My entry into photography came via hiking and backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The monstrous river canyons with crashing waterfalls and cascades below 14,000′ granite summits and forests of enormous sugar pines, themselves dwarfed by giant sequoia trees, were so exciting to me that I was inspired to “capture them” on film. That was in the mid-1960s. Today my attitude has completely changed.
First, I don’t think you can “capture” anything. I think you can document where you’ve been and what you’ve seen. If you’re really serious about things, you can go beyond mere documentation and try to convey your feelings about what you’ve seen. But how can you possibly “capture” a 3,000′ granite cliff on the 16″ side of a “large” 16 x20″photograph? You simply can’t. Even Ansel Adams didn’t “capture” Half Dome or Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite. What he did, however, was convey the essence of those monumental forms so well that some people who have seen his photographs first, and then go to Yosemite to see the real thing, sometimes walk away disappointed. That’s a monumental achievement on Adams’ part and an exceptional demonstration of the power of photography when it’s done really, really well.
My recognition of the futility of trying to “capture” things via photography came slowly, over many years. But along with that realization came a wider appreciation of the possibilities of photography as a personally interpretive and expressive medium. And with that came an appreciation of a far wider set of things that I was attracted to photograph: architectural subjects, the slit canyons of Arizona and Utah and even pure abstracts in their own right.