googling images of lighthouses had resulted of a large quantity of shots of Pemiquid taken from the exact same spot. I had to explain that it wasn't a unique angle to shoot from, but it was "my" version of the scene.
There's something to be said about the photographer's determination (and physical fitness) about getting shots of the sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonland National Park (I don't have any). Getting up early (like 3:00 AM), hiking in the dark (I understand it's a couple miles) with a camera bag and a tripod slung over the shoulder (and a head lamp lighting the away) to be in the same position thousands of others have trekked to? Good for you, way to go, suffer for your art and craft. Okay, maybe??? There will always be shots in places away from the roads, but that doesn't mean the "parking lot" shots shouldn't be taken. It's up to the photographic "artist" to do something, to be there at the right moment, to have the best lens on the camera, to find a different angle, to shoot in infrared, to have the weather gods smile on them, anything to make the cliche shot her/his own. If you drive past a place that has potential, explore it. There might just be a parking lot nearby.