As a fine–arts photographer, my summer fieldwork is critical to photographing enough images for a successful year. Last year I completed two trips: the first in July, when I was up in the far northwest corner of California, and the redwoods were my subject matter. For the second, in August, the bristlecone pines of the White Mountains in the eastern Sierra and the rock formations in Lone Pine played through my lens.
My approach to photography is influenced by the work of aeronautic innovator Kelly Johnson, the legendary leader of the Lockheed Skunk Works. Johnson was responsible for coining the term “KISS”—an acronym for “Keep it simple, stupid.” Every occasion of my fieldwork brings me back to understanding what Johnson meant.
The field is hostile
We may live in a world of safe buildings and manicured lawns, but thank goodness there are still many wilderness areas left in the world where one can readily kill himself or herself through carelessness, and nature still sets the rules.
If you want to photograph in such an environment, expect it to be a dynamic experience from moment to moment. Clouds do not wait for your setup. When the wind blows, it blows hard. Perching on the side of the mountain for a shot may mean standing at the edge of a precipice.
It is way too easy to sit back in the comfort of one’s home gawking at the latest photo equipment and thinking about how much more pleasing one’s pictures would be if only for getting a new gadget. None of us as photographers is immune to the lure of new glass, better camera bodies, and fancy supports. Such an adventure is part of the fun of photography and being a photographer.